Today started just like another day; it was laundry day, midway through my second bucket of clothes I heard what sounded like a stampede of children charging down the streets. I ran out to see the streets flooded with over 300 students yelling, waving signs, chanting, and blocking traffic. My house is directly opposite St. Thomas primary school, the crowd stopped there and began chanting for the students to be released, and two minutes later about 150 children came pouring out of the school.
Confused, excited, and curious I ran inside, put on my shoes, grabbed my camera, and joined the protest.
We went to every school in the Joal-Fadiouth area and released the children then marched to the Mayor’s office.
A group of 9 or 10 year old boys started chanting “nous voulons tieb-bu-jen” aka “we want rice and fish”. Caught up in the mix of over 1,000 students, all the frustration, and excitement I looked down and realised that I had left my scattered piles of laundry unattended in the middle of the court yard. There was my dilemma, was I going to go home and finish my laundry or stay and see what was going to happen next? After about a half hour of waiting the crowd began to disperse, many going home for lunch. As I turned to leave in came this luxury SUV with tinted windows. It was the mayor and the local news station WALF TV.
The student leaders went inside and talked and negotiated with the local officials while the others impatiently anticipated a report. When they exited there were two speakers, one in French the other in Wolof. They stated that the students were on strike today and would be on strike everyday until they get what they want. Since the beginning of the school year in November the teachers have gone on strike multiple times because they are not being paid by the government, therefore the students do not have regular classes and this is especially detrimental to those that are in an exam year. The students are also outraged by the poor quality infrastructure and substandard learning environment, citing lack of water and electricity as their main complaints. After talking to the local officials they decided that if their complaints were not addressed by Monday, they would resort to violence.
After the protest I went home, finished my laundry and watched TV. On the news it was announced that the President would release all the female prisoners for one day. They will charter a bus a travel around the country for a Rendezvous of sorts. Yes, I’m serious! Imagine a government that fails to pay its public servants and provide for the common good and educative needs of its people and somehow finds the means to take female prisoners on a country wide fun day.