As part of a community engagement project, Ashinaga Senegal local programme Scholars succeeded in helping a primary school which had experienced 4 years without a direct water supply. As well as reconnecting the water supply, the Scholars engaged the primary school students in promoting a healthy school environment.
Ashinaga Senegal was established to support the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) and serves as the regional office for Francophone Africa. As well as the AAI, Ashinaga Senegal supports Japanese Ashinaga students and three local programmes. One such programme, Taxawu Jàng Universitaire (TJU) provides access to quality higher education in Senegal for Senegalese students who have lost one or both parents. Taxawu Jàng means “Support for Education” in Wolof, the most spoken local language in Senegal.
As with all Ashinaga programmes, although scholars are focused on their studies, they are encouraged to think of others and to pay forward the kindness they have received from Ashinaga donors. For the TJU scholars, this meant developing knowledge of the challenges faced by the local community. By doing so, they were then encouraged to actively seek solutions and contribute concretely to their community.
Starting in 2018, the TJU students invested six months of their time and energy with the goal of helping primary school students learn about protecting and maintaining a healthy environment. During the research phase, they came across students whose school had not had a direct supply of water for 4 years due to unpaid water bills. The school was in a poor hygienic situation and there were no trees or greenery in the school grounds.
After this discovery, the Ashinaga scholars wanted to help these young students improve their school environment by providing access to water, organizing a school clean up and planting trees. In doing so they were hoping to raise awareness amongst the students and teachers about how to look after and promote a healthy environment.
The TJU students had to overcome numerous obstacles to complete their project. They had to navigate administrative procedures that involved the Ministry of Education. They fundraised within the local community. They also collaborated with local organisations such as Plus Droit à L’Erreur, a local association that supports school children, and the Senegalese National Forestry and Water Commission to plant trees in the school yard.
In addition to supporting and developing a relationship with members of the local community, this project allowed the scholars to develop their own teamwork, managerial and communicational skills. Although the process was challenging, they all recognised the value of developing such skills and took great pleasure in their ability to work with the school and its students to improve their school environment. In doing so they clearly demonstrated the values on-okuri (paying forward the kindness you received for future generation to benefit from it) and yasashisa (kindness), key Ashinaga values that we look to instil in our students.
Given the positive outcomes of this activity, from this year onward, every Taxawu Jang cohort will have to work on a community engagement project. We want all our students to benefit from this experience that not only makes committed citizens out them, but also helps their personal development.
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