Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Meet Isatou, an Aspiring Aerospace Engineer Who Gets Aggregate 6 in 2019


By Momodou Jarju

In 2016-2017-academic-year, Isatou AB Jallow was in grade 7. And knowing the uphill task ahead of her in two years’ time, she started hard studies to produce flying colours at the final-national-exam in grade nine (9) called the Gambia Basic Education Certificate Examination (GABECE).

AB, as she is fondly called, prepared herself in earnest by enrolling to different extra-classes to deal with the monumental burden on the shoulders of many students during this particular exam.

With the help of her parents, teachers and comrades, AB heaved heft to the question of how she felt when she saw her results, saying she was happy with a broad grin.

She started her schooling at ABC Nursery School at New Jeshwang and proceeding to Upper Basic level in grade 9. The school is sponsored by a Norwegian foundation called Butterfly Friends Foundation for Free Health and Education.

Though she is not the first student to get aggregate 6 in grade 9 at the school; a replica is something the school always yearns and longs for.

“It is not easy,” she said, “since in grade seven we started preparing for this; going for different classes. We have been having sleepless nights, we have been struggling.”

AB said her parents kept forcing her to attend classes regularly and woke her up at night to read and her mom would tell her that she ponders about her struggle and wondered whether it would bore fruits for her.

“So, they have been pushing me to work harder and our teachers too. They kept on motivating us because it is not easy to get aggregate six in grade 6.”

Aged 16 this month and living in Ebo Town, AB wants to succeed in life but she is cognizant of the fact that hard work pays. Her school offers free tuition fees to all and sundry plus free feeding and supply of learning materials.

Quizzed whether not paying would demotivate students to study harder for great results as some people opine, AB said it depends. To her, it does not deter her desire for greater good.

“If you want to work hard, if you want to achieve your goals, it does not matter whether you are paying or not. So, I don’t have that concept that I am not paying so I should not work hard. I just wanted to be successful, it does not matter if I am paying or not,” she said.

The premises of ABC School sponsored by Norwegians who are providing free education to all students. Photo by Matarr Jassey

Road To UK

Not many school-going Gambians decide their career path at an early age. Many have abandoned their field of study in their adult age when they should have been mastering their field at a workplace. On the contrary, AB has a clear vision from the onset.

She wants to pursue science at senior secondary level where she would start to learn physics, chemistry and biology as separate science subjects. After completing that level, AB plans to study aerospace engineering. Already, she has started making research to ascertain the best school to study abroad.

“I want to become an aerospace engineer. So, I have been making researches {and found out} that in United Kingdom (UK), they have the best universities for the aerospace field. So that’s where I want to go after completing my school,” she said.

According to CollegeGrad, aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles.

Founded in 1995, CollegeGrad is a job site with a mission to enable college students and recent grads with the tools, connections and information needed to be successful in finding a great job.

To thrive in the field, CollegeGrad said aerospace engineers must have qualities of analytical skills, business skills, critical-thinking skills, writing skills, math skills and problem-solving skills.

The job site also indicated that the median annual wage for aerospace engineers is $115, 220. This amount is close to six million Gambian dalasi (D5, 761, 000.000).

AB is aware that many people believe the field she wants to study is meant for males. So, she wants to change the narrative. I want to go to this field and motivate my juniors so that they can go in for it, she said.

She added: “I want to be a role model. I even want before I died, I want someone to look at me and say because of you I didn’t give up.”

She urged her colleagues to keep working and never give up no matter the harder it takes. “Especially those in grade 7 and 8, I can say they have the greatest chance.”

Even with the excellent result she has, she wished she could have started studying earlier to bag 9As. “Those in grade 9, is still not late,” she said “they can still start preparing if they have not started.”

To women, AB said they are not always good at the kitchen or conducting domestic work as presumed by many. “We can do what men can do if we are ready for it,” she added.

From (L) Mr. Touray, ABC Administrator, AB, Vice Principal Mr. Camara, and AB’s Mom Mrs. Jeng, Photo by Matarr Jassey

Shocked With Tears Of Joy

AB’s mother, Fatou A Jeng, who gave us consent to talk to her, was an elated parent. She was full of smiles as she sat adjacent to her proud daughter and watched her expressed herself.

Jeng, a teacher by profession, said she was shocked and shed tears of joy when she got the news of her daughter’s performance.

“I said to myself Isatou knows where we came from and Isatou knows my condition. I have been pushing her since the onset,” she said.

According to Jeng, she had a funny beginning, saying there were times when her children, including Isatou would go to school without pocket money and with empty stomach. Thus, she thanked ABC school for providing lunch and free education to their students.

“So, the moment I saw that my child came out with this, it was just amazing. And what I can say is that, she doesn’t show any foot of betrayal to me as my first daughter,” she said.

Jeng knows that AB’s career path would be a tough task. There would be difficulties but she expressed their defiance to see AB through in her endeavor.

She said they are ready to support their girl whether through providing study teachers for her or on anything she thinks can improve her education.

“I always tell her whatever a man can do a woman can do,” she added while urging her not to be afraid.

AB and her mom, Mrs. Jeng, Photo by Matarr Jarssey

Unsurprised Result

Mr. Samba Touray, the school administrator said since nursery one, AB was being monitored and they were not surprise with her performance.

“We know exactly what she can do. We even expect more from her by the time she reaches grade 12,” he said.

Touray said students have all the opportunity they want at the school, ranging from free tuition fees to free school materials including uniforms, exercise books, etc.

“So is just for them to concentrate and learn with the support of their parents,” he said.

Their success as a school is attributed to control, according to Touray. He said they ensured that students go to school regularly and take their lessons seriously. For Touray, if teachers don’t have control over students it makes learning difficult.

One main challenge he said other students face at the school is lack of motivation from the side of the parents who pay less attention to their children’s performance and education in general.

The vice principal of the school, Mr. Abubacarr Camara shared similar remarks to Mr. Touray, saying some parents’ commitment towards their children is discouraging.

He agreed with Mr. Touray that if the teachers have control over the students, they tend to succeed.

Another problem that the school is grappling with is the road leading to school which is deplorable during the rainy season and as such students in the lower grades are not allowed to attend summer classes.

Mr. Touray thus called on the government to come to their aid and fix the road. Meanwhile, Touray said the school has a health center where students are admitted if they fall sick. It also offers adult literacy to their cooks and cleaners.

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