A few weeks ago, my host teacher got in touch to arrange transportation for the week that we will be in Diass. We had been told by IREX to rely on taxis or teachers from the school to get us around. When we shared this information with Moustapha, he replied that he does not have a license and if we want to actually make it to any of our appointments, we should not rely on taxis because “Senegalese people are not as timely as Americans and will always be late for an agreed appointment.”
Even though our group only arrived yesterday I already know exactly what he was talking about. This morning our driver was over an hour late and this afternoon our transportation never showed up. However, I love that everyone here is flexible, relaxed, and not stressed out over schedule delays. People take their time, speaking to everyone they pass by and no one seems to be in a rush to get anywhere. One of our local consultants told us that it is Senegalese custom for greetings to go on for many minutes. Instead of just saying “hello, how are you?” you also should ask about their mother, father, brothers, sisters, other extended family, health, work, etc. He said that is customary to try not to be the first to end the hand shake or conversation. Because of the delays, we have had longer to visit and have interesting conversations and we still managed to fit everything into our day, even if it ran later than excepted and we only had 5 minutes for lunch.
Our first full day in Dakar did not disappoint. Everything was wonderful (well except the 4 hours that I spent on the phone with Sprint instead of getting caught up on sleep). We started the morning in a meeting with our two in-county consultants, Aissatou Ba and Mouhamadou Diouf. They are both English teachers in Senegal and are very involved in global education programs and the English Teachers Association here. They taught us about the history of the Senegalese education system, how their current elementary, middle, and high schools are structured, the content and skills that are taught, and addressed their strengths and the challenges that they face.
After lunch we took a trip to FASTEF, the only teacher training school of its kind in Senegal.If you are a middle school or high school teacher in Senegal and have received any training, it likely happened at FASTEF. They not only have programs for pre-service teachers but also offer further training for those with more experience and distance learning options for those who don’t live in Dakar. Teachers in are in such high demand here, but because of restrictions they are only able to accept a small group of candidates each year. This past year there were over 3,000 applications for about 50 open spots in one program.
Next we were off to the Monument de la Renaissance which was built in 2010 by Senegal’s last president and is a symbol of the promise and future for Senegal and West Africa. However, some Senegalese were not happy that the president chose to feature his family, specifically that he is depicted holding up his son as if he werr planning to pass the job of president down to him. The monument is taller than the statue of liberty and weighs over 190 tons. It was also very windy today. For a video and more pictures, check out this link.
Dinner was at a restaurant on the top floor of a building providing a great view of the city and ocean. It was delicious food and the servers were very kind. One even played DJ, keeping us entertained with a mix of theme songs from older American movies. We made it back to our hotel on “Senegalese time” exhausted from a busy but exciting day.