Challenges Facing the Education System in Senegal

Written by Ruth Lakcia

Education is a fundamental right for all humans around the globe. Regardless of one’s economic or social status,  they should be able to have access to Education. Even though this seems obvious and like common knowledge, it is not the reality for many Senegalese.

Senegal’s history of investing in education and engaging stakeholders in sector dialogue marks the government’s commitment to building a strong education system. Based on the 2019 PASEC assessment, many Senegalese students acquire basic competencies by the end of primary education, but 25% lack minimum proficiency in reading and 35% in math. Significant socioeconomic, rural-urban and regional disparities call for a more equitable and inclusive education system. While minimal learning differences are observed among girls and boys at the primary level, gender disparities emerge in secondary education, with more girls dropping out of school than boys.

Lack of enough qualified teachers

The education system in Senegal faces many challenges, such as a lack of qualified teachers, inadequate equipment and infrastructure, low-quality teaching and assessment, social inequalities and regional disparities. The government is trying to reform and modernise the education sector through various programs and partnerships with international organisations such as UNESCO or UNICEF.

Household poverty in Senegal still has work to do, with only a little over. Educational marginalisation has become a burning issue in Senegal, one of the poorest countries on the planet. About 34% of people in Senegal live on less than US $ 1.25 per day, with an average per capita income of $121 per month (Ibrahima, 2014). The results of the Harmonized Survey on Household Living Conditions (2018/2019) show that the incidence of individual poverty in Senegal is 37.8%. The country is still lagging behind in education. A large part of the population does not have easy access to education and remains marginalised from formal education, with an enrollment rate of 86.4% (ANSD, 2020). Many factors contribute to the exclusion of many young people from the education system, including gender and ICT. Furthermore, languages, particularly the English language, play a role in educational marginalisation in Senegal. What comes next is a brief introduction to the roles of gender, ICT and English in promoting or reducing educational marginalisation in Senegal. 17% gross preschool enrollment rate, but more importantly, dramatically improving quality.

Repetition and dropout in primary school

The overall financial cost of repetition and dropout in Senegal is on an upward trend due to a higher rate of both repetition and dropout. Over the 2012-2015 period, repetition and dropouts represented 13.72% of the expenses incurred by the government. This phenomenon can be explained by several factors, one of which is limited access to quality preschool education.  Senegal still has work to do, with only a little over 17% gross preschool enrollment rate, but more importantly, it needs to improve the quality of education. 

Impact of Covid-19

The pandemic caused by the SARS Covid-19 came to monitor investments made not only in the health sector but also in education and, above all, in the higher education subsystem. The pandemic led governments to close university campuses and suspend face-to-face classes for a considerable period to prevent the virus contamination from spreading. Some countries with the distance learning modality in their school curricula were forced to make it a strategy, intensifying them with the aim of reducing the pedagogical damage that was felt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.In Senegal, the COVID-19 pandemic and national school closures temporarily disrupted the education of 3.5 million learners and the 1.5 million children already out of school, and the dropout rate doubled.

Gender inequality in school

Despite the existence of government programmes- like free public school education until age 16 and the Girls’ Education Support Project, which provides school uniforms- the cost of schooling is still an obstacle for many families. They have to pay for learning materials and transport to school.

We also found a preference to educate boys over girls. In households with limited finances, boys are more likely to be sent to school even if girls would like to go.

Deep-seated cultural beliefs and practices – such as female genital mutilation, forced child marriages and early pregnancies – also prevent some girls from making progress in school. They, therefore, lag in education and wellbeing.


In conclusion, Senegal’s government, therefore, is responsible for extending better social services in schools and hospitals to facilitate development in those areas and hence improve people’s living standards and education for poor kids.

As the government seeks to alleviate the effects of the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasis should be placed on ensuring that systems that are supposed to protect girls and women from child marriages are not compromised. The WASH program has provided 1,884 students access to hygiene and sanitation facilities in 26 schools, of which four were equipped with a menstrual hygiene management system. 1,776 students in 12 schools benefited from the availability of drinking water, which has reduced wash problems in Senegal and their schools.


Cover Image by Victor Rutka on Unsplash

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