Closing the door behind him, Monsieur Diallo tries to brush the chalk off his hands and greets the man, dressed in a long traditional boubou, with a friendly shake of hands.
Without raising an eyebrow, he listens. While the father explains; how Maimouna will be absent today helping to cook in the kitchen, Monsieur Diallo cannot help but feel a pinching of the heart. Today it is Maimouna, tomorrow it might be Boubacar, and another day it could be Khadi.
One teacher once told me that in Senegal, the student “studies at school and only at school.” Many do not have the opportunity to study at home- it is there that they help their parents.
If Aminata sleeps at school it is because she stays up late selling couscous in the streets. Mamadou never does his homework because after school, he is the one helping his father transporting the bags of coal.
While many parents tell their children to learn and to go to school, many do not give them enough time to study at home. Housework in Senegal, especially in the ghetto and even more so in the villages, in which people do not have the means to buy a washing machine for example, is extensive and time-consuming.
The country’s collective culture induces a strong community sense within individuals, meaning that sharing and helping others is a norm within Senegalese society. Westerners on the other hand, coming from a more individualist culture, can be described as more ‘independent’ and maybe more self-centred as well.
I myself would find it very difficult to hit a child, but wierdly enough it did not shock me that the students were punished with the ‘cravache’. I do think that there are better ways to punish a student, but I wonder how one single teacher in Europe would control a class of 50 or even 100 children without hitting them.
Things are different here.
I also think that when one travels to another country, one should be open towards everything, without judging the thoughts and actions of others. So if a teacher hits a student (and the student deserves the punishment), I do not think that I have a right to tell the teacher to stop.
Actually the Senegalese education department is against physical punishment at school, but many teachers do not know what other punishment to use. I myself, after being in front of a class of 50 children…
I wonder if it is truly possible to control a class this big without physical punishment?
Sometimes I wish I had been trained as a teacher, had some experience at least. Maybe then I would know further educational methods and be able to implicate them in the school.