Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

She paced the corridor of the prison for the umpteenth time trying to make sense of the information she had but couldn’t put the facts right. It was Tuesday, 13 February and her second visit to the State Central Prison in as many days, yet she still had more questions than answers. It seemed that anytime Biram answered a question, a whole set of questions popped into her head. Haddy Jobe was a lawyer who’d been hired to represent Biram, a gentleman Rastafarian who claimed to have been arrested during an armed robbery. He claimed to be completely innocent and that it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Biram was a truly gentleman despite the fact that he’d dreadlocks. He was a teetotaler and didn’t even smoke wee or even cigarettes. He was just in love with the Rastafarian culture and that explained dreadlocks. Initially, he did not intend to go out on that day, but when his girlfriend insisted that he buy her a phone, he acquiesced.
Biram had gone to the Lebanese shop to buy a phone for his girlfriend. He was in the middle of the transaction when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man he used to work with. He owed this man a lot of money and therefore was afraid that if he saw him he’d ask him to pay. That he could not let happen. He pulled down his cap to disguise his appearance. When he had paid and received his brand new Nokia phone and was just about to depart, he heard the commotion and turned to see armed men pushing and shoving customers around in the shop.
“All of you get down on the floor,” he heard a voice command them.
He stood still and refused to obey because he knew that his problems could not be any worse. He watched them harass and jostle the salespersons in the shop. He looked around and saw a backdoor which was slightly ajar. He pushed his way through and was in the toilet area where he sat down to wait it out. He was there for almost a quarter of an hour, or so it seemed to him. Then he heard the police siren wafting louder by the second.
It must be safe to go out now, he thought. Unfortunately, when he came out, he was arrested along with the armed robbers. He tried as much as possible to tell them that he was not a part of it but to no avail. It didn’t help that he was wearing his cap in a way that hid his features. He was frisked along with all the others and haplessly for him; his gun was found in the jacket, more salt to the injury.
They were all charged with armed robbery and disturbance of the peace. A day later, his problem exacerbated when the salesperson that was shot in the incident died of his gunshot wounds. How on earth will Haddy Jobe, good lawyer as she was, exonerate Biram from this quagmire!

Questions
a) Find a word or phrase which can take the place of the following words as used in the passage.
i) umpteenth ii) acquiesced iii) jostle iv) exacerbated
ii) v) exonerate vi) quagmire
b) On which date did Haddy Jobe visit the accused first?
c) Was Biram guilty of armed robbery?
iii) Quote a sentence to support your answer.
d) What made Biram look guiltier?
e) Why did Biram have dreadlocks?
f) … that..
What does the word that mean as used in the second paragraph?
g) . . . more salt to the injury
i) What literary device is employed by the writer in the above extract?
ii) What does it mean?
h) . . . to buy a phone for his girlfriend
i) What grammatical name is given to the extract above?
iii) What is its function?

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The ‘Bad’ Boy

Short Story

‘Bring out your assignments and place them in front of you,’ the teacher said.

‘I left my book at home, Madam,’ said Alieu.
He’d hoped she wouldn’t notice. ‘Mrs Joof is such a bore,’ he thought. She always keeps putting pressure on us and doesn’t care if we’re in the mood or not. Can’t she even notice when one is not interested? They are all like that. The headmaster just ignored him now after repeated warnings and, good riddance! Who cares? The other teachers and even the bigger and older students had the same attitude towards him. They had no idea how difficult it was to wake up next to four other boys who had not even bathed the previous night.
‘Alieu, why didn’t you do your assignment?’ she asked in a harsh tone.
‘I did it, Madam, I just left my book at home,’ Alieu repeated and went to the corner where all pupils who had not done their assignments were punished. That was wise because he’d be told to go there anyway, so why wait?
Alieu Njie had had a stormy life thus far. His father, a conscientious businessman from Kaur had died when he was only three. So he had only the vaguest of memories of his father and knew only a mother who was haggard and lean from too much struggle to cater for her two daughters and a son. When Modou Njie, Alieu’s father was alive, they lived in Manjai Kunda where Modou had a vibrant business. They lived in a two bedroom apartment and life was good. Unfortunately, Modou fell ill and after a prolonged battle succumbed to the disease.
As was the custom in most African families, his brother, Ebou was told to inherit the wife, Alieu’s mother. Ebou was the black sheep of the family and was something of a wild cat. He had sired three sons outside wedlock and all from different mothers. He had started as a stubborn boy who paid no heed to the advice of his parents. He kept drifting to the bad side slowly and soon landed himself into the evil habit of being an alcoholic. He inherited his late brother’s wife and moved to the Kombos to be in close proximity to his new wife, a wife imposed on him.
In the beginning it was a little easy as his brother had left behind a good house, a handsome savings account and so lazy Ebou Njie just moved in and started enjoying the fruits of his brother’s labour. As was his wont though, he kept squandering the money in his less-than-desirable lifestyle of alcohol. In a short time he had outdone himself by wasting the entire savings on the bottle. He resorted to violence. When he came home in the evenings, completely wasted, nobody even dared cough. He constantly beat his wife to unconsciousness and the children watched helplessly. The three women he had impregnated outside wedlock got fed up with catering for the sons of a man who couldn’t even remember their names. They brought him his ‘stock’ and dumped them with him. So was it that Alieu Njie had new unwanted brothers to share his hearth and home with.
Alieu Njie thought of the hunger that haunts him after sharing a plate of mbahal enough for one person with his seven brothers and sisters. His stepfather, a lousy drunk couldn’t afford anything so only his cleaning-lady-mother brought home a cheque to pay the bills and put food on the table.
Worst of all was the patronizing look and patting of the local Imam. What does he know? He only talks about the merciful God. ‘Who are you telling? I know all about God, you never see him when you need him,’ Aieu Njie thought to himself.

