On Friday 3 November, nearly 100 people attended a ceremony to mark Ashinaga Senegal’s 2017 programmes in Dakar. Among those present were the 19 candidates for the Ashinaga Africa Initiative programme, 20 primary school scholarship holders, five local higher-education scholarship students, and staff and interns from all over the world. This was the first time that students from all the Ashinaga Senegal programmes had the opportunity to meet each other.
Held at the “SenseCampus” in the Mermoz area of Dakar, the opening ceremony included speeches from distinguished members of the Ashinaga family. Ms Yukie Seki, the Director of Education and Admissions for the Ashinaga Africa Initiative, described her experience growing up in rural Japan and the ambition that drove her to study electrical engineering at a national university. She then gave the students invaluable advice regarding their careers. Mr Tounkara, President of Ashinaga Senegal discussed how far Ashinaga Senegal had come since its inception and presented the challenges that education faces in Africa. The Director of Ashinaga Senegal, Mr. Nakamizu, explained how and why he had come to work at Ashinaga and how his perspective of wealth has changed over the years.
Earlier in the day, Yukie Seki held a Q&A session with the students, giving them invaluable insights into her career and outlook on life. With a combination of French, Japanese and English, the conversation ranged from what Ashinaga expects of its students, to the importance of perseverance, to Seki’s experiences as one of the first female engineers at Hewlett-Packard.
The ceremony capped a busy orientation week for the 2017 AAI Francophone Study Camp candidates. Now in its third year, the camp has expanded to taking on 19 students – chosen from 900 applicants – hailing from 15 Francophone sub-Saharan African countries. This year also marks the beginning of a new programme to send five of the students (from Burundi, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC and Madagascar) to university in Japan. At the ceremony, two of the students, Issa (from Mali) and Nilaina ( from Madagascar), gave a speech in which they discussed their previous challenges in accessing education, their hopes for the Study Camp, and their aspirations for the future. With staff, interns and students from a total of 26 different nationalities, the camp promises to provide a diverse and motivating learning experience for all those involved.
Aside from the AAI Study Camp, the ceremony also celebrated the Ashinaga Senegal local programmes, introduced in 2016. Maïmouna Kouaté, the first student to graduate in Senegal with Ashinaga’s assistance, described her experience at university and her hopes for the future. There were also speeches from other scholars, such as Moussa, a current university student, and Mohammed, a primary school pupil.
The evening ended with a reception just outside the hall with drinks and local Senegalese snacks, at which participants in all the different programmes could chat and exchange personal stories. Older Ashinaga students sat with primary school kids, took photos, and admired their new Ashinaga t-shirts. There was just enough time for one final group photograph with all 100 Ashinaga Senegal members.
Even though most people had only just met, the unity of the Ashinaga family was clear to see. As everyone slowly dispersed, a sense of anticipation lingered in the air for the journeys to come.
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