Our mission throughout this program has been to globalize our classrooms to connect our students to the world. Although I have worked incredibly hard on that this year at GRHS, my efforts don't nearly compare to the work that is being done here in Senegal. The last few days we have had the privilege of meeting with various leaders of English Language Teaching in Senegal; these people literally risk their lives to ensure that students, even in the most remote area of the country, have access to quality education.
Historically, Senegal was colonized by the French and then later gained independence in 1960. French is the national language within the country and so most formal instruction within schools is delivered in it even though the vast majority of students speak Wolof, Pular, or other local languages. On top of that, English is mandatory starting in high school so most students in Senegal (and adults, too) speak an average of three to four and sometimes five languages; let that one sink in for a minute! The educational leaders in Senegal have recognized the importance for students to learn English because of the globalization of the world. With that mission, some immense challenges exist. Gender inequalities, as mentioned in my last post, are widely present preventing even the most basic education for a large percentage of the female population. Inadequate school facilities, such as classroom roofs made of palm branches that are destroyed during the rainy season, are common in rural areas. Another challenge lies in their population statistics (Geography students: take note!): because Senegal has an incredibly young population as noted by their latest population pyramid, the demand for teachers has risen dramatically but the training for these teachers has not therefore students are not receiving quality education. Enter the amazing individuals that we have met over the past few days; these people are working tirelessly to reverse these trends and improve education in Senegal. Educational leaders are encouraging more teacher training and English Clubs have been developed at most schools to encourage students to practice their language skills. Groups like FAWE (mentioned in my previous post) are bringing to light the inequalities that girls face in education and advocating for change. The U.S. State Department, in partnership with other entities, just finished a project in a rural Senegalese community to provide electricity to a study hall classroom so students can do their homework and read the after dark when electricity is not available in most homes. (How well do you use YOUR study hall?) The United States Agency for International Development (which I may choose to become employed by and never return home...just kidding...I do miss all of you...kind of...:)) is currently working in conflict areas of southern Senegal to improve access to education. In a nutshell, these very important discussions have caused me to think about how so many of us take access to free, quality education in the U.S. for granted.
GRHS students, some more thinking for you: What challenges does our education system face in the U.S.? Why? What is being done about it? What more could be done?
This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.