By Alagie Manneh
The Conference of Principals of Senior Secondary Schools (Gamcop) has announced a review of controversial secondary school textbook in circulation that reportedly distorted the origins of the Fula tribe.
‘Guide to Success in WASSCE History’, written by Gambia-based Sierra-Leonean writer, Abdul Rahman Barrie, claimed that the original home of the Fulas is Tekrur, and not Fouta as taught by many historians.
The claims led to a confusion among some Gambians, who said it has ‘distorted’ the true origins of the Fulas.
Gamcop, who approved for the book’s usage since 2015, now said it will launch an investigation to establish the allegations levelled against the publication.
“If it is confirmed that the story is not true, we will not use it,” Mr Lamin Sanyang, the chair of Gamcop, told The Standard. “We will absolutely investigate and establish the facts.”
He said books that are not up to standard will not be used in Gambian schools. “If a particular textbook has been flagged as not good, we will remove it [after we established the facts].”
Although Gamcop is not officially mandated to approve books for use in senior schools, it went ahead however, to approve ‘Guide to Success in WASSCE History’. Mr Sanyang said the approving department, the Curriculum Research Evaluation and Development Directorate (CREED), was not fully capacitised at the time.
In an interview, the principal education officer of CREED, Ms Dally Bittaye, confirmed that the book was never reviewed by her department, nor did it grant approval for its use in senior schools.
“Any book that has to be used as supplementary must come through here for approval to be given or not, but this book by Abdul Rahman Barrie never passed through here. What we have seen viral is that it has passed through this office, so, that has to be clear,” Ms Bittaye said.
She said that there have been instances where books will be in circulation in our school systems without their authority but that they are now putting their house in order to address those issues.
The PS of the ministry of basic education, Louis Moses Mendy, said he agrees with Gamcop that the book be reviewed again, arguing that it is the “proper and ideal” thing to do.
“[It is important] we look at that element [of the book] and try to perhaps do more research to see if the content is right or wrong. I don’t know in this case what it is about, however, I support the idea of the book being reviewed again, so that we establish where it’s gone wrong and what the facts should be,” PS Mendy said.
The author, Abdul Rahman Barrie, told The Standard that he stood by his claims as the true account of the origin of the Fulas. He said it is “strange” that those who went through junior and secondary schools do not know the facts.
He insisted: “The Fulas originated from Tekrur, and they are the offspring of inter-marriages between the Barbers and the black people of Tekrur. For anybody who claims to be educated and not know this fact, for me, that is an indictment of our education system.”
But the head principal of Mbullum Ahmadiyya Junior and Senior Secondary School, Musa Bah, called the book “nonsense”.
“There’s no historical proof that the Fulas are from Tekrur,” the educationist countered. “It’s at variance with what we’ve been taught.”
He said Gambian children must not be taught based only on mere speculations.
“It is a very serious matter, and curriculum [department] should look into it. And if the book is found wanting as I think it will, it should be removed from our schools,” Mr Bah said.