Catholic Education Secretariat in Senegal: Challenges, Perceptions, Opportunities

Br. Charles Biagui with students of the Cours Sainte Marie de Hann in Dakar, Senegal.

As the Church in the West African nation of Senegal prepares to officially inaugurate the new headquarters of the National Office of Catholic Education of Senegal (Onecs) in January in 2020, the Catholic Education Secretary in the country, Br. Charles Biagui, has outlined some of the challenges, perceptions and opportunities around Catholic education and called on the state to support the Church’s mission to evangelize through education. 

“The challenges are many and are hampering the development of the National Office of Catholic Education in Senegal. For example, we have the impossibility of applying the truth about prices in terms of schooling, due to the poverty of households,” Br. Biagui has been quoted as telling the news agency La Croix Monday, December 16.

“This makes it impossible to obtain revenue that can cover expenditure commensurate with management costs,” he added.

Br Biagui, a member of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart congregation lamented, “People see our schools as rich people's schools. This is not the case! First of all, because we have imposed ourselves to be able to help all those who come to our structures.”

Despite the huge expenses the Church incurs in realizing Catholic education, Br. Biagui also clarified, “a lot of attention is given to the less privileged in Senegal.”


“We sometimes give practically free tuition to those who prove that they do not have the means but want to study in our structures,” he stated.

The head of the Catholic Education Secretariat in Senegal also noted, “There is the inadequacy of the State subsidy and the lack of support from local authorities while the costs are increasing.”

“There is the obligation to pay the permanent staff for 12 months while the tuition fees only cover 9 months,” he added.

“We attach great importance to the social aspect of education. We are there to help with the integral training of young people,” Br Biagui said and added, “Of course this has a cost. But in this effort, which is of a social nature, we would like the State to support us.”

Faced with these challenges, the Catholic Education Secretariat in Senegal has put in place strategies to ensure catholic schools continue to provide quality education.

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“We try to do a good planning of expenses,” Br Biagui said and explained, “Every year, schools present budgets and according to revenues. It is clear that the question of salaries is our priority. We then try to see how to improve the environmental framework.”

In his considered view, infrastructure “is a fundamental criterion in the choice of parents who legitimately want their children to bathe in a healthy and adequate environment.”

 “It is an indicator of a good education, because when you want to give a good education, you also need to have the right infrastructure and the right environment,” he explained.

“Most of our establishments are fifty years old and with time there is degradation. Therefore, the question of rehabilitation is for us a capital element, always with the idea that we must put the students in the best possible conditions for their studies,” Br Biagui said.

 In September, Catholic education came under fire following a ban on the wearing of headscarves at St. Joan of Arc School, a Catholic-sponsored school in Senegal’s capital, Dakar.


The School run by Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, had expelled 22 Muslim students on September 3 for covering their heads with the Islamic scarves in a bid to execute a decision that was made public in May.

The expulsion of the students led to a nation-wide outcry from the predominantly Muslim-country forcing the institution to lift the ban.

According to Br Biagui, during the incident at St. Joan of Arc School, the Catholic Education Secretariat “never spoke of an Islamic veil, but of a uniform.”

“We are in favor of openness, for the education and integral formation of the students. We want every parent to have the choice to go or not to go to schools,” he said and added, “But once the choice is made, parents must accept the constraints that the school asks for because in its educational project, the school determines the orientations.”

“Our wish is to promote good relations between the different components of the educational community. School dress is important to us because the school is a place where all students should be treated equally, regardless of where they come from,” Br Biagui concluded.

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According to statistics from the Catholic Education Secretariat in Senegal, there are 316 Catholic schools in the country, with 116,989 students in 2,700 classes and a staff of 3,816.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.