Dance and education in Mauritania

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Syracuse, New York – Mauritania is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with a population of About 4 million people. Some of the major economic and development challenges facing Mauritania include high levels of Poverty, inequality and unemployment. The country’s economy is highly dependent on Agriculture and fishingexposed to climatic shocks and other external factors. Despite these challenges, Mauritania has made progress in recent years, including in the areas of education and health.

Poverty and education often go together. Organizations like MindLeaps are improving the educational and social lives of young girls, which in turn will help alleviate the symptoms and effects of poverty. Improving education in Mauritania is one of many steps in the right direction.

child poverty situation

According to the World Food Programme, 22.1% of Mauritania’s population lives in poverty. Among the poverty, Mauritania still faces issues such as inequality, food insecurity and malnutrition that mainly affect children. The World Food Program states that “Global acute malnutrition and severe acute malnutrition respectively affect 11.6% and 2.3% of children under five years of age during critical peak periods of the lean season, with numbers dropping to 9.8% and 1.6% respectively in non-emergency years .”


MindLeaps is an organization that is on the verge of improving education in Mauritania to help the country’s vulnerable youth build cognitive and life skills, while providing access to education and other opportunities. She works with local organizations and schools to offer dance and arts programs that aim to help young people (especially young girls) develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and social-emotional skills, while fostering a sense of community.

In 2017, MindLeaps partnered with SOS Pairs Educateurs in Nouakchott and hosted a three-month dance program for street children and juvenile offenders.

to be in the programme, Children join two-hour sessions three times a week. These classes have a formal structure that requires energy expenditure and mental focus. They have a 0% dropout rate for students in educational or professional programs.

The story behind MindLeaps

The Borgen Project spoke with MindLeaps CEO Rebecca Davis. In explaining why MindLeaps chose to start a program in Mauritania, she said they were “challenged for a year to say, What do you think is the hardest place in Africa for your methodology to work?” The organization chose Mauritania because it wanted to see if stereotypes of a “conservative” Mauritania and a place where dancing was not allowed were true. To everyone’s delight, Mauritania was a “beautifully rich and diverse society, with talents and opportunities just like any other Western country.”

Regarding upcoming work, MindLeaps looks forward to working closely with the US Ambassador to Mauritania, Cynthia Kircht. What she hopes is “more exchange between American artists traveling to Mauritania, spending time working with local artists and then coming back to our country.” The aim is to reduce negative stereotypes about Mauritania and to improve ties between Mauritania and the rest of the world.

A prime example of their success

Rougui Oumar Ba was on MindLeaps’ dance program and then moved on to a formal education program, and “within two years, he ranked first in the country in the national exam.” She has now continued to develop secondary education scholarships and opportunities, which are at odds with what is available to many women in Mauritania. Rougui is an example of the natural “intellectual talent” she got the chance to express when MindLeaps opened the doors for her.

Education in Mauritania may not have the strongest history, but the country is making progress and active efforts to make education more accessible to children in the country. Organizations like MindLeaps are undoubtedly adding to the lead by providing children with opportunities they would not otherwise have. Organized dance classes in Mauritania can build strong community bonds and help children improve their emotional and social skills which in turn improve their overall academic experience.

– Anna Richardson
picture: Flickr