The Ministry of National Education has adopted an inclusive education policy document for primary education. The term “inclusive education” also appears in all Ministry of Education policy documents. In the document “2015 National Review of Education for All”, the Ministry of National Education states that inclusive education must be achieved by adapting education supply to demand. The concept is also central to the Projet test d’éducation inclusive en faveur des enfants déficients visuels [Inclusive Education Pilot Project for Visually Impaired Children] in which the Ministry of Education and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Sightsavers state that inclusion is about making schools fit for children in all their individuality. This vision is shared by the designers of the Strengthening Child Protection through Education (RAP) project. This project, managed by the Ministry of National Education, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Plan International, delivers training modules on inclusive education, gender equity and child protection in eight regions of the country. The project is fully funded by the Government of Canada.
The National Education Framework Act No. 91-22 of 30 January 1991 stipulates that national education must adapt its content, objectives and methods to learners’ specific needs depending on their age, stage of education and stream. Special education, which caters for people with different disabilities or difficulties, aims to integrate or reintegrate learners into school and society.
Special education is an integral part of the education system, and caters for the medical, psychological and pedagogical needs of children with disabilities that prevent them from following mainstream educational pathways or training at mainstream institutions. It aims to provide young persons with disabilities with an education adapted to their needs and capacity, either through integration into mainstream schools or training institutions, or by preparing them, through special education, to undertake professional activities that are accessible to them. The Institut National d'Education et de Formation des Jeunes Aveugles [National Institute for the Education and Training of Blind Young People – INEFJA], a school that only accepts children with visual impairments, is one example of a special school. In Senegal, there are four large public special education centres: INEFJA, the Centre Verbo-tonal [Verbo-tonal Centre – CVT] (for deaf or hard-of-hearing people), the Centre Talibou Dabo (for people with physical disabilities) and the Education and Training Centre for People with Learning Disabilities (CEFDI).
Senegal's initial report under article 35 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that the assistance provided to learners with disabilities should be free of charge whenever possible, considering that the financial resources of parents and guardians are often limited. When a disability is severe enough that the person concerned cannot attend a mainstream educational institution, they will be referred to a specialized establishment by the departmental technical commissions for special education.
The National Education Framework Act No. 91-22 of 30 January 1991 sets out the general principles of national education (democracy and the right to receive ability-appropriate training, without discrimination on the grounds of sex, social origin, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality). The Social Framework Act No. 2010-15 of 6 July 2010 on the promotion and protection of persons with disabilities guarantees “children and adolescents with disabilities the right to a free education in a mainstream environment as far as possible at an institution close to their home”.
The Programme d’Amélioration de la Qualité, de l’Équité et de la Transparence du secteur de l’Éducation et de la Formation [Programme to Improve Quality, Equity and Transparency in Education and Training – PAQUET-EF], a framework for operationalizing the education policy for 2018–2030, sets out plans to provide learning opportunities tailored to the specific needs of persons with disabilities by adapting institutions and training teachers on inclusive education. Other programmes have also been implemented, including the Inclusive Education Pilot Project for Visually Impaired Children, the RAP project, which is running training modules on inclusive education in eight regions, and the National Community-based Rehabilitation Programme (2017–2021).
Children who attend special schools often struggle to continue on to higher education. Although universities have introduced special social provisions, there is no formal system to help learners from these schools transition to mainstream higher education institutions after graduating from secondary education.
Finally, the Educate a Child project (2016–2019) targets vulnerable out-of-school children, who are mainly children with disabilities. It aims to increase these children’s access to and retention in school, improve the quality of their education and the inclusiveness of their school environment, and change policy through advocacy for inclusive education.
Gender inequality shrank between 2016 and 2017 in Senegal. The parity index at primary level (gross enrolment rate for girls and boys) rose from 0.96 to 1.01. However, this index shifts further in favour of boys as the level of education increases. The PAQUET-EF programme (2018–2030) aims to reduce these disparities by strengthening the gender units within the ministries and strengthening women’s leadership, particularly in terms of female teachers, and by introducing incentives to encourage girls' access to and success in school. Circular No. 004379 of 11 October 2007 authorizes pregnant girls to continue their studies after giving birth.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
While Senegal’s language policy is built around both French and the national languages, these languages are not afforded equal status. In terms of language, Senegalese education has three stages: first-language literacy, Wolof teaching and French teaching. “The teaching of French begins at the age of six or seven for secular public schools and at the age of three for Catholic and Protestant faith-based private schools. French is the language of instruction for the duration of children’s studies”.
