SENEGAL: Private higher education boosts economy

Private higher education contributes nearly CFA 13 billion (US$27.7 million) a year to the Senegal economy, according to Abdou Samb, former President of Cesp, a cooperative representing the sector. But Samb said the high costs made higher education inaccessible to many young Senegalese, a situation that could be alleviated if the government entered an agreement with the private sector, reported Wal Fadjri of Dakar.

Samb, Director General of the Advanced Computer Studies Institute and former head of Cesp, said turnover in the private sector had risen from CFA8 billion only two years ago to an estimated CFA13 billion today and that this had benefited the nation's economy today.

He said chief factors contributing to this success were a stable political situation in Senegal at a time when other African countries were undergoing violent political crises; and the quality of the teaching body and of educational infrastructure.

These made it possible to study in Senegal in similar conditions to those in Europe or North America, while being at home, paying lower prices and with the opportunity of achieving joint degrees, Wal Fadjri reported.

As a consequence, students from other African countries chose Dakar for their higher studies. "Senegal has become a platform of integration, for we have more than 20 nationalities in our establishments," he said.

But Samb added that for a good number of Senegalese who had passed their baccalauréat, the passport to higher education, entrance to the private schools was a dream that was almost unattainable. This year, nearly 5,000 students who had not found places in public universities would swell the ranks of casual labour or the unemployed without professional qualifications, just because private higher education was too expensive, he said.

With many young Senegalese facing a lack of resources or places in the public sector, Samb advocated an agreement between the government and private institutions to provide the students with education. He said Gabon's government had entered an accord two years ago under which it had sent 4,000 grant-aided students to be educated in Senegal's private higher education institutions.