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History of UWC Senegal

On December 9th of 1976, the Government of Senegal received an official invitation from the International Secretariat of the United World Colleges (Mr. Robert Blackburn) to take part in the UWC movement. The main idea was to grant scholarships to send bright Senegalese students to either Pearson College (Canada) or Atlantic College (United Kingdom).

The first contacts between Senegal and the UWC movement were initiated through Matthias Bassene, a Ziguinchor (South of Senegal) native who taught at Atlantic College at the time and Lord Mountbatten, former Viceroy of India and the Queen of England’s first cousin. The latter had visited Ziguinchor upon invitation from former Senegalese President Leopold Sedar Senghor. At the time, Lord Mountbatten was the President of the United World Colleges, which were then represented by a single college namely Atlantic College, located in the South of Wales. He supported the United World Colleges and encouraged heads of state, politicians and personalities throughout the world to share his interest in the cause. Under Mountbatten's presidency and personal involvement, the United World College of South East Asia was established in Singapore in 1971, followed by the UWC of the Pacific in Canada in 1974. In 1978, Lord Mountbatten passed the Presidency to his great-nephew, Prince Charles of Wales, who later passed the torch to President Nelson Mandela and Queen Noor of Jordan.

Back in 1976, Lord Mountbatten spoke to Pr. Senghor about the UWC movement and its potential to benefit Senegalese students. The then Ambassador of Senegal to the UK subsequently sent the Secretary of Cultural Affairs, Mr. Mamadou Fall, on a visit to Atlantic College in 1977. Following this visit, a selection committee was formed within the Ministry of Education in Senegal. It was agreed upon that Matthias Bassène would travel home during the summer and interview the selected students. That did not happen, however, as the selection took place in the beginning of June 1977 by the exclusive decision of the school principals.

The first Senegalese students to be sent to UWC were: Aminata Diop from van Vollenhoven high school in Dakar (Pearson College), Safietou Diallo from the same school (Atlantic College), Taïbou Mbaye from Blaise Diagne (Atlantic College) and Mame Maguette Sow from Maurice Delafosse (Atlantic College). The scholarships were offered by the European Development Fund until 1986 for Atlantic College and by the Canadian Agency for International Development thereafter.

In 1986, Senegalese participation to the UWC movement was halted by a decision of the then Minister of Education, Iba Der Thiam, who believed that sending young Senegalese students to such schools was not a priority. In doing so, the European Commission stopped funding students to attend Atlantic College. Therefore, for about 4 years, until 1990, Senegal’s participation in the movement was put on hold. At the initiative of the London-based UWC International Office, International Development Director Richard Taylor traveled to Senegal in July 1989 to meet former students who had returned home after their university studies. He had asked them to take an active part in reviving the selection process, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. In the meantime, Iba Der Thiam had left the government. The selection process resumed the following year in 1990 and has continued ever since under the leadership of Senegalese UWC alumni and the significant contribution of the Ministry of education.

To date, over 140 young Senegalese have attended the United World Colleges, whose number had increased in 2 in 1977 (the first one being Atlantic College created in 1962) to 17 in 2018, namely:

  1. Adriatic College in Italy   
  2. Atlantic College in the United Kingdom   
  3. Changshu in China   
  4. Li Po Chun in Hong Kong   
  5. Maastricht College in the Netherlands    
  6. Mahindra College in India   
  7. Montezuma in the USA   
  8. Mostar College in Bosnia Herzegovina   
  9. Pearson College in Canada   
  10. Red Cross Nordic in Norway   
  11. Robert Bosch in Germany   
  12. UWC Costa Rica   
  13. UWC Dilijan in Armenia   
  14. UWC Isak in Japan 
  15. UWC of South East Asia in Singapore 
  16. UWC Thailand in Phuket   
  17. Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland