In Senegal, the Health and Education Sectors Are Teaming Up for Teens

By Amadou Khoury Kébé,
Adolescent and youth services technical advisor, IntraHealth International in Senegal
Photo by Clément Tardif for IntraHealth International.

Outside Dabo middle school in Kolda, southern Senegal. Photo by Clément Tardif for IntraHealth International.

August 09, 2019
At the Dabo middle school in Senegal’s southern region of Kolda, more students—especially girls—are becoming more comfortable sharing their worries with school staff.
“For example, a ninth-grader, a 15-year-old girl, was going to be married off during Easter holidays,” says Samba Baldé, the mediator focal point for the school. He was trained by IntraHealth International to help students work through life issues and connect them to health services when they need them.
“In this area, this usually means that she would leave school and not be able to graduate,” he says. “We mediators used the skills we acquired to negotiate with the parents and explain the consequences of their decision. It worked! They decided against the marriage.”
Through training from IntraHealth’s Neema project, the school mediators (who don’t have to be teachers—they can also be school administrators, monitors, or cleaners) also learned how tiny investments can improve students’ lives at school. For example, they pooled some funds to acquire basic first aid items, such as pain medication, menstrual pads, and bathroom cleaning supplies. As a result, girls’ absenteeism rates due to menstruation and its side effects have dropped.
Thanks to these sessions, I’m still in school.

Neema has partnered with the Ministry of Education in Senegal to train mediators in 32 middle schools in seven regions so far and to start after-school sessions there that gives Senegalese teens and tweens a space to talk about issues that are important to them—body issues, puberty, sex ed, family planning, managing your menstrual cycle at school, nutrition, gender-based and school violence, and where to find help if you’re a victim of violence, and more.