The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
African Studies Center Outreach Newsletter
NC Educators Travel to Senegal

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In June 2012, 17 North Carolina educators traveled to Dakar, Senegal to learn about education, religion, and politics there, as part of a group study planned and lead by UNC’s African Studies Center and World View. Participants ranged from kindergarten to community college teachers, included near-retirement “education elders,” first-year novices, principals and administrators; and they came from towns across the state, from Asheville to Edenton. While some were experienced travelers, this group study of contemporary Africa included many participants who had never been abroad before. All participants dove into this learning experience, and they left Senegal with a deepened understanding of this complex and vibrant country in West Africa.

Barbara Anderson, Associate Director for UNC’s African Studies Center and co-leader of the trip, designed this group study to help teachers and administrators gain authentic understanding of important aspects of contemporary Africa. Her second time leading a trip of this nature, Anderson remarked at the unusually engaged nature of this group study to Africa. “Participants were curious, respectful, and fun-loving; but most especially, they were deep learners!” Anderson was able to draw on UNC’s years of collaboration with academics, activists, and professionals in Senegal in order to give participants both intellectual and experiential foundations for the trip. Julie Kinnaird, World View’s Assistant Director for Outreach, attended to group logistical needs and excelled at taking participants into alleyways, kitchens, and shops, where travelers interacted with Senegalese in friendly, intimate, and unusual ways.

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During these two weeks, participants learned about the Slave Trade from a West African perspective, Senegalese education practices, the youth political movement in Senegal, and about religious tolerance in this mostly Muslim country. The group met several times with Senegalese educators, including an afternoon of conversation in a school yard under a mango tree, sharing across cultures and languages about the joys and challenges of professional teaching. Later in the trip, North Carolina teachers went home with Senegalese teachers for African food, laughter, and community. Cultural activities on this group study included West African drumming and dancing, a traditional lunch at the home of the Mayor of Sokone, (a small town in the south of Senegal), and a nighttime village Senegalese wrestling tournament. North Carolina educators learned much about politics and history in Senegal and benefitted from lectures by activists and students and from faculty at the University of Chiekh Anta Diop. The group witnessed their African professional peers and learned about education practices in Senegal by visiting elementary, secondary, and Koranic schools, as well as a children’s refugee center and a premier private Business Management university.

The success of this group study could not have been achieved without the partnership of the West African Research Center in Dakar. WARC Director Prof. Ousmane Sene and professional staff member Mariane Yade left no detail unattended, designing with UNC’s African Studies Center and World View an unparalleled professional development opportunity for North Carolina teachers and administrators. WARC staff accompanied this North Carolina delegation every step of the way, and personally assured the greatest learning possible for each member of the group. One veteran North Carolina teacher summarized his very positive experience by saying, “This was one of the most meaningful professional activities that I have ever engaged in.”


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©2012 UNC African Studies Center