Introducing the Spotlight children! Meet Godfred, Priscilla, Rougui and Pape

All children are #BorntoLearn, but so many never get the chance. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rates of learning in the world, with at most one in five children reaching minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics.   

When families realize their children do not benefit from school, it is more likely that they will leave school early. One in four children do not even finish primary school.  To help all children progress through school, there is still a lot more to be done, from better preparing and supporting teachers to ensuring all students have access to textbooks, especially in their home language. 

Over the next three years, we’ll be following the lives and learning journeys of four children in Africa, whose unique stories, aspirations, and accomplishments bring to life the experiences shared by countries in the Spotlight report on foundational learning in Africa, Born to Learn.  

Together, we’ll learn more about their lives, the obstacles these children face to learn, and the struggles that parents and teachers deal with every day.  

Meet the four Spotlight children 

Introducing Godfred 

Godred is 6 years old. He lives in Ghana. He started school at 4 years old and dreams of becoming a salesman when he’s older. Godfred’s father has passed away, but a lot of emphasis is put on education by his mother Margaret. She stopped school early and isn’t able to read.  

Godfred and his peers are lucky with out-of-school numbers decreasing across all levels of education in Ghana. But despite some recent encouraging progress in reading, learning outcomes remain low. Pupils aged just one year older than Godfred can read an average of just 2.5 words per minute, with up to three-quarters of children unable to read a single word. 

 Godfred struggles in school as his family is unable to provide him with the textbooks he needs to participate and stay focused in class. 

 My children love school, but sometimes due to struggles without money they are not able to go to school (Margaret, Godfred’s mother) 

The Spotlight report for Ghana  recommends all children should have their own textbooks to learn, which are research-based and locally developed.  

Introducing Priscilla 

Priscilla is 8 years old and lives in the Eastern region of Ghana. She lives at home with her parents and four siblings. Sending children to school puts financial pressure on Priscilla’s family forcing them to make difficult choices, which means sometimes Priscilla arrives at school hungry and unable to concentrate for class.   

Genevieve Priscilla’s teacher worries that financial difficulties, like the choice between food, tuition fees and school uniforms, sometimes prevent children in Priscilla’s community from attending school.  

I made my mind up, I would do anything I can so they can attend school (Yaa, Priscilla’s mother)  

In Born to Learn, the continental report on Africa, we recommend that all children are provided with school meals, as they cannot learn if they are hungry. 

Introducing Rougui 

Rougui lives in a village in the Louga region of Senegal. She is in her second year of primary school, which she loves. She is smart and studious; she wants to do well. She is also lucky to have a family that supports her learning and believes in the importance of education for girls and boys alike. 

The Spotlight report for Senegal shows that, following some progress in primary completion rates, these have stagnated in recent years at around 60%; today still only around 15% of those who do complete primary school are able to read with understanding.  

Rougui’s teacher, Madame Sarr, explained that some of the reasons for this are related to gender.   

 The main reason why students drop out of school is early marriage for girls. I have seen it here and in all the other villages I have taught before.  They get married very early (Madame Sarr, Rougui’s teacher) 

Rougui’s story underlines the support of parents is an important element for children’s education, especially girls. One in six of all pre-schools were run by the community in 2020, rising to one in two in Louga, where Rougui is from, showing a significant community contribution to education. 

Together, we will meet Rougui’s whole family and find out how parents are doing everything they can to help their children stay in school.  

Introducing Pape 

Pape is a really keen learner. He lives with his siblings and his mother, a single mum who works as a housekeeper and does her very best to allow all her children to go to school. For years, Pape’s teacher, Madame Top, has taught her classes in both French and Wolof, the most spoken regional language of Senegal in an effort to help her students in their studies.  

In the Born To Learn report, we recommend that all children are given the opportunity to first learn to read in a language they understand. The report shows that at most one in five children are taught in their mother tongue in Africa, the continent with the highest linguistic diversity. This is detrimental to learning outcomes on the continent. The report recommends that teachers get the preparation, materials and support they need to be able to do their work well. 

Godfred, Priscilla, Rougui and Pape’s stories show that participation in quality education can change a child’s life forever.  

Journey with us over the next three years, as we turn the spotlight on foundational learning in Africa, for a better future for millions of children. 

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