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Observing Islamic Education in Senegal 1987

The teacher stands beneath a leafy tree and towers over his young charges outside the Grand Mosque in Dakar.  He holds only a strip of leather lace and swats the children occasionally for any activity he perceives to be  lacking in discipline.

The children chant their lessons rocking backward and forward. They are reciting  Quranic verses written in Arabic on  wooden slates.
The slates are reminiscent of the tablet in which the Quranic laws were inscribed. A brown soluble ink is used to write each verse from the Quran. This verse is  washed away once it is memorized by the student.  The slate is placed next to the tree to dry.  The next verse in the sequence is written on a clean slate.
The older students (13-15) are separated from the younger students (5-6). They also chant their lessons rhythmically.  They appear not to notice me. They are completely absorbed in the verses of the Quran..
A headmaster was also present this day to observe all the lessons and monitor all activities related to the school.  My guide served as an interpreter. He had a working knowledge of Wolof, a native language, French, Arabic, and English. My guide made my requests known to the headmaster. I offered the children small oyster crackers and showed them how to raise their hands if they had received them. This worked out just fine because the teacher did not want the children to leave their places on the ground or become unruly while clambering for the snack. Raising their hands to gain attention returned the calm to the little group which was initially present. And now everyone seemed pleased.
The headmaster wrote a prayer for me on a wooden slate. He read it aloud in his miraculous voice.  It was indeed a touching gesture..a moment to treasure. 
After making a small donation to the school, it was time to visit the Grand Mosque and the Islamic Institute.
As-salam alaykum  Peace be onto you.

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