The introduction of national languages at the basic education (primary and lower secondary) level is part of the PAQUET-EF programme. The Ten-Year Education and Training Plan conveys a genuine desire to introduce national languages into the formal education system.
The PAQUET-EF programme aims to reduce disparities between rural and urban areas. It aims to ensure inclusive access to early childhood facilities, especially in rural and peri-urban areas.
The Government aspires to implement a policy to help students from low-income families by granting school and university scholarships and rolling out a canteen programme for rural schools. The PAQUET-EF programme targets the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, seeking to strengthen their social protection and implement nutrition and school uniform programmes, particularly in areas affected by poverty and chronic food insecurity. Key initiatives identified in the Education for All National Review Report (2015) have been implemented to this end, including free primary education, the free textbook policy, the canteens in every school policy, and the policy of providing support through scholarships, especially for girls from disadvantaged families. It is, however, difficult to assess the impact of these practices, programmes and policies.
Literacy and non-formal basic education programmes are also available in the country. Community-based schools target children and adults who have never been to school, and dropouts.
The main actors working to implement and develop inclusive education are:
- the Ministry of Education through the Directorate of Primary Education
- the RAP project and the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood through the Agence Nationale de la Petite Enfance et de la Case des Tout-petits [National Agency for Early Childhood and Childcare – ANPECTP]
- the Directorate for Rights, Child Protection and Vulnerable Groups (DDPEGV).
There are some linkages between the different bodies, who work together to ensure inclusive education for more vulnerable groups. For example, the Ministry of Health and Social Action issues an “equal opportunity card”. This card allows students with disabilities to benefit from reduced tuition fees and scholarships.
The Ministry of Education also supports public special education centres for people with hearing, visual, motor and learning disabilities (CVT, INEFJA, Centre Talibou Dabo and CEFDI). Other organizations also provide services for children with disabilities, including the Keur Khaleyi child psychiatry service in Fann, the Ephphata training school for deaf children, the Council for the Rehabilitation and Integration of Persons with Disabilities (CORIPH), the Aminata Mbaye Centre for children with learning disabilities, the Estel Centre, the Ouakam Shelter Centre and NGOs. However, there is still no officially mandated mechanism for the administrative and social coordination of these inclusion measures for all target groups.
Finally, various discussion forums have been created to harmonize approaches and share experiences on the inclusion of children with disabilities. The Ministry of Education has set up a consultation framework with the Directorate of Primary Education, as well as a coordination unit for initiatives on gender equity, inclusive education and protection in education. At the central government level, the creation of a coordination platform for the social protection sector is being led by the General Delegation for Social Protection and National Solidarity.
The departmental technical commissions for special education are responsible for inclusive education issues. They assign students to institutions or services suited to their needs (article 17, Social Policy Act on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). These commissions are under the authority of the departmental prefect, but are not yet operational.
The PAQUET-EF programme has enabled the establishment of rules and quality standards for equipping classrooms which take into account the needs of children with disabilities, and for functional toilet blocks in specialized centres and mainstream schools.
Initial teacher training is the responsibility of the Training and Communication Directorate and the Human Resources Directorate. The reference framework used incorporates core elements of inclusive education theories. Meanwhile, the educational directorates and various projects run by partners are building the capacity of teachers and support staff regarding inclusive education.
The National Community-based Rehabilitation Programme has set up a technical disability database. However, in practice, there is poor availability of more disaggregated data on the nature of children's disabilities. To address this, the Ministry of Education has been improving its data-collection tools since 2013 through its Education Management Information System (EMIS), to integrate administrative data for the calculation of inclusive education indicators. This system makes it easier to monitor outcomes through its performance measurement framework. The system can also be used to record indicators used to monitor the inclusive education policy, such as the percentage of learners with a disability.