Summer School Gambian Style

22 05 2011

The past week has been relatively busy, that is from an African point of view of course. On the weekend we went with Kebba around to three different job sites to do a little surveying and check how the projects are coming along. The real work with them starts in two weeks, so for now we’re just getting a feel for the kind of work they do. On Monday we joined the West African Community Development Training Center (WACD-TC) to begin a three week course on development. The course will give us an opportunity to get some experience working with the locals and see how some of the teaching methods here differ from back home. After only a week of class, I have had lots of fun getting to know my fellow classmates and adapting to this different way of learning. To give you some idea, I’ve shown below the outline for our class, which is posted on the wall of the facility, and under it I have shown the outline we have been following for the first week of class.

 Now I knew before coming to The Gambia that they live on ‘African time’ here, meaning they take things much more slowly and rarely rush to do things. For most of you who know me well, know that this is right up my alley but, in the first week, there were times when even I was getting a bit frustrated here.

Typical Day at WACD-TC

9:00am – 11:00am Class Session

 -Arrive before 9, chat with the classmates outside… get seated around 10 after, chat some more… start class around 20 after. Coast slowly through the material; spend a large amount of time on seemingly simple activities. Do an individual activity, given more than enough time to finish it multiple times. Go over answers with the class and beat the point of the task into our heads. Break around 11.

11:00am-11:20am Break

-Have a break for some fresh air. Grab a bite to eat from a close by shop. The snack of choice is a roll of bread (tapa lapa, see picture) with mayo and potato or egg, sauced up with ketchup (woo!) and sprinkled with some powdered beef broth. If this doesn’t sound appetizing enough, it’s all wrapped up to go in the news section of yesterday’s paper. Surprisingly, it’s one heck of a treat.

– Check my watch at 11:20, notice nobody is back in their seats yet… continue chatting and joking around with the class outside. Return to seats around 11:30.

11:20am – 1:45pm Class Session

-Class resumes around 11:45. Typically we would now form groups. Getting these groups sorted seems to take a good 5 minutes. Once in these groups, another ‘hands on’ activity is done. Again, a seemingly excessive amount of time is given for the task and the topic is then taken up with the facilitator and beaten to a pulp once more. Break when the activity is complete, usually between 1:30 and 1:40.

1:45pm – 230pm Prayer Break

– This break is pretty much the only strict structure for the class, as the locals pray at 2pm. I usually get another tapa lapa and then hang out with the classmates and maybe squeeze in a small lesson of Mandinka (one of the local languages). Stroll back to our seats around 2:40.

2:30pm – 4pm Class session

– Session. Usually another group activity (more than enough time given) ending with a presentation. We end around 3:30pm and that’s it for the day!

From my description you might get the impression that not much is getting done here, however, it is quite the opposite. The way they have set up the course is laid back and stress free, which I feel has made it easier to absorb the material and at the same time I have been able to get to know many of the locals pretty well.

Anyhow, that’s been my week. Now time to sit back, relax and catch up on some sleep… under a bugnet doused in bug spray, of course.

Hope the May 24 weekend is treating all of you back home nicely!

Until next time,





2 responses

29 05 2011
Spencer Weber

Love the description of time management. Same thing happens in Zambia. I learned meeting times are really just suggested gathering times and the actual program of the meeting usually doesn’t happend for at least another hour after. Especially in rural areas. Gotta love the laid back attitude, sometimes.

Might steal your google map idea, its pretty sick. Glad to know you are still in the honeymoon stage.

From south of the equator,

29 05 2011
John Iezzi

haha steal away buddy, I’d like to see your version!

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