Senegalese professor holds pupil’s baby during class in show of support for student mothers

Labaly Toure, a professor of geomatics, is shown carrying the baby of one of his students while he teaches his class. Photo taken June 2 in Kaolack.
Labaly Toure, a professor of geomatics, is shown carrying the baby of one of his students while he teaches his class. Photo taken June 2 in Kaolack. © Labaly Toure

A Senegalese professor took to Twitter on June 2 to share two photos of himself teaching … while carrying a baby belonging to one of his students. Labaly Touré, a professor at the University of Kaolack, said he was surprised by the widespread positive reaction to his posts, adding that his aim was to raise awareness about the challenges faced by student mothers.

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Labaly Touré, a doctor of geomatics who teaches at the Sine Saloum Elhadj Ibrahima Niass University in Kaolack in southeast Dakar, posted two photos on June 2 along with the caption: "This morning, I had the pleasure of carrying the baby of one of my students during my class at the university."

The professor’s post quickly went viral. Forty-eight hours later, it had garnered more than 14,000 retweets and more than 100,000 likes.

'Motherhood shouldn’t be a reason to give up your studies'

Our team spoke to Touré:

Labaly Touré
Professor of Geomatics
Kaolack, Senegal

A student came to my class with her baby, who was less than a year old, tied on her back. She wasn’t able to concentrate on the course like that. She put the baby on her lap, and when I saw that, I offered to take the baby myself so that she could focus on class. I kept the baby with me for the entire class, he stayed very calm. 

It was a way to help her, but also a nod to all student mothers who are juggling motherhood and higher education. I want to show them that these two roles aren’t incompatible these days. Because I am a father myself, I am sensitive to these issues. And we, as teachers, have a role to play in helping these mothers. 

I don’t know of many women attempting to do this in my university or elsewhere. But when I do encounter a student mother, I’ll do everything I can to support her so that she doesn’t give up her education. I also spoke to my colleagues, telling them that motherhood shouldn’t be a reason for someone to stop their studies.   

'What solutions can we offer young women who come to the university with their babies?'

I didn’t think my photos would take off like they did on Twitter! I didn’t realise that so many people were thinking about this issue. For me, these photos ask a question: what solutions can we offer young women who come to university with their babies?

The predicament of these young mothers highlights a problem in Senegal – daycares and nannies are expensive, so they aren’t really an option for everyone, especially when you think about students who, very often, have limited financial means. Obviously, if my student could pay for a nanny, she would. She didn’t have a choice and I wasn’t going to send her away because she came to class with her baby! 

In 2020, Senegal’s birth rate was 36.1%, which is one of the highest in the world. The country’s fertility rate is similarly high, averaging at slightly less than five children per woman.