A Gambian Experience
Sat, 11 Oct 2014
“Right!” I announce, full of gusto, to a sea
of wide-eyed faces. Bare feet scuffing
scrubby ground as they vie to bag a desk
such as they are;
nothing more than upturned tea-chests,
but they serve their purpose...a scramble
for pencils as I hand them out, each
to each , they covet as if pure gold.
“Good morning, boys and girls!
It’s good to meet you. Right now
I feel like Deborah Kerr in the King
and I, but that’s another story.
Miss Parker’s what I’m called,
but how about you? Draw a sketch
of yourselves – names beneath,
and I’ll do my best to learn them.”
Crayons hover in mid-air like bees
over ox-eyed daisies...hands frantically
scratch heads, all except for one
that seeks my attention.
“Miss, I’ve finished, but it’s
not as simple as it sounds... Easier
by far if we draw each other,
if that’s OK?” asks one little dot.
The penny drops. “I understand,
I say, rummage in my bag for a while.
“Maisha. Have I said it correctly?
Come closer. I don’t bite – well, not often,
and I’ve something to show you.”
Maisha giggles as I ruffle her hair, smiles
from ear to ear, like the sun coming up,
as if she’d never before seen her own reflection.
“Is that how I really look?
It works better than the river, Miss...Clear as day;
no ripples. Say, Miss, may I keep it? Swap
your mirror for a biro?”
It made me think about those small things
in life we take for granted...like being given
time to be a child, and even if that child’s a girl,
having the right to go to school.