» 600 people welcome UNESCO's Director General in Pikine, a suburb of Dakar
15.02.2013 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

600 people welcome UNESCO's Director General in Pikine, a suburb of Dakar

The Director-General of UNESCO arrives in Pikine. UNESCO/Ismaël Tine

On 14 February 2013, more than 600 people welcomed UNESCO's Director-General, Irina Bokova, to Pikine, a poor suburb outside Dakar, the Senegalese capital.

Among makeshift workshops, street vendors and colorful busses, children and adults greeted Ms Bokova with Senegalese and UNESCO flags, while traditional musicians and dancers entertained.

The crowd was mobilized to convey their satisfaction with the UNESCO-supported project PAJEF (Projet d'alphabétisation des jeunes filles et femmes), which aims at bringing literacy to 40.000 girls and women in Senegal.

The two-year project, launched a year ago, is the result of a partnership between UNESCO and the multinational private sector company Procter & Gamble.

Pikine, which has a population of more than one million people, is one of the communities that benefit from the project through traditional literacy classes, homework support and education through the use of internet and mobile telephones.

A dynamic partnership

In his welcome speech, the Mayor of Pikine welcomed the positive results achieved by the project and thanked the Director-General for selecting Senegal as the first pilot country.

Representatives of civil society organizations and religious and traditional leaders also expressed their support to PAJEF, a hands-on demonstration of the dynamic partnership that exists around PAJEF.

Three beneficiaries then took the floor to testify how PAJEF has changed their lives.

Rokhaya Sow, a teenage girl said that support from PAJEF facilitators has prevented her from dropping out of school.

Diénaba explained that PAJEF literacy classes allow her to follow and help her children's schooling. She also said that she now has more privacy as she no longer need to ask for help to compose numbers and write messages on her mobile telephone.

Mame Mbayang, a vendor, described how she has learned to calculate, which is improving her income-generating activities.

The secret of Senegal

When taking the floor, the Director-General said "there are times when one has an ardent desire to stop the clock and there are activities that give you the feeling of being on the right track".

"This is why I am very happy to be here and share this moment of euphoria, appraisal and recognition of the many efforts put in place to advance the cause of education," Ms Bokova added.

"Now I understand the secret of Senegal, which is the involvement of the entire community that goes beyond the traditional administrative management of education and includes politicians, religious and traditional leaders and civil society," she said.

The celebrations continued strong as the Director-General left Pikine to attend the audience with the President of Senegal, Macky Sall.

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