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Welcome to the Woodstock Academy Senegal Exchange Program

Teraanga, is a Wolof word loosely translated as "hospitality" in English, but the concept extends beyond literal definition. It's more than just a practice; it's a philosophical code, a very strong social value, where families invite strangers in need into their homes. It's based on the belief that a family who assists a visitor and extends such hospitality ensures that their own children will never find themselves away from home without help or support. If everyone does it, everyone benefits.

Woodstock Academy’s connection with Senegal began as a passion of French Teacher Merry Burke, who frequently teaches about Africa in her classes. In 1996, Mme Burke started collaborating with former Academy teacher, Paul Cunningham in their French and International Relations classes in an effort to diversify the cultural educational climate at Woodstock Academy. After two years of preparation, the first group of students from Woodstock Academy traveled to Senegal in the spring of 1998.

A second successful trip to Africa took place in the spring of 2001; on each trip, students visited local schools. In 2001, the Minister of Education from the World Links Program, a branch of the World Bank, escorted the group to the Mariama Bâ School on Gorée Island in Dakar, Senegal. At that time, the school’s director, Madame Ramatoulaye Dieng expressed an interest in a cultural exchange with Woodstock Academy. Students from both schools showed great interest in such an exchange.

As a result of this invitation, fifteen students and two teachers from the Mariama Bâ School were hosted by families in our school community in September of 2003. In April 2004, students from Woodstock Academy traveled to Senegal to be hosted by the Mariama Bâ School. In the fall of 2006, 11 students and one teacher from Mariama Bâ came to Woodstock Academy for the second exchange between the two schools. In April 2007, a group of Academy students, teachers, and community members visited Senegal to complete the second exchange with the Mariama Bâ school on Gorée Island. The group spent a week at the school attending classes, attending djembe drumming lessons, and taking day trips to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Upon leaving the school, they toured Senegal stopping in St. Louis, visiting Touba, the largest Mosque in West Africa, the Bandia animal preserve, the Djoudj bird sanctuary, and the Pink Lake. The highlight of the trip was working with African musicians at Toubab Dialo. Woodstock Academy students will host a group of students from Mariama Bâ in the Fall of 2009 and will travel to Senegal in April 2010. There, they will be hosted by the Mariama Bâ School and will travel around the country.

The exchange between the two schools was highly successful. Students made life-long friends and explored new career possibilities. The enthusiasm generated in the community was great and each year we are asked, "When are our friends from Senegal returning?" We are now working on the implementation of the third exchange which will take place in the fall of 2009 and April 2010.

Many of our students have gone on to pursue careers in International Relations, join the Peace Corps, and work for non-profits in undeveloped and developing nations. Some have studied abroad, choosing Africa as the continent of choice.

We strongly believe that the students who travel with us return to this country as citizens of the world with new perspectives and shared understandings of the human condition. We know that borders between countries, once daunting, are now intriguing to our students. The students who host visitors from around the world are forever changed by their new connections.

2012-2013 Senegal Exchange Events

Senegal Exchange Events

Welcome Reception                 

Friday Sept 21, 2012 - 2:30 p.m.     

Bowen Faculty Lounge

Cultural Evening Performance  

Thursday Sept 27, 2012 - 7 p.m.         

Bates Auditorium admission is free

Senegalese Music & Dance Performance

Tuesday Oct 2, 2012 - 12:50 p.m.        

Bates Auditorium

Farewell Reception                 

Thursday Oct 4, 2012 - 2:30 p.m.          

Bowen Faculty Lounge

About the Mariama Bâ School

Occupying old barracks of the French Army in Gorée Island, Mariama Bâ Boarding School is not only the last female boarding school in Senegal, but it is also a historical center for educating the best and brightest of Senegal’s girls.

According to Nettali, a local online newspaper, Mariama Bâ students invariably score 90% to100% in the BFEM (examinations taken 3 years before the BAC), as well as the BAC itself. Such excellence made the reputation of the Boarding School.

Mariama Bâ, an author, will always be an inspiring figure for African women. She fought the terrible discrimination and injustices that women suffered in the name of tradition. She illustrated how many African traditions and customs are harmful to the rights of women, and urgently need to be modified. Naming the school after a champion of women’s rights, who recognized that education was the key to success, is symbolic of the power of educating women. Some of the country’s best and brightest young women are gaining valuable skills here - skills that empower them to make an impact on their nation.


Our experience so far...

Watch the videos from our 2007 and 2010 trips to Senegal! And while you are at it, if you happen to be a former traveler, a former student host, or are planning on participating in one of our programs in any way, please find us on Facebook! We have created a group called "Woodstock Academy Senegal Exchange" and it is our plan to use this as a vehicle for communicating with past, current, and potential future travelers, hosts, and donors about the electrifying nature of this exchange program.

The Language of Senegal

Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania and to a lesser degree in other west African countries, and it is the native language of the ethnic group of the Wolof people. Like the neighboring language Fula, it belongs to the Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Sarahan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.

Wolof is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken not only by members of the Wolof ethnic group but also by most other Senegalese. Wolof dialects may vary between countries (Senegal and the Gambia) and the rural and urban areas. “Dakar-Wolof“, for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, Arabic, and even a little English spoken in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

“Wolof” is the standard spelling, and is a term that may also refer to the Wolof ethnic group or to things originating from Wolof culture or tradition. As an aid to pronunciation, some older French publications use the spelling “Ouolof”; for the same reason, some English publications adopt the spelling “Wollof”, predominantly referring to Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th Century, the forms “Volof”, and “Olof” were used.

About 40 percent (approximately 3.2 million people) of Senegal’s population speak Wolof as their mother tongue. An additional 40 percent of the population speak Wolof as a second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of the people. Typically when various ethnic groups in Senegal come together in cities and towns, they speak Wolof. It is therefore spoken in almost every regional and departmental capital in Senegal. The official language of Senegal is French.

Senegal Exchange 2010

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