Spotlight on ASDES, Senegal
Making Education an Alternative to Market Dangers
January 2006. CIRCLE partner NGO Assocation pour la Survie et le Développement de l'Enfant au Senegal (Association for the Survival and Development of the Senegalese Child, ASDES) is fighting against child labor in rural areas of the Linguere region of northern Senegal. This area is predominantly populated by nomadic people, whose main economic activities are cattle herding and marketing. Linguere is one of the poorest areas of Senegal, with a literacy rate of about 20%. Out of 677 classes, as many as 177 may be closed for lack of teachers, equipment, or even students. Even those children who do enrol in school rarely complete their education due to unfavourable socio-cultural conditions, interruptions during herd migration season, educational difficulties, and the child labour to which they are subjected.

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Photos: Children working around the market
Weekly markets like the Thursday fair in the village of Barkédji serve as ideal occasions for parents and children to make money (500 CFA per child, on average). These markets also, however, pose a sincere threat to the children and their future. Young boys and girls are employed regularly to provide horse driven transportation of goods – without any real security – to carry heavy bags, in cattle herding, and in other jobs that require more than their underdeveloped physical stature can endure.

During the market, which attracts people from various neighbouring regions and even countries, the children are exposed to the whims of strangers, verbal and physical assaults, and moral and sexual aggression. They are often witnesses of (or participants in) networks of prostitution, drugs, or theft – paths that can lead quickly to quitting school.

Through CIRCLE, ASDES is asking: How can we solve this problem? How can students be removed from these worst forms of child labour? Upon extensive consultation, the NGO decided to schedule mandatory classes on Thursday afternoons. This change has been adopted and positively sustained by local officials, who lend strength to the initiative. Now, the children are obliged to attend school. Teachers record their presence in class, and members of the CLAE (committee of parents and local officials) simultaneously cross-check the names of those students present at the Friday market. This means they can no longer work the market.

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This measure has only been introduced recently, so it is difficult to ascertain its long-term impact. Immediately, however, one can observe fewer children working in the market, and more students in school. The current special class has enrolled 46 children (23 boys and 23 girls), and the head of school and the committee are planning to extend the measure to the entire school. In addition, teachers and parents are now aware of the seriousness of child labour and the need to fight it.