Senegal’s Kaffrine Scholarship: Investing in the future
Find out how this scholarship is equipping the next generation of Christians through education and discipleship.

By Tianna Haas, Senegal in África occidental

In Senegal’s Kaffrine region, a scholarship project has empowered over 38 young people to pursue studies at various levels. SIM workers Katie and Corey Garrett have observed the ebb and flow of students’ journeys since its start in 2007. They can finally see the outcome of educational and spiritual training, as students are now entering the workplace and impacting their communities.

The idea for the scholarship came from Wolof Christian leaders in a neighbouring region. They had received support from missionaries while they were in school and were significantly impacted. One of these leaders, Malick, a Wolof pastor and his wife, Féluine, are steadfastly working to promote education in their own region of Senegal.

Recognising the potential to equip youth in their Christian community and propel forward the pattern set by their childhood supporters, the leaders suggested the SIM team in Kaffrine could help in a similar way.

Insufficient finances often keep children from enrolling in schools in the Kaffrine region. With the scholarship, students gain the backing to pay for registration, supplies, tutoring, field trips and exam fees.

Even those who cover the costs of school attendance can receive inadequate education, as public school teachers periodically go on strike. For this reason, many families choose to send their children to a local Christian school for a stable and high-quality education.

Equipping young girls like Leyla

Amidst the trying educational conditions in Senegal, the outlook is even worse for girls.

Katie Garrett says, “Only about a third of the students who graduate from high school in Kaffrine are girls.”

Families typically see little value in teaching and training young women for careers. The Kaffrine Scholarship has countered this norm – out of the 38 scholarship recipients, nearly half have been young women.

While the dropout rates progress with each successive grade level for girls in Senegal, this Christian community in Kaffrine has watched numerous young women succeed through secondary school and beyond.

Leyla* was awarded the Kaffrine Scholarship for a nursing assistant training programme. After graduation, Leyla became employed by a private clinic and flourished.

Katie said: “Her mother, a poor single mom with no real job, would not have been able to afford that training.”

Literacy among women is low in this region, and there is a striking difference seen from one generation to the next in families blessed by the scholarship. Although the results of schooling are powerful, the effects of spiritual nourishment are even greater.

Through the scholarship, Leyla attended a weekly Bible study, where she met a young man, Lamine*. Jo and Young Mi, two former SIM workers from South Korea, discipled them. The couple led Leyla and Lamine to the Lord and continued mentoring them after the two were married.

As Leyla became a mother to two children, she took time off from her nursing career. However, through the mentorship of Jo and Young Mi, Leyla began to do student outreach and witnessing.

Leyla and Lamine’s relationship with Jo and Young Mi now has the added benefit of ministry partnership. They all work together to bring the good news of Jesus to students.

Last winter, Leyla also took over the job of managing a local library and outreach centre.

The choices Leyla had to glorify God in nursing, outreach and the household were far beyond her own mother’s. The Kaffrine Scholarship facilitated her growth in ministry, the medical field and motherhood.

Jibrin’s return to school

Despite the opportunities the scholarship gives, students can choose to veer from the path and drop out of school. Jibrin* was one of those students. After eight years as a scholarship recipient and a Bible study attendee, he retreated from school with a tenth-grade diploma.

After several discussions with the Garretts, Jibrin’s father and Jibrin’s pastor, Jibrin brought up the option of studying animal husbandry. With Jibrin’s education level, his only option to study animal husbandry was at a school eight hours away.

They arranged accommodations for him there with a Christian family and separated from him. Alone and in a far-off place, Jibrin met with a competitive entrance exam and interview. Only 10 paid spots were available in the programme, while 63 students were competing.

Before Jibrin entered his interview, he was struck by doubt, nerves and anger. He ventured to ask God for a funded spot if he promised to follow Christ.

Jibrin said: “The Lord answered that prayer. He showed me that he is the Lord of power and that he wanted me to follow Him.”

The ten spots were announced, and Jibrin’s name was the first. Stunned to hear his name, Jibrin wasn’t convinced he’d been chosen until they added his birth date and home town.

“After that,” Jibrin said, “I had to keep my side of the promise. So, I started following Him wholeheartedly.”

During Jibrin’s studies, he was able to witness to a classmate, Musa*, who is a Muslim from the Wolof people group. Their friendship began when Jibrin didn’t fast for Ramadan, and Musa started asking him about his beliefs. Jibrin has explained his faith, gifted Musa the New Testament scriptures and invited him to meet with his friends who follow Jesus.  

Jibrin met God through his education, and the Lord has used Jibrin’s training programme to bring the gospel near to those who don’t know him.   

The legacy of the Kaffrine Scholarship

The Kaffrine Scholarship has given the tools and window for many Christian families to educate their children. As the students have become professionals, the Garretts and other missionaries in Kaffrine have welcomed them as fellow heirs of God’s promises.

Katie said: “Jibrin thanked us effusively for the financial support of the Scholarship Project during all these years… We told Jibrin that he is not indebted to us and that we see him as a fellow worker for the gospel and we congratulated him on his hard work.”

Generations ago, missionaries to the Wolof people created a legacy for learning. With both spiritual wisdom and practical knowledge, the students from the Kaffrine Scholarship carry on their work by living as faithful leaders in their communities.

Pray for:

• the former, current and future recipients of the Kaffrine scholarship to become lights for Jesus where they study and work.

• Leyla’s outreach ministry.

• Jibrin’s animal husbandry work and friendship with Musa. Pray Musa commits his life to Christ.

Support the Kaffrine Scholarship

The Kaffrine Scholarship needs funds for the current school year so they can continue helping young people in their spiritual lives and education. Do you feel led to empower the next generation through this project? After clicking on the donation button below, find the SIM office closest to you and use the project number, 095300-091.

*Names changed