Today was my second, solo Junior Achievement meeting and it went pretty well again which is exciting. Working with a school is incredibly eye opening. The challenges that students face just going to class are incredible. I arrived at the technical school about twenty minutes in advance because I knew that I had to ask the supply room supervisor for paper and thought that could take a few minutes and I definitely wanted to be prepared and ready when 9am rolled around. Well, I may have been there, but no one who knew anything about the supply room was and the room where we have the class was locked. I tried asking several maintenance and cleaning people who looked at me incredulously since I was some random toubab walking around asking for things. At 9:10 the first students actually showed up, by 9:20 one of the boys had tracked down someone who could open the room, and by 9:45 we started since 17 people were there. Most of the students showed up by 10:30 (for a meeting that ended at 11), but I had to do the entire class without paper. I won’t make that mistake again. I’ll definitely bring paper and a marker. I was impressed that I had 29 students (once they all showed up) today and last week I had 37. I can't be too terrible or boring, so that's a plus.
Today all of the groups presented their ideas for new businesses and we critiqued each other. It is very interesting to see how the group interacts. At first it's very slow going, but once I prod a few people or pose questions myself things really get rolling and then it's like I'm in a normal Senegalese meeting and everyone wants to talk (even if they do say the same exact thing). Some of the business ideas were innovative. The group that specializes in construction had the idea to open a hardware supply store to help raise capital for their construction business and therefore be multi-purpose. I thought that was a good idea since full service doesn't really exist here so it was interesting to see most of the other students attack the idea for being completely unsustainable and just a fairly crazy idea. Another group also had a full/ multi-service business idea and what I think happened was students are worried that if multi-service businesses open their specialized business will be obsolete. There is a lot of redundancies in Senegal, so this makes sense, everyone wants to protect themselves, their skill-set - their livelihood.
We also worked on SWOT analysis, which is a matrix type tool used to evaluate a businesses internal and external strengths and weaknesses. I was actually surprised at how well the students understood SWOT so I'm excited to try more strategy tools. Next week, we are going to meet for three hours, their idea not mine, and work on feasibility studies.
This afternoon I met my friend Kether for ice cream and to catch up and when I came home I pretty much hung out with the fam in the dark since our power's been out almost all day. I also worked with Ziabata, one of my host brothers, on English for his job. Once I prompt him he remembers a surprising amount of English for school and he says that he hasn't studied English since 1994!
We had chicken for dinner. Heaven.
Messy, but Warm
10 months ago