In Senegal, preparatory programs to fight mind drain

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In one of the two brand new Physics and Industrial Engineering laboratories that opened on October 6, 2022 in Thiès.

Concentrated on her notebook full of mathematical formulas, Sokhna Aissatou Mbacké finishes an exercise before heading to physical education class at the end of the day. “My weeks are very busy: I start at 8am and sometimes practice until midnight or 1am.”testifies the 18-year-old student, who is one of fifty Senegalese high school graduates – with distinction or very good – on record selected to take part in the preparatory classes for the Grandes Ecoles (CPGE) that have opened since the beginning of the school year in Thiès, 70 kilometers from Dakar.

This new public education, modeled on the French preparatory classes, allows access to Senegalese engineering schools as well as competitive entrance exams for the Grandes Ecoles in France or abroad. A first for the West African country that wants to “Reduce the brain drain after spending so much on financial resources and excellence grants”said President Macky Sall during the official inauguration on October 27. “We need more engineers, technicians and skilled workers”, because “As a developing country, we need our best minds”stressed the head of state.

Eight Senegalese, French and Tunisian teachers are currently teaching the two science classes, Mathematics, Physics and Engineering (MPSI) and Physics, Chemistry and Engineering (PCSI), temporarily housed in the new buildings of the Thiès Polytechnic. a town about 70 kilometers from Dakar. A complex of fifteen classrooms and five laboratories will be built on the same site for future promotions.

I dream of becoming an engineer

“We will increase the number of students to 300 to 800 within five years”is Magaye Diop, CPGE Coordinator in Senegal. “Other sectors such as IT and earth sciences will come along, which are very promising sectors in Senegal, especially with the significant underground resources such as oil and gas that will soon be exploited.”continues this teacher-researcher at the Polytechnic School of Dakar.

Sette Touré, an 18-year-old PCSI student, has dreamed of becoming an engineer since he was a child, even though he hasn’t yet decided on his specialty. The farmer’s son from the Sédhiou region in the south of the country was the first in his family to complete higher education. “We all benefit from an Excellence Scholarship and a laptop, in addition to boarding school accommodation and access to meals for 100 CFA francs. [0,15 euro] the meal “is he happy.

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After the English lesson, the student still has to revise for that ” Glue “ Evening, these graded oral exams that take place several times a week. “We have to move quickly, we have to make sure they absorb all the concepts”explains Goré Dièye, a physics teacher supported by colleagues from French CPGEs.

The prep classes also have two physics and engineering labs where students are provided with a racing simulator or a device to help lift heavy loads. “With these 23 machines from the industrial environment, we can put into practice what we have seen in class and prepare the students for the oral examinations in the competitions.”explains Lefi Abdellaoui, a Tunisian industrial engineering teacher who has worked as a CPGE teacher in Tunisia and Mauritania.

Answer to “Diary sow case”

“I wanted to do my preparatory class in France to have good learning conditions, but everything I hoped for there I have here.”, observed Sette Touré. If this system keeps students in the country for two more years after high school, most of them hope to continue their studies in France or abroad. How do you bring her back when her engineering school is done? “We are considering establishing partnerships with local companies to offer internships in Senegal and to facilitate the return of students.”explains Mr. Diop, who regrets that young engineers are being conquered by the French market.

Mame Coumba Kebe, 18, dreams of a career in IT or astronomy in Senegal after graduating from high school in France. “Our country needs engineers to develop, so the goal is to return”, testifies the young high school graduate, who received the mention very well. The main advantage for them of the preparatory classes in Senegal is that they stay in the country to gain maturity before leaving. “This is our usual environment, while in France I don’t know anyone and it’s cold. Here the intensive pace of work between glue, homework and supervised Saturday homework can be better managed.”entrusts to the students in physics.

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The idea of ​​these preparatory classes should also be discussed “The Diary Pig Affair”this student in the science preparatory class at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, who disappeared for seventeen days in January 2021. “Our young graduates had difficulties because they were confronted with a completely different environment and study conditions. Keeping you here helps avoid delays »explains Mr. Diop.

In 2020, 118 students benefited from an excellence scholarship abroad, 50 in 2021. The Senegalese government did not award a study abroad scholarship for preparatory classes of any field this year, in order to keep their talents within their limits – although Senegal does not do so yet offer literary or economic opportunities.

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