Well the thing I was dreading happening here has happened! I was out monitoring at a school last week, which shall remain nameless for the moment! I walked into a classroom to find the Koranic teacher about to beat a child. The boy was lying prostrate on a desk being held down by other children while the teacher stood behind him with a big stick in his hand. There was a line of children behind, one of whom was crying with fear. I cannot tell you how sick I felt confronting this scene. I wish I could say I handled it well. But my voice failed me for a moment. The DHT was right in at my back and told the class to sit down, said a few words to the teacher then spoke to the HT who appeared out of his office at that moment. There appeared to be no cross words to the teacher and I have no idea what was said to him as they spoke in Mandinka or Fula. Corporal punishment is outlawed in The Gambia but is still practised. Up until that moment I had not witnessed it. The HT assured me he would speak to the whole staff and children about the matter. However, whilst visiting the school today, I saw the self same teacher with another big stick in his hand. I suppose I can comfort myself with the fact that I saved one poor boy from one beating at least. It is sickening to think that teachers still feel it is appropriate to beat a child and the sad fact is they get away with it. They are not struck off or arrested or even disciplined in the majority of schools for administering corporal punishment.
Last week, Sarah and I attended a programme organised by one of the Cluster Monitors. It was supposed to be a phonic competition between 2 local schools. We arrived at about 3.30pm. The children were already there, waiting. We picked some of them up from 1 school on the back of our pick up and took them to the other school. They were all very excited and chanting their school all the way down the road. We arrived to find nothing ready and ended up sitting around for 2 hours before we got started. The children had no food, when we eventually started it was more like board meeting. The CM went through the panel, who we were etc. There were opening remarks, even the Director of the region attended and talked about how important reading was and how many books you need to read to get to university and for your thesis. Bear in mind the children were Grades 1,2,3 with English as a 2nd language. When we eventually did get started it was more like an exam for them. Sarah and I were both trying hard to stay calm. 4 hours it lasted, I am surprised the kids didn’t start a riot. They were that fed up that they could barely raise a smile when getting their prizes. No cheers for the best school, infact no excitement at all. We both agreed that it cannot be allowed to happen again!
At the moment I am busy preparing my workshop for Saturday. It will be a disaster as I am not convinced that the HT has notified the staff about it. I know that at least one member of the senior staff has been give permission by the Principal Education Officer to take leave to visit her family in Kombos. On top of that I have just been told that some teachers at Sarah’s ECD workshops could not understand me, and not only them but most Gambians I have met or work with apparently. Just brilliant! Didn’t think I was that difficult to understand, am I? Fingers crossed it will go well and they will understand me and hopefully, hopefully will take on board some of my workshop!!!!!!