Jarri, the grade two teacher, eye’s bulged.
“Liiiiiii li la laaaaaaaaa! This man is not serious.”
“I’m sorry but I’m with Jarri” I said, hesitantly joining in, “the female teachers do a lot more things than the male teachers on the whole.”
“You think this seriously?” Sanna looked at me as if I had betrayed the brotherhood.
“Yes. The female teachers cook and clean up every night for the male teachers, all after teaching all day. Why do you think you do more work Sanna?”
“My work is more serious.” Sanna really likes the word serious.
“Why?” I really like the word why.
“I am teaching the older grades and I do lots of things for the office.”
“Why is teaching older children more work?”
“It is. Everyone knows it.”
This is a widespread pedagogic misconception not confined to The Gambia.
“Even if that were true, you never ever cook or wash clothes, do you think it is fair?”
Sanna dryly chuckled whilst a lady from the village entered the school grounds and everybody turned their attention to greeting her and the conversation ended.
The next day I shamefully turned to bribery to do my little bit for GAD. At the end of the school day, when all the teachers and myself were sitting, sated on WFP rice and oil, I casually offered to buy the faculty dinner (granted the faculty that day only consisted of four people). Everyone eagerly accepted the offer and I introduced so casually it was lackadaisical the catch – I needed help cooking the dinner but I didn’t want either of Jarri or Fatoumata, the female teachers to help me, as they have cooked for me so many times. Kalifa, the grade three teacher designated himself my sous chef and we prepared a fried fish salad with garlic bread. Fatoumata and Jarri then teased Sanna, along with some guilt inducing prodding on my part, into doing their ironing for them.
Picture the scene – a thirty five year old Fular man and a toobab cooking up a salad, a squat and slightly grumpy Mandinka man ironing a complet and two chuckling ladies brewing some attaya. So frickin GAD!
Disclaimer: the next week at the school there was only one female teacher and three male teachers. She cooked all their meals and washed all the dishes. Change is a problem.