By Omar Joof
A brother, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, teacher and politician: Sulayman Semane Joof, known as Saul or Master was finally laid to rest in his coastal hometown of Kololi,
The Gambia on Saturday 17 June 2017. Pa Semane Joof was one of our recognised fathers in the neighborhood of Manjai Kunda, Bakoteh and Kololi (MBK), hence it is more of a reaffirmation, that his second child would meet the rest of the world as such a tremendous embodiment of both discipline and decency.
After entering the teaching profession in the 1960s, Master Joof received professional training both in The Gambia and the United Kingdom. Like the rest of them he was sent around the country spreading Western education in independent Gambia. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he was a senior teacher at Sukuta Primary School, where he replaced Mr Charles Fowlis as the specialist teacher for grade six. He was later replaced in that capacity by the late Sana K Cham, during whose tenure the sixth grade in that school expanded into three classes for the first time. From Sukuta in the early 1970s, Master was transferred to Gunjur Primary. His transfer to different primary schools around the country continued, and by 1979 he was on postings at Fatoto Primary School as head teacher. When he was teaching grade six at some point at Sukuta Primary, we were in grade five, and only a makeshift cardboard wall divided the two classrooms. We can therefore testify that he was a strict classroom teacher, and based on the results we were able to witness from his classes, an effective teacher.
At the 1972 elections, a process of indigenising the characters of Serekunda politics started. Saul was one of the refreshing personalities on the scene. But the old forces still held sway until when the constituency was divided into two for the 1977 elections. In 1979, there was the need to replace the late flamboyant parliamentary politician H.O. Semega-Janneh as councillor for Manjai Kunda ward. The elders of the three-village ward met at Manjai Kunda and Saul was selected to run on the PPS ticket. He won with a comfortable majority, and that was the only time he was challenged at elections for council between 1979 and the end of the First Republic in 1994. But he was still on postings at Fatoto Primary School in 1979!
Therefore, when Bakoteh Primary School opened in 1980, it was decided by the community to write to the Ministry of Education under Mrs Louise Njie, and suggest his posting there as head-teacher. The school grew under his leadership to phenomenal proportions having on its roll almost four thousands pupils, before its devolution into two schools only after Master was transferred to Talinding Primary School.
Between 1979 and the end of the First Republic in 1994, Sulayman Semane Joof became one of the key political figures for the ruling PPP in Serekunda West constituency and indeed the whole of Kombo Saint Mary’s. He was always a potential candidate to represent the constituency in parliament and had applied for the party’s ticket in most of the elections between 1977 and 1992. He had always also been an option for mayor of the Kanifing municipality.
Sulayman Semane Joof was very accessible as a person and accommodating as a politician. He was respected by both his colleagues and opponents alike. Saul was so nice, that it is unimaginable how he became such a success in politics, which has always been assumed to be dirty. But his character was charming to the point of disarming potential opponents. He was friendly and witty, and could make jokes that would last with you forever. He was the master, always commanding in his appearance and pronouncements. Certainly one of our big brothers, and at that, one we could talk to all the time. He will be missed, and may Allah (SWT) grant his soul an eternal resting place in Jannatul Firdawsi, Ameen Ya Rabbi!