It’s baffling to think that I was just in Senegal and now I am in a New York. The schedule for the course was filled with activities daily so within a blink of an eye I was biding my farewells. I am looking photos my host sister is posting on social media and those photos seem more familiar than the hotel I am in. After the packing my bags and heading home I am now able to reflect on the course that really explored many perspectives of language, education and social justice.
Students in Senegal are actually learning fundamental concepts for learning development in an entirely foreign language. This realization did not occur to me until I was back in the United States. I am just now able to conceptualize my positionality as it relates to this course. As a student, I am able to learn in my first language. A benefit I have had since I entered the educational system. I did not have to struggle to understand a basic concepts of math, reading, and science while simultaneously learning French. What I understand now about education in Senegal is the equivalent of me matriculating kindergarten through grade 12 being taught in a language as foreign to me as Farsi; a language in which I have never been exposed.
I was misguided in my assumption that French was integrated into a child daily life because there were French signs everywhere in Dakar but reflecting on my experience in the rural village of Mouit and the visit to the school teaching in the marginalized Saafi Saafi language, I realized the true challenges of the country. I have seen a more complete picture not just isolated to the large cities.
Earlier I was asked to do an interview and one of the questions asked for my favorite quote. As I am searching through my mental rolodex of quotes I have gathered from books and speeches I settled on one from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: “There must be a language that doesn’t depend on words…If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.” This quote came to mind because it seemed to apply to my personal experience with language during this time. In both host families, I lived with there was a language barrier that hindered potentially fruitful conversations. Despite this, over time there seemed to be an understanding between the family and myself. Without words, we would sit and enjoy meals, television, and taking pictures.
Some of our visits hinted at work done in neighboring countries and the readings talked about the spread of Wolof within the region. Moving forward I want to learn more about the spread of bilingual education in the rest of the West African region. It will be interesting to find out more about political will and public interest on bilingual education in other countries. Additionally, I look forward to learning more about language and education policy in the United States and draw conclusions based on this course.