18 July 2006

Career Advancement and Self-Improvement vs. The Siren's Call of Green Tea

July 7 – The choice may seem obvious to the uninitiated, but when I returned to Njau from an 8 km walk to Mbolgoh and Njokoben to greet parents and explain their children’s report cards and exam results (and my hopes to get half the kids to repeat Grade 1), I discovered two of Njau’s “unqualified” teachers waiting for transport at the police station cum gelegele stop. It was 7:30 in the evening and my erstwhile colleagues were hoping to travel to Mansa Konko, where the next morning they would take (and hopefully pass this time) the entrance exam for The Gambia College’s teacher certification program.

Given that the journey entails at least three gelegele/minivan rides (and the potential for breakdowns) and a ferry ride, plus the fact that Friday, being the Sabbath, is a horrible day for catching transport, a noontime departure is prudent – especially when considering the stakes. If I have to be in Mansa Konko by a certain time, I’d allow 8 hours on a normal day.

Today was (mercifully) the last day of school (we assembled to give out report cards and tutus…), which let out at 11AM. As I left to begin my catchment village tour, the teachers settled down to brew some ataaya (Chinese green tea with lots of sugar). This included our two prospective teachers, who one might have expected to want to leave early to be well-rested in advance of an exam they’ve already failed a few times. They too hunkered down, though, for two full brewings (a batch of ataaya features three progressively sweeter rounds) that took them well into the afternoon. Once I’d arrived and greeted the police and my colleagues, one of the teachers bemoaned their difficulty finding transport at this late stage. This was one of those rare occasions where I managed to bite my tongue; a year of haranguing teachers about the seemingly obvious and elementary is wearing on me and the rainy season break is arriving in good time.

No comments: