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Cablegate: Resolving Senegal's Educational Crisis

VZCZCXRO1108
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #2120/01 2481212
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051212Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6195
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0755

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DAKAR 002120

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR ECA, AF/RSA, AF/W AND INR/AA
AID/W FOR AFR/WA, EGAT/ED AND AFR/SD
PARIS FOR POL - D'ELIA
PARIS PLS PASS TO USMISSION TO UNESCO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI ELAB ECON PHUM SG
SUBJECT: RESOLVING SENEGAL'S EDUCATIONAL CRISIS

REF: DAKAR 00681

SUMMARY
-------
1. (U) In the past year, Senegal,s public education system
has been shaken by faculty and student unrest from the
university level down. Though the violence that disrupted
university campuses in the spring has mostly dissipated,
current protests by middle and secondary-school teachers have
had an equally debilitating effect. Public school teachers
have been withholding grades from students, leading to a
showdown with President Abdoulaye Wade that both sides have
asked the International Labor Organization (ILO) to resolve.
Meanwhile, those who consider education to be the last, best
hope for Senegal wonder what the future may hold. For its
part, the Mission continues its efforts to work with the
Ministry of Education and universities to address school
system weaknesses. END SUMMARY.

VIOLENCE ON CAMPUSES
--------------------
2. (U) In March, we reported on student protests at Dakar,s
Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD) and Gaston Berger
University (UGB) in Saint Louis. The alleged discovery of
rotten meat in the cafeteria of the UCAD campus sparked the
violence. Police responded aggressively to protests in both
cities, resulting in scores of injured students, including
one whose leg had to be amputated. Although the "rotten
meat" story proved misleading, the incident reflected some
fundamental, long-standing problems at the university level,
such as lack of housing and crumbling infrastructure. The
highly politicized nature of campus life fueled the protests.
President Wade alleged the student movement had been
"infiltrated" by outside forces.

3. (U) Although students returned to class, campus tumult
did not completely die down. On August 10, students again
faced off with police. They were protesting that school
stipends (maintenance allowances) had not been paid for
several days. They were told there was no money left to pay
the allowances. In a brief replay of the March protests,
students and police exchanged rocks and tear gas.

THE TEACHERS' TURN TO STRIKE
----------------------------
4. (U) Unrest has spread to other levels of public
education, where 75 percent of Senegalese students attend
classes. Labor unions for public middle and secondary school
teachers, who earn an average monthly income of
210,000-220,000 CFA francs (CFAF) (USD 420-440), banned
together and called for a 48-hour strike in late March to
voice their concerns. (NOTE: This salary is significantly
higher than teachers, salaries in many other Economic
Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries. END
NOTE.) A three-day strike followed in mid-April, and
Minister of Civil Service, Labor, Employment and Professional
Organizations Adama Sall offered to plead the teachers' case
to President Wade, who offered no immediate response. By
mid-May, the Unitary Framework of Unions of Middle and
Secondary School Teachers (CUSEMS) announced it was launching
a general strike.

5. (U) Mamadou Mbodji, Secretary General of the National
Union of Teachers of Senegal (SNEMS), quickly took the lead
and publicly described the reasons for the strike as "grave
injustices, discrimination, and the unspeakable fate of which
middle/secondary school teachers are victims." He said
teachers felt marginalized and their careers demeaned when
judges, health workers, and other public servants with the
same level of education as teachers were given salary
increases but teachers were not. SNEMS said all teaching
would stop for three days and threatened to boycott
baccalaureate exams if demands for a more equitable housing
allowance, establishment of a career plan favorable to
promotions, research stipends, and revision of the fee
structure paid to teachers for administering baccalaureate
exams were not met.

6. (U) By the end of June, the GOS offered the unions 45,000
CFAF (USD 90) monthly housing allowance and 3,000 parcels of
land on which to build homes -- up from the current 35,000
CFAF that has been the norm since 1988, but teachers insisted
on an allowance of 50,000 CFAF (USD 100) and refused to grade
the baccalaureate exams. On August 5, the unions consented
to grade the exams as a "good-will gesture" but will continue
to withhold grades and refuse to hold classes until their

DAKAR 00002120 002 OF 003


demands are met or until the end of the year. Last week,
union solidarity cracked with some teachers, especially
so-called volunteers, agreeing to provide grades.

