School Days – Teachers

In an earlier post I wrote generally about the school environment, a nostalgic reminder of days gone by, but mainly to point to the multiple factors that could be blamed for the poor performance of our children in schools. Teachers usually get the brunt of the blame, but that’s an incomplete picture if we are to be honest.

With the recent spate of entitlements of the new generation of teachers, it serves to remind ourselves of the older generation of teachers who sacrificed so much personal comforts to see us succeed. No disrespect to teachers now, I sincerely believe their concerns are legitimate and their condition deserves all the efforts needed to make them better, what I have an issue with is some of the mechanisms used to draw attention to those conditions. Ultimately, the children pay the heavier price, but in our emotionally charged nation, one has to agree entirely or be branded as unsympathetic; oh well!

The power of hindsight is very revealing, it gives a new perspective on things and we appreciate things much later than we should. I remember most of my teachers’ names from primary one right through to college. Some I like more than others, but all of them I appreciate. Some stand out more than others too.

There was Mr. Colley in primary three, he taught us to sing in Jola;

Gambia yeh, eh Gambia oleh la,

Gambia yeh, eh Gambia oleh la

Ji soforaa eh Gambia oleh la

Ji mangho raa ja, eh Gambia oleh la.

Mr, Colley eh, ah teacher oleh la…

Or something along those lines.

The above was his version of the tune

Gambia di sunu reww,

Gambia di sunu reww

Ligaye len mu naat gorrgolu len…

Fridays was music day and we sang and drummed our hearts out, we had a classroom band in primary four and after break on Fridays, it was jam time. We attracted a huge audience too.

Mr. Colley was a very easy going guy. Mr. Barrow (not the current president) on the other hand was a no nonsense guy, he taught a primary four class. When I was in primary three I used to ask my mom to “duwa nyeh” so I don’t have to be in Mr. Barrow’s class when I pass my exam to go to primary four.

Our deputy headmaster Mr. Njie was a fun guy, but when he lost it he had a cut-out hose pipe to discipline us with, he named it “saff teh daggan.” The headmaster too was Mr. Njie (he taught me how to write the letter ‘y’ properly; that the tail had to be below the ruled line), so to make a distinction between the two Njies, deputy Mr. Njie became known as Saff teh daggan.

There was another senior master, at the time, Mr. Jagne. We called him “alaa bambou” because that was how he liked to “lei” the truants. “Lei-ing” was when you were stretched on a table, on someone’s back or held by senior students to have your behind whipped for truancy. I had a run-in with him on a couple of occasions; surprise!

So we were at assembly, standing there in silence, because Mr. Puye told us to “shut [our] chatter boxes”. After a few minutes, there was no one on the podium addressing us, so I yelled “about turn”, which was usually the cue to disperse the assembly. Well Mr. Jagne did NOT like that; “who said that?” My classmates were snitches of course, so I got a tonto haabu (a smack on the back of the head) and made to stand in front of the assembly. I got in a fight a week later because the guys wanted to make ‘about turn’ stick as a nickname, so some punches had to be doled out to nip that in the bud.

Mr. Sanyang in primary six didn’t need all that extra mess. He was a math teacher and he used to get so frustrated with us. If you know our attitude towards mathematics you’d understand. When we submitted our home works, it was the same; poor results each time. He would take our books home to mark the assignments and if you see him coming to school wearing certain outfits you knew it’s about to be going down. Pa Modou had a habit of stuffing his notebook in his shorts to shield his skin, Batch Samba would immediately burst out crying even before we got to class. Mr Sanyang constantly bemoaned to us about his frustrations; “e ka diyamou leh fo yeh bataa.” Followed by “Amat (our class prefect), go and find me four good canes. Mbeh faddi seefa kelaal la bee”. And Amat would of course find the meanest cassia branches (not twigs). Mr. sanyang would be sweating by the end of that session

I learn some of my teachers are no more, that saddens me a great deal. We used to get flogged at home, by parents and siblings, so it was a norm and it’ll be hypocritical to brand the teachers as bad or abusive because they used societal standards of discipline to discipline us. I appreciate them all and the man I am owes a great deal of gratitude to them.

To the new generation of teachers, a lot has changed and with easier access toinformation, children today are more informed, so you will be challenged. But be patient and use the same opportunity to widen your scope, don’t turn into rowdy activists. Just like you try to inculcate discipline in those children, show the same amount of discipline. Make GTU better and speak with a collective voice through them, you yield more power then, but always put the children’s welfare and their education first, after all that’s what being a teacher is all about.

We appreciate you, I know what you go through. My brother who put me through school is a teacher, has been for over 3 decades. He delayed his personal growth (like starting a family) just to see his younger brothers through, so I say thank you!


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