The Kaolack region of Senegal is where we begin our journey… Children who attend the primary school in NDallane, Senegal have a very progressive teacher. He has a vision to educate these children into the 21st century, and his children are the youngest. In the school year 2014/2015, he had 47 students in his combined 2nd and 3rd year class.
The classroom itself looks like an after-thought: A tree-branch framed lean-to on the side of a concrete school house. The wooden benches and tables are crammed in so that there is enough walking room and a small demonstration space in front of the painted on blackboard for the teacher. Attached to the dried leafy branched walls and ceiling rafters are hand drawn letters of the alphabet, site words, and commonly used phrases. When the teacher poses a question to the students these students jump up, waving their arms, snapping their fingers and eagerly saying, “Monsieur! Monsieur!” to attract his attention.
The children come from four different villages, some walking an hour to get to school each day. There is no road, and many of the kids do not have shoes. None of the children have school books, sharing just the teacher’s copy between them. Lunch is cooked on site because the children cannot make it home and back to school in a reasonable amount of time, and the meal consists of donated cornmeal, lentils or beans, spice and sometimes onion. This is also what the teachers eat.
When I visited with my 7-year-old daughter a few years ago, the temperature hovered around 110 degrees (F) in the shade, and the wind was hot, lofting sand up with it when it blew. I wondered how anyone could concentrate in such an atmosphere, let alone when they might be hungry or malnourished or tired from such a long walk just to get there.
These kids are tough and resilient though! MaSaliou wants to get a building built for them. He wants to train them on computers so they can function in the modern world. He wants to teach them about animal husbandry so they are better nourished and can make some money to help in the purchase of school necessities. And I want him to introduce a community garden, as well.
The 2016/2017 school year started with a bang! MaSaliou used the donated funds sent to hook up the new classroom building with hardware for computer networking and has the first laptop going on. Always moving forward with the education of those kids, working towards a brighter future for all generations.
This 2017/2018 school year looks promising! Computer networking is now happening and the kids will enjoy learning in their classroom of concrete (built in 2014). Best wishes to their continued success!