Leeza Jam­meh

En­durance and love are the two things this teacher needs in spades – es­pe­cially when many of her stu­dents miss school ow­ing to poverty and harm­ful prac­tices

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - A DAY IN THE LIFE OF… -

Ihear the sound of my alarm clock at 5:30am and I im­me­di­ately wish that it were Satur­day. I’m a teacher now, not a stu­dent, but that doesn’t make it any eas­ier to force my­self out of bed. It takes great en­durance and a love of the job to be a teacher. My school is in Ban­jul, which is the cap­i­tal city of the Gam­bia. The ma­jor­ity of the gov­ern­ment of­fices are lo­cated here, so there is al­ways heavy traf­fic on the way. I am out of my house by 6:30am at the lat­est; this is the only way to en­sure that I am able to get to school be­fore 8am. Be­ing on the road to Ban­jul nor­mally takes me 30 min­utes, but to­day is Mon­day, the busiest day of the week, so my jour­ney might take longer than it usu­ally does.

Mon­day is also the school as­sem­bly day, so I re­ally can’t af­ford to be late. My prin­ci­pal wouldn’t take that well.

As­sem­bly is sup­posed to last for 30 min­utes, but to­day it seems to be drag­ging on. The topic is stu­dent dis­ci­pline and it is be­ing de­liv­ered by the prin­ci­pal.

Fi­nally, the “nev­erend­ing” as­sem­bly comes to an close. It’s now 9am. Stu­dents get mov­ing straight away to get to their class­rooms, and teach­ers are rush­ing to mark their reg­is­ters. I head to my room to reg­is­ter the 54 stu­dents in my class.

The first les­son of the day is English lan­guage. Although it is the sec­ond lan­guage, English has be­come the lin­gua franca here in the Gam­bia. This is a dou­ble les­son, so it runs for 70 min­utes. It’s eas­ier to man­age the class of 54 when they are all en­gaged in com­po­si­tion ex­er­cises and writ­ten sen­tence con­struc­tions, but it’s far more fun to lead group de­bates around top­ics like: “Should girls go to school?”

But it’s cer­tainly not all fun in class. My stu­dents are of­ten ab­sent. This morn­ing, three of the girls in my class came to school and re­ported that they had been ab­sent last week be­cause they had no trans­port fare and so had to stay at home. Just the other week, a girl also had to stay away for three days be­cause she had to do the do­mes­tic chores.

Worse still, one girl has told me that she will not be at­tend­ing school for the next month be­cause she is be­ing taken away for the tribal rit­ual of fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion.

Poverty, cultural norms and harm­ful prac­tices are some of the great­est threats that de­ter the de­vel­op­ment of girls in the Gam­bia. There­fore, it is im­per­a­tive that we pro­vide our girls with civic ed­u­ca­tion and also en­gage with civil so­ci­ety groups and re­li­gious lead­ers in the fight to recog­nise women’s rights.

Some­times, I wish I had a magic wand to change things. I wish there were no hus­tle and bus­tle in Ban­jul. I wish I could have all my stu­dents present at all times. But the rea­son I perser­vere each day is that I am touch­ing the lives of stu­dents and hope­fully mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to their fu­tures. Teach­ing runs in my fam­ily. My dad was a teacher; so is my mother: be­ing a teacher is my call­ing. Leeza Jam­meh is an English teacher at St Joseph’s Se­nior Sec­ondary School in Ban­jul. She will be trav­el­ling to the UK in Septem­ber to rep­re­sent the Send My Friend to School cam­paign. www.send­myfriend.org

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.