09.10.2013 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Joyful encounter between Amel Bent and female learners in Senegal

The night begins to fall when Amel Bent, a famous French R’n’B singer, and a group of reporters, arrive to visit a literacy class Alpha Niague in the Lac Rose area about 30 minutes away from Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

It was a special moment and the women were waiting impatiently. Last year the singer came to visit the literacy class in the village and promised that she would come back.  The class is part of PAJEF, a literacy project for girls and women in Senegal funded by UNESCO and Procter & Gamble. Amel Bent is the Ambassador of the project.

When she stepped out of the buss, the night wass filled with clamor, singings, tears of joy and warm embraces. 

We need literacy

Amel was given a traditional dress (boubou), a headscarf and some jewelry. Then, the female learners eagerly showed Amel the play that they have prepared.

The play praised the benefits of literacy and the PAJEF project.  We are independent and literate now, some of them said. 

The village chief also expressed his appreciation as his wife is one of the women who have learned to read and write. This literacy project is more than necessary, it is essential for the future of the country, he said. 

It was now pitch-dark but no one was tired and no one wanted to leave.

Amel danced and sang her famous song “My Philosophy” accompanied by the sounds of the traditional drums and  the voices of women. Then, the crowd started to sing the Senegalese anthem and, with her hand on her heart, Amel tried to sing along.

That night, there was  no public, no spectators, only actors, mobilized for a common cause. Children, infants, women, everyone joined in. And then it was time to leave again.  

Visiting governmental institutional partners

During Amel Bent's two-day visit (2-3 October 2013), she and her team also visited the town of Rufisque, where a virtual class was recently implemented.

Young girls and women here learn how to read and write thanks to the use of cell phones and internet. Despite some technical problems, a smiling Amel Bent exchanged with the local authorities on this innovative concept.

After the presentation Amel Bent improvised a dance with dozens of children gathered in front of the building. Joy, singing, laughers, everyone played along. The spontaneity of the moment was on everyone’s faces and it was difficult for the singer to leave.

“Education is a weapon”

As she returned to the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, the singer discovered the progress made and the innovations added to the initial project.

One innovation is the programme on RTS (Senegalese Radio Television) called “Jang du Wess” (“It Is Never Too Late To Learn”). It is broadcasting educational programmes in the national language Wolof.  

Amel also participated in the popular show “Jeeg Ak Kereum” (“The Woman in her Household”) presented by Francesca Diafouné. Here the singer reiterated her commitment to the literacy programme, while reminding Senegalese women of just how important literacy is. “Education is a weapon,” she said on TV. Over half of all women in Senegal are illiterate. 

The singer was also received in the Ministry of Education where the Secretary General of Education, Baba Ousseynou Ly, welcomed the team. During the meeting, the emphasis was put on the efficiency of the partnership between UNESCO, the Ministry of Education and Procter & Gamble. 

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