School-age girls in Senegal have many responsibilities. Family tasks, like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of their younger siblings always come before their schooling. However, these students’ desire to learn and achieve sets them apart. It would be easy for them to give up, but these girls are defined by their outstanding work ethic, pride, and overwhelming desire to dream of something bigger than what they’ve experienced in their day-to-day lives. 


When Amysarr failed her 9th grade exam she was kicked out of public school. With nowhere else to turn, her father went to the principal at CAPB to plead his daughter’s case. He said she was smart and a hard worker, but that he didn’t have the down payment for her tuition. Amysarr was allowed to start classes while her father saved. Nearly two months into the term, he’s still struggling to come up with the money.

In the meantime, Amysarr is excelling in her classes. English is her favorite subject and it shows. Even in the classes she finds difficult, like advanced algebra, she’s engaged and enthusiastic. I watched her step up to the chalkboard to work through a problem. When she started to get off-track she calmly reached for the sponge, erased her mistake and kept on working until she got it right.

Despite walking 7km to and from class everyday, Amysarr is expected to do her normal chores: cleaning, cooking, taking care of the little ones (and the men), dishes and laundry. Even though she’s allowed to go to school, she’s still a girl after all.

AmySarr does these chores during the mid-day school break (12 – 3pm) at her grandmother’s house near the school, and again in the evening once she has made the 7km trek back home. She fits in homework whenever she can, and when she finishes she beams with pride. School is the bright spot in her day.


Maïta went to school and completed the fifth grade when she was 12-years-old, but wasn’t able to pass the national exam. While her parents wanted her to continue her education, she was not allowed to stay in public school and there was no way her family could pay private tuition.

She only had one option left.


Maïta’s family began preparing her for marriage. Often, girls are considered a liability in the rural villages of Senegal…someone has to pay for their basic needs. But if a family marries off their daughter, they have one less mouth to feed. So when Maita was 14, she became a wife.

Since her husband is young and she is a first wife, she is working as a maid and supporting her parents while her husband works to establish a household. She cooks, cleans and takes care of other people’s kids all day long.

At this young age when American teens are thinking about all the exciting possibilities of their young lives, Maïta’s future has already been set in stone.

The key to changing the future for girls like Maita is education, getting a chance to continue on to 6, 9 and 12 grade in order to obtain valuable skills that can be utilized in the community.