By Kalipha “Karl”Jabbi“The little you do could make a huge difference.”
For I wasn’t there when the initiators of the EDUSA nationwide tour sat to roll-out the objectives of embarking on such a worthy crusade but I was fortunate to be part of two nationwide tours before leading another in my capacity as the President and at a time when EDUSA was at its prime.
My first activity as a university student was taking part in the 2019 EDUSA nationwide tour as a resource person with another first year student who would later become the Secretary General of the Students’ Union. We were fresh but not raw. We were juniors but not young. We had the opportunity to share platforms with some reputable names in Alhagie B Sama, Mustapha Paragon Sonko, Yankuba Manneh, Essa Barry, Sulayman B Jammeh, Sly, Barrow, Yerro Secka-big names by any standard. But we had our hands clean. Thus the rear opportunity to eat with the elders was inevitable. How associating with these big guns in UTG shape the future politics in us will be something to read about but the most fascinating story of our student leadership comes in the shadows of a non-UTG student.
For the two preceeding years before my actual tour, EDUSA had an informal Memorandum of Understanding with one generous cook from Bakau. It was agreed that anytime we are to embark on a tour, this woman would be our cook but she had the leverage to choose an assistant to make the work convenient for her. This was schemed to give female students also the chance to fully partake in the tour.
For those two years, the woman we all affectionately call mum, had brought in two different ladies. Our third year and the year I became the president, she brought in another different woman. According to this woman, she was fascinated about the stories she had heard about the rural areas and the narrations from the two other ladies and also wanted an experience of first hand. She insisted on following our cook without asking for renumeration because she was on a mission to know the rural areas.
Being an extreme unfriendly an antisocial individual, I became one of the last people in the tour to have interacted with Halima. On this fateful morning, I went to the kitchen to say hi to the cooks and thank them for the super delicious meals they’ve been given us under the guidance of our then Welfare team. Unbeknownst , this was a day that was supposed to change the life of a divorcee.
Halima and I shared some pleasantries before asking about her name and where she came from. She quickly switched from speaking Mandika to English and she was fluent by Gambian standard. Being so obsessed about people’s fluency in English, I left that place with so many questions in my head. I was sure that wasn’t going to be our last conversation because curiosity killed my grandparents.I think I am allergic to unanswered but inner questions.
In the evening, I went to the kitchen but on a different mission. My mission was to know Halima. I know what you are thinking about because it was night and in the dark.
I wanted to know why Halima could speak English with such an easy flow but on a cooking service for few dimes. I was confident she could make more than just that with so much respect to those taking cooking as a profession. I wanted to know her qualifications. I wanted to know her stories. But wasn’t sure where to start and doubtful of her comfort.
Interestingly, Halima started the conversation by telling me that she admired me a lot and was amazed as how my colleagues in the tour respected me and had to ask how do I manage to lead a group of such people who could be older than me. With all the plaudits one receives as a leader, this was the first time I became so proud of what we were doing. I had to replied by telling Halima that it was the people I was leading but not my personality. They gave me the environment and the respect I did not deserve. I have to be humble and remain their servant. This gave me the courage to ask her about her background and the rest just become a beautiful story.
Halima completed her senior school some ten or fifteen years ago with good grades but like many of our sisters, became a victim of an early marriage. With the desire not to be entrenched in only a housewife role, she decided to take up a job at the hotel industry for a meagre salary. Later in her marriage, she got divorced and lost her job at the industry too. She became frustrated with life and decided to take solace by engaging in petty issues that will generate her something to take care of her children. She still had her good results from senior school but not sure where to begin. When she asked me what I was studying at the University, I told her that almost all of us in that tour were teachers. She was amazed because she also had the same notion about teachers just like any other mainstream Gambian. She couldn’t believe teachers could do what we were doing. This was the time I knew that Halima was attending some of our sessions with students because this was a tour that I was only on sessions with teachers. She was inspired by our speakers. She was inspired by the likes of Positive Gaye, The New Pen, Fatou Nyang, Baka Dem, Sohna, SP, Matthew, Alieu Jallow and the likes. The topics were indeed for Halima and not for the rural students. Guidance Counselling and Importance of TVET EDUCATION.
She told me that she was indeed inspired but felt she couldn’t do it. We spoke at length and was later joined by Yankuba Jarju to convince her to go to college. After the tour, I had lost contacts of her and thought we would never meet again. One day, fortunes made us to cross paths at the entrance of the college. I couldn’t believe seeing that beautiful lady again. She was in her usual joyful mood. She has always been smiling apart from our last day of the tour when everyone was asked to share her experience of the tour, Baka and VP didn’t even spare our drivers and their apprentices. Everyone but Halima couldn’t control her tears. It was emotional parting.
At the entrance of the college, Halima had only few words for me; Mr President, I am about to start the college thanks to you and your people. I had the choice to smile but it was a moment to suppress tears of joy. I was happy and that was a moment for me to celebrate.
Few months later, I had the opportunity to board a vehicle with Halima again and to add more icing to the cake, she told me that she started a part-time teaching in a nearby school alongside going to college. This was a gratifying moment for me and even though July miserably failed to July, I had to make it rain for her in the car.
Fast forward two months after our meeting in that van enroute to Brikama, I received a message from the charming Halima that she’s reuniting with her former partner on Monday. If God had a relationship, we would have said, Halima got inducted into God’s family in 2022. This is her year.
This is an incredible story of once a shattered hope Halima. From zero to hero but more from grass to grace.
The little you do could make a huge difference. If you’re given the opportunity to serve, do with enough sincerity. This is not my win. It is a win for those that came with the concepts of embarking on the NWT. We took from that stage and gave it a total face-lift.
I hope to witness a day, Halima will don her graduation gown after the marriage gown.
Happy Marriage Madam