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The Story

During our visit to Northern Senegal, my wife and I were invited by a taxi driver (who claimed to be the mayor) to his village. One of his wives was pregnant at that time, and he promised to name the child after my wife (should it be a girl) or after me.

At the end of 2000, we received a document from the city of St.-Louis in Senegal, announcing the birth of Dirk Vanhoecke Gallo Dia. In 2005, we went back, this time with our children and the family of Walter Hostyn , hoping to find this village, and my homonym. After a search of 3 days, we found the village, and the family.

We discussed with the local people, and the mayor, what we could do to help this village. One of the ideas was to rebuild the school, and provide it with school furniture and books. In 2007, we went back again, trying to make this idea concrete, and to start up preparations & documents.

We wanted to build a classroom, on condition that the Senegalese government also invested in this project. The “International Plan for Development” built the 2 other class rooms, then the government of Senegal provided the teachers and took responsibility for the follow-up from the methods and standards of teaching.



Tougoupeul is a small village in northern Senegal, about 20 km south of the old (French) capital of Senegal, Saint-Louis. Tougoupeul is situated between 2 nature reserves: the “de Langue de Barbarie” (a thin, sandy peninsula, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean) and “Geumbeul”, south from the city of Saint-Louis. It is the homeland of the Peul people, who are an ethnic minority in Senegal


Senegal is on the western-most part of the bulge of Africa and includes desert in the north and a moist, tropical south. Slaves, ivory and gold were exported from the coast during the 17th and 18th centuries and now the economy is based mainly on agriculture. The money sent home by Senegalese living abroad is a key source of revenue. Macky Sall came to power in 2012, ending four decades of Socialist Party rule; he won a second term in February 2019.


Senegal’s climate is pleasantly tropical, with Dakar ranking as one of the coolest, breeziest spots in West Africa. Then country’s average daily temperatures range from 18°C en 31°C. In the north and central parts, the wet season lasts from July to September, while in the Casamance it’s about a month longer on either end. Rainfall averages range from 300mm in the north to as much as six times that in the south. The dry season (December to April) is the time of the hot, dry harmattan (desert) winds.

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The vegetation is more varied and continuous than in true desert, with scattered grasses, shrubs, and trees. The vegetation density generally increases towards the southern margins, and after rains there is an extensive grass cover. With annual rainfall between 200 and 400 mm, pastoralism, often nomadic, is the predominant agricultural system, but rainfull is unreliable; wetter periods, such as the 1950s and early 1960s, encourage an increase in livestock numbers to the point of overstocking so that severe droughts, as in the early 1970s and 1980s, bring huge losses of livestock, crop failures, and famine.

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