WADE AND UNIONS THREATEN TO SUE EACH OTHER
------------------------------------------
7. (U) After unions brought middle and secondary school
systems to a standstill, President Wade agreed to talk on
July 26. The two sides failed to reach agreement, and the
unions announced they would file a complaint against Wade
before the ILO for breach of the right to negotiate and for
discriminatory treatment. Wade said he, in turn, would lodge
a complaint against them before the ILO and the new UN
Council on Human Rights, saying "the rights of children had
been violated." He also revived the stance taken by the GOS
during the university riots, saying teachers were motivated
by politics. During a union meeting on August 4,
participants discovered a police Information Bureau spy from
the police "Information Bureau" in their midst. According to
media reports, once discovered, the spy provoked an
altercation, resulting in the arrest of one union member,
Farba Sy, who was released shortly thereafter. Minister of
Education Moustapha Sourang threatened to suspend salaries of
striking teachers throughout the month of August.

THE EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT
---------------------------
8. (SBU) Around the same day in May that SNEMS called for
general strike, the National Office for Cleaning Up Senegal
(ONAS) released a report in which it found that 17 percent of
school bathrooms are not functional due to lack of water, and
30 percent are poorly maintained. Many schools completely
lack running water, school supplies, and adequate
infrastructure. Others have trouble attracting and keeping
teachers on staff for lack of housing and food.

9. (U) The school system is also marked by relatively low
enrollment and literacy rates, as well as high drop-out
rates. According to GOS and UNESCO statistics, with the GOS
devoting 40 percent of its budget to education, the primary
school enrollment rate for 2005-2006 was 82.5 percent for the
public schools; the middle-school enrollment rate was 31.9
percent; and the secondary-school enrollment rate was 10.9
percent. The Ministry of Education estimates that the school
enrollment rate for 2005-2006 was 95 percent if one includes
the 600,000 students in &Franco-Arab schools.8 UNESCO
reports the literacy rate is 46.4 percent, with more literate
men than women, although a leading Islamic educator claimed
to us that the literacy rate would be far higher if literacy
in Arabic were also taken into consideration.

GOVERNMENT SALARY STATISTICS
----------------------------
10. (SBU) One issue that has plagued the educational system
for the past decade is its two-track system of teachers.
When the Government first expanded the school system in the
1990s, it decided to recruit over 500 teachers within a short
time. To do so, the GOS created a volunteer corps, which
agreed to teach in primary schools for half the usual salary.
More than 30,000 people volunteered when the program was
launched. The intent was to give volunteers a two-year
contract, renewable for two more years. After four years,
they could convert to regular civil service status, and the
volunteer corps would be phased out. The program, however,
was never phased out; and it created a huge disparity in
salary between volunteers and other teachers. This led to
disgruntlement among volunteers. The quality of education
suffered. As seen in the enrollment statistics in paragraph
8, and as one former Ministry of Education official has
noted, only 50 percent of primary school students pass the
test needed to progress to middle school.

11. (SBU) The two-tier salary system introduced in many West
African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU or UEMOA)
countries after the 1994 CFAF devaluation has created as many
problems as it has solved. The disparity contributed to this
year's strikes. Ironically, however, the better paid
teachers are more politicized and more vocal, with several
deputies, mayors, and presidents of regional councils hailing
from their ranks. In fact, the pugnacity of the teachers,
unions, with annual strikes dating back to 1976, has resulted
in a significant salary disparity relative to other public
sector employees; for example, health workers with the same
level of education now earn 35 percent less than teachers.

COMMENT

DAKAR 00002120 003 OF 003


-------
12. (SBU) The educational system continues to suffer from
serious weaknesses. At the primary and secondary levels,
salaries and school conditions are barely livable. There is
not yet enough room in the schools or enough teachers to
accommodate all those who want to attend school. Campus
living conditions are poor, and there is not enough
employment available for students who graduate. At least one
journalist described the crisis as causing Senegalese "to
tremble" or to emigrate. President Wade considers education
to be one of his areas of greatest achievement, and many
Senegalese view education as the bedrock of a better future
for themselves and their children. The crises of this past
year have shaken the system and made many wonder if there
really is a better future ahead.

13. (SBU) In spite of the concerns, primary-, middle- and
secondary-school enrollments are up. The Minister of
Education and UCAD Rector Abdou Salam Sall, have visions of
what the Senegalese educational system should be, and Sall
notes that the university system is still sufficiently strong
to attract numerous students from other countries to study
here. END COMMENT.

THE MISSION,S EFFORTS
---------------------
14. (U) The U.S. Mission has long labored to address the
problems. We persuaded the Ministry of Education to match
our new assistance dollar for dollar, when devoting 40
percent of the government budget to education already
represents a huge investment. Eighty-five percent of that
budget pays salaries; scholarships and other assistance
utilize another 10 percent, leaving just five percent of the
budget to improve the quality of education. Our current
strategy focuses on building middle schools, providing
scholarships for girls, increasing involvement of communities
in school management, modernizing the curriculum and teaching
techniques, providing textbooks, exchanging faculty,
strengthening and expanding the teaching of English, and
assisting Koranic schools to improve health conditions and
build linkages to the communities in which they are located.
JACOBS

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