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The Club Mundus maris - Senegal organised a public conference on the fight against school drop outs

In collaboration with Schuman Trophy, our association has accompanied the parents of the fishing village of Hann to obtain a birth certificate for children still under threat of being excluded from the school system. This initiative started in 2014 and gained momentum in 2015 with support from Schuman Trophy. Work on this thorny issue has continued since.

In order to take stock of the initiative so far, we organised a public conference on 20 September 2016 in one of the annexes of the municipality of Hann - Bel Air. We needed to take stock and reflect with those concerned about the ways and means necessary for a durable solution of this scourge.

A preparatory committee chaired by the Club Coordinator, Aliou SALL, was set up. Members were Messrs Abdourakhmane FALL, Bina Diarra DIOP, Moustapha M'BAYE and Ms Mami DIAW, all members of the Club Mundus maris - Senegal, as well as three representatives of the parents (two ladies and one gentleman). The committee played a key role in the success of this event. Among other things, the committee launched an announcement on facebook that triggered a lot of reactions. Two days of the event, the village griot, Mass DIOUF, announced the gathering as a public crier throughout the alleys of the community.

The agenda allowed all stakeholders to express their views. There were 67 people in attendance, including 56 parents, a municipal councilor, four members of the Club, five representatives of the local fishermen's association (three micro fishmongers and two fishermen) who have been working with our association for a few years, and a teacher from the Bara Guèye school.

The highlights of the meeting are:

Firstly, it was an opportunity to take collectively stock of the "access to civil status" initiative. It so far resulted in the issuance of 245 documents and thus allowed as many kids to go or go back to school. Taking stock also meant to appreciate in some detail the reasons why certain steps have not been taken.

Second, we witnessed something unusual, namely the fact that this problem haunting quite a number of families has brought together three generations into the public exchange. Indeed, during the debate with the audience, the conference almost turned into a sort of "wailing wall". We had grandmothers come forward to expose the problem of their grandchildren. The latter are often either orphans or undeclared children, born of a somewhat complicated relationship and usually living with grandparents. In other cases, it was a mother with one or more of her children speaking up. Finally, there were cases of young boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18, whom the parents had failed to declare at the civil registry and now took the floor to pose their own problems.

Third, the open debate with stakeholders revealed the following: children who suffer from this problem are victims of the neglect of parents who did not declare them at birth. But for a good part, it is the civil registry officials in the early 2000s who must take responsibility. Indeed, we learned through the testimony of participants that during this period there were some embezzlements and/or serious transcription errors. When the act was drawn up by certain employees, the same number was attributed to several persons, birth certificates mentioned the child was male, when it was female and vice versa, etc. Fortunately, all this has been improved since the civil registry in Hann is under the responsibility of Mr Ousmane DIAW, the chief civil registrar of Hann municipality, who is reforming this institution in the right direction.

Finally, given the persistence of the problem, the conference participants proposed the following:

The participants, while congratulating Schuman Trophy and Mundus maris for showing the way forward when they did not think it was possible, now want to set up focal points in six areas of the community. Thus, instead of the two collection points set up by the Mundus maris Club at the start in 2015, they added four, appointing people in the room who will be in charge of the animation in each of these districts. Abdourakhmane FALL will continue to animate the focal point of Waloga and Mami DIAW will continue animating the one in Montagne. The Club Mundus maris - Senegal has been solicited to accompany the population in this initiative of taking responsibility themselves by being involved in the census and the transfer of files to the competent authorities. Despite their willingness to play their full part, the participants remain convinced that there may be administrative blockages for which the intervention of members of the Club Mundus maris - Senegal would be very useful.

To this end, the participants set up a monitoring committee composed of the Club Coordinator, Abdourakhmane Fall, Mami Diaw and two representatives of the parents (a woman and a man). An update meeting will be held on the first Saturday afternoon of each month. These monthly meetings should provide a clear idea of the cases that have been identified and must be submitted to the competent authorities without delay. Since external court hearings are rare, this new approach, if successful, will prevent cases from accumulating. This should allow e.g. accompanying small groups to the court.