Emma Ralph: 2nd report from Senegal

Since the last update, I’ve become more involved in the Fasjom evening classes for young girls who can’t attend school. It’s the part of the project that we feel the most passionate about so Josie (the other Project Trust volunteer) and I decided to increase our teaching hours.

The classes used to run for two evenings a week, comprising of one French lesson and one maths lesson but we found that if the girls missed one lesson, it would really slow their progress and we wanted to find a way to make it easier for them to attend Fasjom. We now teach French on Mondays and Tuesdays, Maths on Thursdays and Fridays and then on Wednesday we supervise a Wolof story book session with the older girls helping the younger girls to read in their own language. (This Wolof reading session was prompted by meeting missionaries who were creating resources in tribal languages, as it’s easier to learn to read in your mother tongue.)

We’ve found that these changes have had a really positive impact on the girls’ learning. Not only are they able to catch up on lessons they’ve missed, but the motivated older girls are treating Fasjom as school and they are making sure to attend every lesson while asking for extra work to take home, so their progress is really encouraging!

In March we marked International Women’s Day with the girls by organising a party. We all donned matching “boubous” (traditional dresses) and danced to drums before sitting down to hear Ami Sall, the owner of a restaurant, give a short talk. Ami runs her own successful business, spending her time in a busy kitchen, serving up meals and taking time to chat to regulars while also bringing up her young daughter Awa. She went to an Arabic school but she taught herself French as she was growing up, Ami is also fluent in Wolof and can converse in other local tribal languages. We asked her to come along to talk about women in the workplace and encourage the girls in their studies. The party was just intended to be for the small group Fasjom girls but as soon as the music started, the whole of the district turned up (this wasn’t really a problem as the girls enjoyed showing off their dancing skills to a big crowd!)

We know that the group we teach is very small and that the lessons can sometimes be hectic but we hope that what we can give some girls pride and ownership over their learning. Living here, I have experienced how difficult it is for girls to grow up surrounded by subtle (and sometimes painfully obvious) misogyny and we want to give the girls something that belongs solely to them. The party has increased the awareness of the group in our area and more girls are coming up to us, asking about lessons. Step are also being taken to establish Fasjom as a registered charity. We have informed our desk officer of the changes to the project so that he can inform the next volunteers about Fasjom and the more regular lessons can continue in the future.

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