Joining the Center for International Education as a doctoral student is a wonderful opportunity for me to acquire knowledge and skills that can help me to better understand international education for development, a process to which I am deeply committed to studying for the benefit of our African countries. I hope that it also allow me to share my experience as an African, teaching in developing countries, and exchange information between the academic community at the University of Massachusetts and myself, a native Senegalese, as a representative of the African community.


As a teacher coming from a developing country, the expected answer to the question “what can I do to contribute to the development process of my country?” should be “how can education be used as a tool for sustainable development?”, another question. To answer all these questions and my experience as a student in Senegal, a middle/high school teacher, and a Fulbright exchange student have stimulated my interest in international education and development and, hopefully, I will find some of the answers at CIE.


My experience as a student in Senegal coming from a modest family in a rural area has heightened my interest in the betterment of the students’ schooling conditions for more success. Students in rural areas have to undergo many socio-economic hardships to make it to university. The few  who succeed in passing the middle school entrance exams have to go to bigger cities for middle school and high school, and then to the capital, Dakar, for university studies. Each experience is filled with socio-economic hardships as more advanced levels of school are more demanding in terms of results. They also cost more. As a teacher in middle/high school I became more aware of how wealth and traditional cultural values are interconnected in determining success and failure at schools in Senegal. I had a chance to talk with my students and their parents; therefore I could understand their socio-economic background and this knowledge helped me better evaluate and manage them.


During my Fulbright experience at the University of Oregon I was teaching Wolof and Senegalese culture to students interested in the field of development and who were getting ready for their internships in Senegal. The classes were a wonderful cultural exchange, as I also learned a lot from them about the American culture I was experiencing for the first time. As part of my fellowship, I was also giving presentations during several campus events and greater community about my culture and traditions. As a graduate student and a teaching assistant in the International Studies department, where classes were mainly about development and, therefore about Africa, I endeavored to provide an insider’s perspective. However, at the same time, I was also carefully listening to US students’ perspectives about African issues.


After this experience, I returned home and resumed my teaching position while applying for a Master’s program in International Development at the University of Oregon.  I was accepted and two years later I graduated with my Master’s degree in 2011. Once again I returned to Senegal and this time I was posted in a rural area of Senegal where I encountered a new set of educational challenges.


I plan to conduct research to expand on my master thesis “Traditional Culture and Educational Success in Senegal, West Africa” which explores the effects of traditional values, parental involvement, and poverty on student performance. Instead of regarding tradition and poverty as obstacles, it argues that they can play a positive role in improving educational quality



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On-Campus Student