The Bitter Sweet Times as a Teacher in Provincial Gambia
Teaching is one of the world’s most noble jobs. To become a qualified teacher, one has to undergo a rigorous training process in a certified or recognised institution. My case wasn’t an exception as I got enrolled into The Gambia College in 2014. It wasn’t a decision I so much wished and cherished for at the initial stage for I never for once thought of becoming a teacher. While at The Gambia College, I comported myself well as a good student should and my works were timely done thus enhancing and smoothening my humble journey of becoming a qualified teacher. This did not come without enormous challenges or hurdles I grappled with in pursuant of knowledge at the said institution. But that is how life tells its story; that it is a place where man must struggle to make ends meet.
On a very humid day, I was having a nap shortly after lunch; the sound of my phone ring sent an impulse into my veins and my eyes suddenly went open. A familiar voice sounded and told me to check my place of posting via the Qcell electronic postings checking system. Mind you! This couldn’t have come at a time when one hasn’t completed all the rituals of becoming a qualified teacher at The Gambia College. My heart started to protest against my ribs up to an extent I thought I wouldn’t survive through the day simply for the fear of being posted far. My fear wasn’t ludicrous for I was born, bread and buttered within the Kombos. For all my life I didn’t have a chance to experience life in provincial Gambia before my posting.
Following the 445 procedure, a text message landed me in an unknown destination, Kulari, RED 6, Upper River Region. Why was I sweating profusely in that humid day upon consulting my phone? The answer is simple I didn’t want to be posted far and after series of enquiries, none could locate Kulari for me until uncle Google came to my aid. This compounded my fears.
“It is national work at hand, go serve the less privileged and God will do you countless favours my child. ” “Those children out there gigantically need your help and it won’t be fair enough if you decide to quit or seek favours from others to stick around.” Another said, ” remember someone once came from a land afar and moulded you into the being you are today with God’s help, so it is time to reciprocate.” Those lines by my family members kept resonating in my ears until I went deaf and unconscious. By the time I regained myself, I realised the true value of family and having to march hurriedly to any part of the country thus contributing my quota to national development.
Moreover, it is the fear of what tomorrow might bring that makes the tortoise travel along with his house wherever he goes. I grabbed whatever I could lay my hands on as I prepared for a journey to a distant, unknown and an uncertain land. By 8 a.m, our vehicle had sped past Foni and my eyes were in all directions as if I were engulfed in trouble and looking for a way to escape. But there was no chance of escaping in a jam packed vehicle where one could hardly sit straight at an angle of 90°. By 3 p.m, I was already in Basse car park were I was welcomed by voices saying ‘ndiyam ndiyam’. I tried to digest the term but to no avail until a later time when I was told it means water in the Fula language. The ensuing event was to board a vehicle to Kulari and I arrived in the village as the sun was bidding farewell to the day. “Welcome Mr. Sanneh,” said a figure I later came to learn is the principal. I will never forget this figure for my life’s entirety for some reasons I wouldn’t want to disclose as my encounter with him still shreds my happiness whenever I think of him. Anyway, i will forever be indebted to him for the cup of water he gave me to quench my taste after a long ride. By now you might be asking, who is this principal? Well, I’m sorry that I can’t even remember the answer. He hurriedly took me into the village for he was residing in a hut beside the school which is in the outskirts of the village. The roaring of the motorcycle engine stopped as my eyes fell on a group of village elders including the school’s P.T.A chairman. After a short exchange of pleasantries, I was given a pit in hell to reside in. Mind you, my principal at the time wasn’t bothered as I was being shackled and readied for my final destination by humanly angels in that community. I didn’t have a choice but rather embrace the wonderful opportunity I was accorded with. Whenever I needed something and spoke to the inhabitants of heaven in the Mandingo language for I thought it wise that it is one of the widely spoken languages in The Gambia and that they would easily understand me than in my mother tongue, Jola. They claimed to not understand me. Which road leads to the mosque? Where is the bathroom? Have the inhabitants of heaven forgotten about their closest neighbour? Will they provide me with food (rice) after a long and hectic journey? Even the walls of hell couldn’t answer my questions. Then I decided to befriend bread and tin milk. Luckily, my 500ml bottle of water was with me which I used judiciously with some sugar in easing my stomach walls. You might be again wondering how I survived while in hell. Yes, I made it, ‘Alhamdulillah’! My sincere thanks goes to some of the staff who helped me through and made me feel at home and for giving me the opportunity to see rice while in Kulari.
Inter alia, I wasn’t able to cope with the life and struggles I faced there hence I had to sprawl on the ground, wet it with my tears as I asked the almighty Lord to ease my affairs. Luckily, my prayers were answered. On arrival at the school and having introduced myself to the students at the assembly ground, the principal called me into his cage like office where he put to me that the regional education office had come for stabilisation and my service isn’t needed in the school. Thus, I have to report to the said office to be reposted. I could have insisted on staying hence it is my original posting place and had earlier informed the principal and the director for not reporting on time for which I was verbally permitted. But this was a move I so much longed for and cherished. Notwithstanding, I found myself in a vehicle back to Basse the following early morning. I didn’t have the time to inform my heavenly guys of my departure. In fact, what will be the use of informing them? While in Basse and at the regional education office, I had the opportunity to totally cleanse myself and once more wear the humanly insignia; took breakfast and headed to meet the human resources focal person who after series of consultation with the stabilisation team decided to repost me to Song Kunda Basic Cycle School.
On arrival in Song Kunda on 10th October, 2017, I felt like I was home. The smiles from the people alone filled my hungry stomach and quenched my thirst too. What a community! I will forever be indebted to the people of this community. No need for me to extend the narrative for simply the smiles apparently gave a befitting impression of how accommodating and generous these people are which also reflected on the principal and staff I met on the ground. For two years, I lived a euphoriant life in Song Kunda which coupled with the efforts of the other staff, translated into an unmatched and unique performance of our students in their GABECE exams. However, the scorpions and snakes did scare the hell out of me. It’s a long story though that needs no awakening.
Now, here I am at home pursuing a degree programme at the University of The Gambia and the community’s memories still linger in my mind.
By: Gibril Sanneh
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