She landed somewhere at a prestigious preparatory school in Paris and, say her peers, she continued to teach. She published a novel last year at the age of 19.
“To diary,” the Senegalese president wrote to her in an August note, “a rising star that is the pride of the people.”
Then, on January 4, her school, Lycée Louis-le-Grand, warned the Senegalese embassy that Sow had stopped showing up.
No one has heard from the student who was known to never miss a lecture ̵
Paris police have not shared any leads as they search the city. Prosecutors called the disappearance “worrying.”
“This has ruined everyone,” said a former teacher, Mame Coumba Diouf Sagna, who proofreads early drafts of Sow’s book. “She has so many dreams to realize. She has so much hope to give. ”
Senegalese President Macky Sall sent investigators to help, while Sows’ classmates began their own search. On Tuesday, a team of eight had called 12 hospitals each.
“We are doing everything we can,” said Moussa Gueye, a 21-year-old engineering student from a suburb of Dakar, the Senegalese capital. “We’re out here printing and distributing flyers.”
Sow is reserved, yet kind, he said – not bragging, though she has a right to be.
“She gets the best grades in everything,” he said.
Hundreds of Senegalese expatriates in Paris and other French cities took to the streets this week, handing out pamphlets with Sows’ face and a number to call. The video shows those who sang: “Ensemble allons chercher Diary Sow.” Let’s find Diary Sow together.
“She is famous for being brilliant,” said Souleymane Gueye, vice president of the Federation of Senegalese Students and Trainees of France. “She stands out. These academic awards usually go to boys. ”
In Senegal, speculation flares across social media: Was she caught? Did she run away?
“What if Diary Sow will not be found?” someone tweeted. “I’ve been thinking about it all night, the pressure to be a good student is hard for anyone.”
In September, the month she turned 20, Sow visited Dakar to promote her novel “Under the Face of an Angel.”
It’s about a complicated girl, she told an audience at a bookstore. The character is protected and keeps to himself. Her love interest only sees “roses”, she said – not the thorns.
“The names are fictitious,” she said, “but I use words to express myself to the world.”
Abdoulaye Diallo, director of Harmattan Senegal, a Dakar publishing house, tore up when he recalled the day Sow’s uncle encouraged him to read her manuscript.
“It took us a year to publish it – with two blind reviews,” he said. “With the quality of the text, one could not imagine that the author was a woman her age. It must be acknowledged that this is a higher mind. ”
Sow wanted to explore people’s inner worlds, she said in a TV appearance in August. The expectations and the pressure – “the secret feelings,” she said.
Although her novel was popular in Senegal, she will pursue an engineering career.
“I’m a scientist,” she said, “but that does not mean I should be limited to science.”
Her joy of learning was evident early on.
“She’s in front of books all the time,” her mother told the news teams after Sow won her first major school prize. “She will not waste a second of her life.”
Sow grew up in the fishing town of Mbour, about 60 coastal miles south of the hustle and bustle of Dakar.
She came from humble means, said Sagna, her former teacher. There were no smart tutors.
“Just pure determination,” Sagna said. “When I called for a break, the other students went out and played, but Diary just got something to eat – some pasta or rice – and sat inside with a book.”
At the age of 13, the star student always wrote in a notebook. At 3 p.m., she began writing the story that would become her first novel. Sagna corrected grammar and smoothed out some wording, she said, but the raw talent was evident.
Together, they polished hundreds of pages over four years. “She became like my daughter,” Sagna said.
They spoke in late August, a few months after Sow’s father died. The teacher had expected grief.
“She was just so positive,” Sagna said. “She rarely complains. No one had any idea what was to come. ”
Now Sagna cries and asks for the young woman’s return.
“She is the inspiration of so many,” she said. “She is an example. I do not want my students to think, is it worth striving so hard if something like this can happen? ”
Borso Tall in Dakar and Rick Noack in Paris contributed to this report.