At the end of March, Gambian schools take off for a two week Spring Break. Peace Corps Volunteers organized a 5 day program named “Explore Your Country” to expose students from rural villages to our capitol region, Kombo. The program in April is for male students and then there is an identical program in August for female students. PCVs ask teachers and administrators to pick an outstanding 10th or 11th grade student and applies for the program. There were 20 open positions at this particular program, so 20 students and 20 PCVs were in attendance.
Day 1: Gender
We began the day with goal writing. Each student thought about goals for the week and goals for their life. They wrote their goals on a paper airplane and flew them threw a goal post. Sometimes the airplane went in and sometimes it did not, students could fix their airplanes and try again. The idea is that sometimes goals aren’t achieved with one try: you have to go back and try again in a different way. We then spent the day talking about how male Gambian students have less barriers to education than their female counterparts. This included sessions about empowerment, the differences between sex and gender, family planning, and gender action planning. My student’s goal was to have fantastic results on his West African Examinaions in 2020 – his 12th grade.
Day 2: Career Building
This day transitioned into professional development skills. From overall professionalism – timeliness, attire, etc. – to resume building and interviewing skills, the students prepared for their job shadowing a the following morning. An important part of this program is that the students go back to their schools and share what they learned – this is especially important for these sessions because professional development is not usually taught at school.
Day 3: Job Shadowing and Role Models
Students had a list of options for the morning’s job shadowing experience: hotels and lodges, mobile companies, banks, clinics and agricultural institutional. My student chose the MRC Unit, which is the Medical Research Center from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He met doctors, nurses, scientists, lab techs, and shadowed the Director of Operations. He remarked that there are so many more job opportunities in health than he thought, more than just nurses and doctors. In the afternoon we heard from Gambian role models: a doctor, a member of the Tourism board, and a person who had illegally migrated and come back. The “back way” – illegal migration – session was especially eye opening for the students who were considering doing this because they could hear about the dangers along the way and the negative consequences on your friends, family, and country.
Day 4: Field Trips
Continuing with the theme of professional development, we visited important places around The Gambia and inquired as to what job opportunities were there along with schools to see educational opportunities. We went to the airport, QCity – a mobile company owned resort, the stadium, University of The Gambia, the Nursing School, and The Gambia Technician Training Institute. This was a fun and informative day and it was exciting to see all of the opportunities right here in The Gambia.
When school opens back up next week, the student and I will be sharing all of these ideas with the rest of the students in the village. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and too many Gambian children only see mothers as housewives and fathers as farmers. The Gambia is a quickly developing country with big mobile companies, hospitals, and universities. Students can and should aspire to be whatever they want to be.