Children from an elementary school in Senegal have a few things to say about children’s rights. Drama is one of the most effective ways of getting attention, so the children chose an issue that they care about — education — and presented a play on it.
“They wanted to show that education is important for them but how, because of tradition and culture, some of them are left behind,” says Tenagne Mekonnen, ChildFund’s communications manager in the Africa Regional Office. She saw the performance, which took place under a tree, while on a visit to Senegal. “The children were doing it with enthusiasm. Their parents and community were also watching and listening.”
Afterward, Mekonnen asked students why they had put together the drama. “They said they identified that these rights need to be addressed by the community for them to be who they want to be.”
[In a village in Senegal, a young boy named Modou comes home after a hard day in the fields. His mother is preparing the evening meal while his father looks on.]
Modou: Dad, this morning I went to the field as you asked me, but I noticed that a herd of cattle had more or less devastated the field, and I had a disagreement with the shepherd. And then, after all that, I had to deal with the harvest!
It’s too much for me, and I am not able to go to school! I’m 9 years old now. All my friends have begun going to school, and I am the only one staying at home or in the field, working for you.
Father: School, school! That’s all you can talk about these days! I can’t spend my time listening to your complaints. School is not the most important thing in the world. I’ve never set foot in school, and yet I am still able to support you and my family! You should go and work things out with the shepherd and then finish taking care of the field.
Mother: It’s not my son’s job to take care of the field, it’s yours. My son should go to school like his other friends.
Father: I said school is not important! He should go to the field and learn fieldwork to help us get food to eat! I can’t do everything, and I need someone to help me. As my son, he is the one. And, as far as I know, they do not teach children how to farm at school!
Mother: Your field, your field — it’s your duty to cultivate it! Leave this aside. My son should go to school. I will insist, and I’m ready to fight for his right to do so!
[Outside a window, a young girl, who would be a classmate of Madou’s if he were in school, overhears the conversation. As it happens, she is the daughter of the president of the local parent association. She calls her mother, who arrives soon after.]
President: What’s happening in this house? I am hearing a lot of noise. You’re stirring up your whole neighborhood with all this shouting and screaming! What is it about?
Mother: I’m shouting at my husband because he doesn’t want our son to go to school with all his friends who are his age.
Father: Education is not that important for me. I have not been to school, and it has not prevented me from earning and living my life!
President: Listen, things are changing. Nowadays it is important for us to send our children to school. Tomorrow he will be someone very important who earns much money and can ease your burden. Believe me, only education can change life! Look at me — I am sending my daughter to school because my dream for her is to have a better life and also to inspire the youngest to take the same path. An educated child will become a responsible adult. They are our hope for tomorrow. Let us educate them!
[Modou’s father paces, considers. The mothers watch him, and Modou and his friend look hopefully at each other.]
Father: All right. I agree with both of you. Modou will go to school like children of his age. I have not understood the importance of education, but now I do — thank you! And I am sorry, my son.
The performance closed with a dance, in which the group presented signs listing some other important rights of children: The right to an education (“to smile”), the right to know one’s parents and to be in touch with them, the right to health and to a healthy environment, the right to express views freely and the right to a nationality, an identity and privacy.