Leona – a district helps itself
Saint-Louis – Senegal
In a poor district of Saint-Louis, the UNESCO World Heritage site in the north of Senegal, the HelpAlliance provides support in a variety of ways. We support vocational training and business start-ups for women and juveniles, alphabetization and a kindergarten. Since 2006, the center ‘Centre d’Education et de la Promotion sociale Keur Mame Fatim Konté’ has been available just for these purposes.
Far removed from the fading charms of the former capital of Senegal, on the wrong side of the tracks, as it were, lies the slum district of Leona. While the Island of Saint Louis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a picturesque tourist destination, few visitors ever stray into Leona.
About 14,000 people live in Leona in households that often do not have any electricity or water supply. During the annual rainy season, the unpaved roads are soon transformed into branches of the Senegal River, overwhelming the sewage system which then soon fails. Unemployment is very high, those lucky enough to hold jobs earn little – to name just a few of the devastating problems.
Since 2002, many educational opportunities have been created in cooperation with the citizen’s representation, the ‘council of Leona’. Following the educational courses, jobs have been created through start-up funding on a loan basis.
The work of the Help Alliance is primarily focused on young women and one of the two schools, where tutoring for children from difficult familial situations or with handicaps is provided. The first internet café in the quarter was also established there.
Rather quickly it became clear that the need in the population was great and a center, to accomodate all the activities which were beginning to develop needed to be built. In 2006, the educational center opened its doors. It provides the following services:
• Kindergarten and daycare for about 100 children, free of charge for young mothers who obtain an education at the center and the families, who cannot afford the symbolic fee.
• Vocational Training as Hairdresser and Tailor for young girls and women – most of whom are school dropouts and receive alphabetization classes, sex education and elementary business skills for their later professions. The number of girls varies according but is usually around 150.
• Tutoring for girls who are to take school exams. These exams are crucial to educational advancement, since failure at the public schools only leave private schools, which most cannot afford.
• Alphabetization classes, food and medical care for street kids or more precisely Koran students, who live like street kids, but are under the custody of Koran teachers. These Koran schools are in many ways completely inadequate. They lack acceptable hygienic conditions, children have to beg for their food and do not participate in any ‘normal’ school lessons.
• A nurse provides free medical care for women and children, who participate actively in the center as well as street kids.
Additionally, 66 children at the quarter’s elementary schools currently receive tutoring in order to prevent school dropout. The internet café provides low-cost communication to family abroad, who are essential in providing income for their families in Senegal. Additionally, computer classes are also held there.
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