The results for the regional exams, WASSCE, were announced last week. The education ministry was happy that the students improved in mathematics but the perennial nightmare in English Language remains; two subjects that determine who succeeds in getting white-collar jobs here. While the discussions were chiefly on the number of A+ and girls outperforming boys again, I noticed a worrying detail in the statistics. It revealed that 17,201 candidates registered for the exams with 16,405 sitting for at least one subject. Since I am terrible at math myself, I took my phone and did some calculations. I realised 796 have registered but did not take the exams and I asked what happened to them. I took the conversation to social media and someone sent me a message, telling me a heart-breaking story of a girl she knows who also didn’t take the exams. She got pregnant before exams and, as usual in our various communities, she dropped out because she was already heavy when exams began. The girl’s family hosted a relative from the rural area for at least two years. Then, right under their noses, that relative violated and destroyed their daughter, a story far too familiar in our homes. We usually provide shelter and food for the rapist or pervert before their abhorrent actions scar our girls forever. It made me question the rationale behind accepting a girl to drop out of school just because a depraved older man took advantage of her. Compulsory education should mean compulsory for everyone in all conditions, pregnant or not and we should ensure even if a girl gets pregnant, she continues her education and if the family cannot take care of the baby when she gives birth, that’s where a strong social welfare comes in. We ought to end this terrible cycle and give girls enough chance to succeed since a boy could impregnate a dozen girls on his way to becoming a valedictorian. Families and schools are responsible for ending the education of pregnant girls and we have to start being radical in order to stop it. No matter how narrow you think, it is not the girl’s fault.
Besides, it’s all connected to how we deliberately structured a system to suppress women using violence and manipulation. All women, with no exceptions, face daily threats from men. A 25-year-old man raping a 60-year-old woman. A 70-year-old grandpa raping a 28-month-old baby. And, very recently, a 60-year-old man in court for a similar offence against his 15-year-old stepdaughter. These incidents sadly indicate that we cannot protect girls forever because we are the threat and we are too many. At no point in a woman’s life where she outgrows the treachery of men. If you may, as a father or a male guardian, get a 100-round fully automatic gun and if you’re able to protect her from mutilation, a cousin pervert would be lurking in the house or a sexual predator marauding in the streets or an abusive husband threatening in the marital bedroom. If you miraculously protect her from all these, chances are you would be the violator yourself as we have seen already girls getting impregnated by their own fathers. You protect her from other evil men for your own evil self. The tragedy is we’re not even protecting girls from wild animals. We are protecting them from us; their fathers, uncles and brothers. Maybe the difference between men and wild animals is consumer habit. We are inherently evil and I strongly believe there are only two good men in this world; a dead one and one not born yet. No apologies to anyone. We, all of us men, have successfully made this world so dangerous for women that it scares the hell out of me bringing a girl into it. If only we are compassionate, caring and human. If only we could see women as human too and not objectify them. If only we could stop assaulting them and destroying their lives. If only we could allow girls to grow in peace and educated without hastening them into sexual relations. If only we could do all that and more— and we definitely could— then our girls would thrive and become even better contributors than men in development. Maybe that is exactly what we’re terrified of. All the threats and violence women go through will end if men stop being coldblooded. That’s the truth.
Since I started publishing articles, I have been constantly encouraged to write books. I have resisted both the encouragement and the temptation so far. This is my level for now. Writing books is a different kettle of fish which requires not just knowledge but financial resources. As of now, I have neither. I have helped proofread manuscripts of young writers like me and their works are still unpublished because printing is more expensive than a ticket to heaven. But publishing in The Gambia is even more complicated than just resources. A poor writer will have even poorer readership; a match made in hell. That’s why when you publish a book, most of the time people only buy or pledge to buy the book at the launch; some will even pledge and not buy. After that, your book will be gathering dust in your own shelf because no one will buy it or read it. We don’t like to read and that means we don’t like to invest in books. No time or dime. Someone told me he finished my last article after two days because it is too long. It’s just 1,500 words. And I can bet my small salary that if you check his CV, you will find “reading” as a hobby. It’s a lie we inherited from our ancestors. Almost everyone puts “reading” as a hobby in their CV and hardly any of us read anything, except the WILL from our parents, even that is read by lawyers. Reading as a hobby is a national lie that we have conveniently made official. I think employers should start asking candidates at interviews how many books they have read and explain a few, just briefly. Once that’s known across the country, “reading” as a hobby will start disappearing in CVs. I know it is fanciful to say reading is your hobby but you don’t have to put it in your CV to impress potential employers. It is a lie.
I moved to Manduar in the outskirts of Brikama about two years ago. It is spacious, less crowded and no stagnant water in my area. The road is good too with lots of trees. All in all, it should have been a perfect environment to raise kids and the people are impressively fertile too; there are more kids here than grass. The community however needs a proper nursery school because I would rather wait until my child reaches primary school age than enrolling her in the nursery we have. It is not a nursery school. It is a multipurpose centre. Multipurpose as in nursery by day and dance hall by night. When the sun sets in Manduar, especially during weekends, people gather from across the satellite villages of Brikama at the nursery school. Doors unlocked. Generator turned on. Sound system set up. Then, from nightfall to dawn, adults would be doing adult things in a hall next to the classroom of kids. The two are like a room and a parlour; only a wall separates the hall from the classroom. For the entire night, the area becomes a scene that should not be near a nursery school. Music. Dance. Drink. Smoke. Sex. Litter. All sorts of hanky-panky stuff. If you wake up early and stroll to the nursery school the morning after the night dance, your heart will melt by the mess on display. Plastic bags, empty water and alcohol bottles, cigarette packs and studs, lighters, stink of adult urine in corners and sometimes even used condoms behind trees or in the grass. How the fuck are kids supposed to learn in that environment? I wouldn’t even be surprised if some of those kids are actually by-products of the nightclub. Now, when I pass by the nursery school at night coming from work, I occasionally hear “huuu, haaa, disaaa”. That tells me it’s also a dojo where karate is taught. God knows what else goes on in that hall. The location of the nursery alone is a distraction for kids since it is where vehicles stop. It is so close to the road that a drunk driver could veer off and run into the classroom, causing irreparable disaster. Earlier this year, I stood next to the building to wait for a taxi at least four different occasions. In all those four separate occasions, the only thing I heard the kids singing in the classroom is “the days of the week are: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday”. I almost asked the teacher if there is nothing else the kids could learn. Children need a peaceful environment to learn and grow. Turning their school into a nightclub and exposing them to our irresponsible impurities will have huge effect on their future. That is the truth; anything else is a blue lie.