Public vs Private schools
06.19.2008 - 06.19.2008
I have a quick moment to write a little more about my impressions of Senegal. When we arrived I think we were all a little nervous - we had been told that the airport would be very chaotic (actually compared to some of the Central American airports I've been through it was actually quite sane!), and the piolet told us on the plane that we were not allowed to take pictures of the airport (that doens't exactly give you confidence in the security!). All was fine.
I remember my first impression of Senegal was being amazed that everything is dirt, a redish-brown sand and that there is garbage everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Now that we've been here a few days it is not even phasing me. As we drove through Dakar to get to our rooms I also noticed that there was a lot of construction - which didn't look like it was moving along really quickly. The road we took went along the coast and it was different than I expected as well. There were many cliffs, and it was rocky, only very few areas where there were beaches.
I've already mentioned our accomdations, and my roomate Mollie - she's great. I'm so lucky to have my own French Teacher! There are two on our trip actually and it is great because the Senegalese speak French and then thier native languages. There are 26 native languages, but about 6 main ones. We had a lesson in Wolof yesterday which is probably the most common. Being with Mollie and watching her be able to communicate so easily with the people we meet has really inspired me to learn more languages. I know some Spanish - and was able to talk to the Spanish teacher at the middle school we visited today (he didn't speak very much English, but we had fun talking in Spanish).
The schools here are all in French (which is also the national language - a leftover of the colonial period). However this is a problem because it really is not the native tongue of most people. Most kids do not learn French until they begin school - so in order to learn anything in school they must first learn French. When we were talking to Professor Sene on Tuesday I mentioned that I noticed that it seemed that many people here were interested in literature and arts - I asked him if this was a cultural preference. He said no, not really - it is just that science is a difficult subject and so you can imagine how much more difficult it would be to learn in another language!!! So true.
But back to the elementary school. The kids were great, they were very quite, and shy to ask questions - so I asked them what their favorite classes were - just about everybody raised their hands: geography, science, math, french, were all common answers. I then asked them what careers they wanted to have, again so many hands! Most wanted to be doctors or nurses, others wanted to be hostesses, no one wanted to be a teacher (most teachers are on a volunteer basis - due to restructuring of the economy - but I'll have to write more about that later!!!) These 15 minute interludes are not enough time to let you all know how much I am learning about Senegal and Africa in general.
The middle school we visited was a public one - the difference was extreme. Very dirty, and they have such high drop out rates - mostly because they cannot afford food, or pencils, or do not have anywhere to study at home (most live in 1 room "shacks" is the best term for them).
But with all the poverty around me, the one thing that shines is the fantastic personality and friendlyness and politeness of the Senegalese people! They are so happy and wonderful even though they know what difficulties they are living with.
Gotta run, we're off to visit a university now. I'll try to get some photos on soon!!!!!