My Time in Gunjur by Alex Rodger

Alex-RodmartI arrived in Gunjur on the 12th of April 2013 to teach Maths in the Upper Basic School for 3 months. I started at the school on the 15th of April and spent the first two weeks following Maths teacher Buba Touray "BT" and sitting in on his lessons. After these two weeks I quickly gained his and a lot of teachers' trust and was given three classes of my own to teach (grade 8 Darboe, Bunjeng and Jatta). I was regularly supervised by Mr. Touray and the head of the department Mr. Ba.

Teaching classes of fifty students was daunting at first but I managed to impose my own teaching style and had the time of my life interacting with the students and learning about their lives. At first I tried setting homework regularly but soon realised that these were barely ever completed as the students all had chores to do in the afternoon and no electric light in the evenings.

Extra Classes

Alex-teachingInstead, I decided to organise extra classes once or twice a week after school for those who wanted to have some extra practise. These were not widely popular, I had about 20 regular students out of almost 150, though I believe that it was definitely worth it for those who attended. About two weeks before the final exams these lessons became daily and often lasted over four hours.

The students who attended these classes got the best marks in the final exam. Apart from the extra classes I conducted a test every time we finished a topic, about once every three weeks. These were pretty disastrous at first with only a couple of people passing per class but once I adapted myself to their level and they got to know what I expected the marks went up and in the end a little over half of each class was regularly passing.

Drama "each student was an organ of the digestive system"

Other than Maths I became involved in the science and Maths club. They met three times a week and rehearsed some plays one of the science teachers Yahya Drammeh had written. One of these plays was about the elements (each student was an element and the plot was that they were all arguing to decide which was the best element) and the other was about the digestive system (each student was an organ of the digestive system and they were again competing to decide who was best).These plays were very funny and the students enjoyed the club very much. After some time Mr. Drammeh suggested we write a play together about an orphan girl. This play was a great success with the students though unfortunately I only saw rehearsals and not the final product.

As a result of long hours sitting in the staff room I became very close to almost all the teachers. We were all joking and teasing each other all day which I really cherished. I have really fond memories of endless hours marking or making lesson plans with all the other teachers. I felt completely integrated in this group and hugely enjoyed their company. I am still in touch with a lot of them and speak to them regularly through Facebook and Skype.

Compound life

Alex-with-family-in-compoundI was hosted by Yapenda Jatta and her large family. I absolutely loved my compound and felt completely at home there. I got to know everyone in the family and had an incredibly close relationship with all of them. They truly adopted me as their son and did everything they could to make me happy.

Even though they had huge amounts of back breaking work to do they were always smiling and always trying to help and make me feel at home. I spent hours and hours sitting in the courtyard with everyone playing cards and gossiping. We laughed all the time and got on very, very well.

The times I spent with my family are the best memories I have of my time in Gunjur and I know they will stay with me forever.

Social life

During my three months I also made a tight group of friends. We went to parties and football matches together and spent entire Saturdays and Sundays together just lying about chatting and drinking the local Chinese Green tea hattaya. These friends also showed me around the countryside surrounding Gunjur and the local beaches. I became very close to them and still keep in contact with a lot of them.

"A Million Wonderful Memories"

In conclusion, apart from the first week, I honestly never once felt lonely in the entire three months. Everyone was overwhelmingly friendly and I felt absolutely at home even though I was almost the only European (David and Joe were in Gunjur but I saw very little of them). I learnt an incredible amount and will be forever in awe of the compassion, perseverance and hope that everyone has. I have a million wonderful memories and miss everyone a lot. I really cannot begin to thank everyone at MBG enough for making this possible. Thanks to the link I have forged some relationships which I truly cherish and plan on maintaining for years to come.