Saturday, April 5, 2014

Semaine Cuturelle- Culture Week!

Starting in Senegal Catholic schools in the 1960's, semaine culturelle is a way to celebrate local traditions and customs with students teachers and communities in the face of an education system handed down from colonial powers and outside cultural forces (like the Catholic Church).

The practice spread through West Africa and is now celebrated in many of the public schools in Senegal, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo and Benin. Our school chose to cut down the celebration to a 3 day event to keep from losing too many school days.

The first two days included opening ceremonies, the teacher-student soccer game (yes, I played!), a information session on gender equality, a girls' soccer game, traditional dances, skits, what amounted to a talent show, an information session about risky pregnancies, some carnival games and the students' finale of the inter-class soccer tournament.

opening remarks 
With 300 students at school, the audience did not reflect that size, except for the soccer game and talent show and dances. There was no real follow through of taking attendance- and school isn't mandatory here anyway, but it was a bit disappointing to see a lack of interest in a community event that should be important and be a source of national pride- a bit like showing up to a 4th of July parade with one sad clown and a fire truck.

That being said, there were some parts that I really enjoyed. My favorites were the (mostly traditional)  dances that some of the girls did.

The week leading up to semaine cuturelle ALL the students were asking if I was going to play in the soccer game. Never mind that I haven't played soccer on any teams (...or pick up game) since 5th grade rec soccer, but I'm a professor, so there by I'm on the professors' team! What?! A woman is going to play?!?! Girls rarely get to enjoy sports here, but certainly no women play soccer in village. Even if I got benched after the first 15 minutes, I think it was important for the girls to see a woman out there.

Team Teachers!
Mr. Atti (English Teacher), David (Plan Volunteer), Me, Mr. Koura (English Teacher)
The carnival games were a bit lacking- there were only two and they required a 25 CFA pay to play in order to finance the prizes (notebooks). One involved a candy on a length of thread that you had pull up to your mouth, using only your mouth.

I was dominating that game! If you look closely, the candy is by my chest, but my competator's is still at his shorts 

The other was 5 chances to kick the soccer ball through the tire, which reminded of the American equivalent with baseballs.
My host brother playing
The last day was the picnic. Each class prepares their own meal together and shares it at school as music plays. They also brings over plates to share with the teachers, especially the titulaires, or homeroom teachers.  I was pretty tired, so I left a bit early- about the same time the teachers started handing out extra beers to students.
Students bringing food to the teachers. This group got matching pagne to celebrate the week. 

Most of all, Semaine Cuturelle was a nice break from normal classes and a chance to kick back.

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