Angst in Senegal After Its ‘Finest Pupil’ Goes Lacking in Paris

PARIS — When Diary Sow was topped Senegal’s finest scholar, after coming in first in nationwide high-school competitions in 2018 and 2019, a lot of the nation turned enamored with the younger lady, an excellent pupil from a modest background with an exemplary work ethic who excelled in science and literature.

Ms. Sow was awarded a benefit scholarship by Senegalese authorities, enrolled at one in every of France’s most prestigious colleges in Paris, and even published her own novel. Effectively-wishers in Senegal noticed her as destined for greatness.

So when Ms. Sow, now 20, was reported lacking this month, there was an outpouring of concern in Senegal and in France, the place prosecutors have opened an investigation. The Senegalese diaspora in France has additionally swung into motion in hopes of discovering her.

“She symbolizes hope,” mentioned Fatou Bintou Sanoho, a board member on the Federation of Senegalese Students and Interns in France.

“For an rising nation, the education of younger women is essential,” Ms. Sanoho mentioned, including that Ms. Sow was a standard-bearer for all Senegalese women. “She was completely suited to that function.”

Ms. Sow was finding out on the Lycée Louis-le-Grand within the Latin Quarter of Paris in a grueling curriculum that prepares college students for extremely aggressive exams that open the doorways to France’s finest enterprise, science and engineering colleges. Last year, there have been almost 12,000 Senegalese college students in France.

She seemed to be thriving. Emile Bakhoum, an official who handles Senegalese scholar companies in France, mentioned Ms. Sow had by no means reported any particular issues along with his division.

In August, Ms. Sow shared a picture on Fb of a e book by President Macky Sall of Senegal — autographed, for her, by the president himself. “To Diary Sow, a rising star who’s the pleasure of a complete nation,” Mr. Sall wrote.

However on Jan. 4, after the top of the winter vacation break, Ms. Sow failed to look at school. A number of days later, she was nonetheless lacking.

On Thursday, her faculty alerted Senegalese authorities in Paris, who filed a report with the police. Ms. Sow was final reported at a scholar residence within the 13th arrondissement of Paris the place she had a small studio condominium, in keeping with the Senegalese Consulate, though it was not clear whether or not somebody had truly seen her, or if her badge had been used there.

Senegalese authorities mentioned there was no signal of a legal act and that no hospitals had reported admitting Ms. Sow, however additionally they warned that the investigation had simply began.

Ms. Sow is initially from Mbour, a metropolis about 35 miles south of Dakar, the place a gradual circulate of native and international journalists visited her household on Tuesday in a quiet and tense environment.

Members of the family declined most press interviews, however one uncle, who declined to present his identify to protect the household’s privateness, mentioned they’d final spoken to Ms. Sow on Jan. 2.

Ms. Sow was admitted to a selective highschool in Diourbel, in western Senegal, and she or he received a science prize in 2017. In 2018 and 2019 she was declared Senegal’s “finest scholar” after coming in first within the Concours général, a nationwide competitors with scientific and literary challenges.

An image of Ms. Sow, posing along with her novel, now options prominently on the Senegalese consulate’s website. “Diary is skinny, 172 cm tall and has darkish brown eyes,” the discover reads. “Assist us discover her by sharing. We’re relying on you!”

Over the weekend, about 200 members of the Senegalese neighborhood handed out fliers on the streets of Paris and chanted “Collectively, allow us to go search for Diary Sow!” Others pasted posters along with her image on the partitions of her faculty.

A marketing campaign to unfold the phrase about Ms. Sow’s disappearance can be underway on social media, with the hashtag #RetrouvonsDiarySow, or Let’s Discover Diary Sow.

In Senegal, the disappearance has captured the nation’s consideration and made newspaper headlines. Mandione Laye Kebe, a photographer who runs a widely followed Twitter account in Senegal, was one in every of many who’ve mobilized on-line with the #RetrouvonsDiarySow hashtag.

“I can’t think about the sorrow of her household,” he mentioned. “They reside very far-off. They do not know what’s happening, they usually don’t know what to do or who to talk to. It’s very troublesome.”

Aida Alami contributed reporting from Dakar, Senegal and Mady Camara from Mbour, Senegal.

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