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Classes stopped as Bakau school prepared for president’s meeting

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By Alagie Manneh

Classes at Bakau Lower Basic School were disrupted yesterday morning and pupils sent home ahead of President Barrow’s arrival and rally in the school’s premises.

Our reporter, who visited the school, saw tents being installed amid the blaring of vehicle horns as bulls were brought in for slaughter ahead of the president’s arrival.

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Some pupils were seen straying as others played around the school’s premises.

A senior staff of the school, who did not wish to be named in the story, said it was not wise to go on with classes when bulls were present in the premises amid other activities.

“We couldn’t hold classes because there was a bull here and the children would perhaps not have been safer,” the teacher told The Standard. 

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Asked why they were prioritising the president’s rally over the school lessons, the teacher said “everything is beyond my control”.

“What can I do?” Was it I who cancelled the classes? Why are you asking all the wrong questions? Why are you saying why do you allow this, why do you allow that? I cannot tell them not to come and have a meeting here. I cannot do that. I am ageing now, and I am retiring soon, so nobody will sacrifice me,” the teacher said.

Our reporter also saw a number of NPP flyers with the image of President Barrow in one of the offices at the school.

Several teachers of the school were also seen wearing NPP T-shirts and one of them lost her cool when asked why that was the case.

“I am a Gambian, am I not? I have the right to put on this T-shirt and support whoever I wish to support,” she said.

Another teacher added: “You [reporter] know that afternoon classes cannot go on with music and everything here. Tell me, what do you want us to do now? Tell me.”

Education minister, Claudiana Cole was called over the matter and she said she was not aware that classes were being disrupted at the Bakau school. However, she reached back later to clarify: “This is Meet the People Tour, a constitutional requirement of the president and if the meeting is going to be held, it has to be held somewhere and the school happens to be available.”

She said it is the regional office whose job it is to ensure that classes are not disrupted and if that happens, provide extra lessons to cover for the lost times.

“The time that will be lost for today will be compensated in due course,” Minister Cole said, adding, “the regional director is the one responsible for this”.

The national coordinator of the Child Protection Alliance (CPA), condemned the development as unfortunate and putting children in a difficult situation.

“It shows that our government is not serious about learning or the education of our kids. After the pandemic, one would have thought that the government and our educationists would be working to recover those lost times in our schools but instead, politics is at play here,” Mr. Lamin Fatty said. 

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