a) What is the attitude of Alieu Njie towards his teacher?

b) i) Was Alieu Njie a good student?
ii) Quote a sentence to support your answer.

c) … ‘stock’..
i) Why is the word stock in paragraph five put in inverted commas?
ii) What does it mean?
d) Ebou was the black sheep…
i) What is the literary device employed in the extract above?
ii) What does it mean?

e) How many biological brothers does Alieu Njie have?

f) … that haunts him..

i) What is the grammatical name for the extract above?
ii) What is its function?

g) Find a word or phrase which can replace the following as used in the passage.
i) notice   ii) vaguest   iii) prolonged   iv) helplessly   v) wedlock    vi) squandering

Short Story

PhotoShop?
Sulayman Gisse came home from work in the middle of the day and went straight to the kitchen and shot his wife without any ado. He then went into the house and called the police to inform them of what he had done. He looked in the mirror and saw a completely new person; he had changed and at that moment, felt that he had aged at least ten years within that short time. His mind took him back to his office and the scenes flooded his brain like a micro wave.
Sulayman was a branch manager in one of the local banks and was in good shape as he was truly enjoying his life. He had a good job, an excellent remuneration and a beautiful and loving wife, Aji Fatou Mboge. He was a gentle and caring person who loved his wife very much and did everything humanly possible to provide all her needs; she never lacked anything and was happy at all times.
At the office earlier that day, he had arrived in time to receive a steaming cup of coffee from Mallen Jobarteh, his able secretary. She was a nice girl to work with; she knew her job and did it well with a gentle disposition. She was always smiling and jovial.
“Sir, your coffee,” she said, as she placed the cup on his desk.
“Thank you, Mallen,” he said, taking his first sip of the coffee.
A few minutes later, he logged on to Facebook as was his wont. To his horror, he immediately saw a picture which seemed to show his wife posted on his wall. It was a picture in which he was tagged. The strange thing was that his wife seemed to be in a tight hug with a young man. Beneath this picture was a phrase which was glowing as it was written in golden letters. It read: Chillaxing at Senegambia. It immediately brought back a conversation between him and his wife a few days earlier.
“Will you be home early today, honey?” his wife asked.
“I don’t think so, I have a meeting with some investors,” he said while struggling with his tie.
“Ok, no problem,” she said moving closer to give him a hand with his tie.
“Why do you ask?” he asked turning to allow her to assist him with the final bit of his dress.
“It’s nothing, just that Aji Haddy’s husband came from the United States and wanted us to go out for dinner at the Ali Baba Restaurant this evening.”
“Oh Ebou Secka is around? When did he arrive?” he was now interested.
“Two days ago, but if you’ve an important thing to do, I can meet them and extend your apologies,” she said, kissing him goodbye.
“That’s my darling! I love you so much, you always understand me. Thank you.”
He hurried to scroll down to find the name of the person who had posted the picture. The name was so ambiguous that he couldn’t imagine what sort of person will choose such a name for his Facebook account. He had looked at the picture again and felt his stomach sink. He felt the ache of jealousy and hatred raise in his mind. What a bitch! She had me fooled and was going over to slut herself at Senegambia. She smiles so sweetly when all this while she is cheating on me! I am the biggest fool, but that ends today! He took his coat and left the office, banging the door behind him. He was going home to deal with the ‘slut’.
He was back in his bedroom, the corpse was outside at the kitchen door and he took out his Android Phone to log in again and look at the grotesque picture one more time. He logged in and saw to his surprise that the person who posted the picture was completely new on Facebook. In fact, the person had created the account on that very day. The name the person used was, Baayil Saxel Faal. He looked at the friends and saw none. He went to photos and only saw the Arch of Banjul and nothing else!
It dawned on him that someone who must be his enemy was playing a wicked joke on him. Oh my God! He wailed. It was too late as he thought of the corpse of his wife lying at the kitchen door. He heard the police siren wafting louder. He took out the pistol and put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger, sending hundreds of particles of brain tissue to plaster his bedroom wall!

a) … the scenes flooded his brain like a micro wave
i) What figure of speech is contained in the extract above?
ii) What does it mean?
b) … he had aged at least ten years within that short time…
i) What does the writer mean in the above extract?
c) i) Was Sulayman’s wife cheating on him?
ii) What proof can you give for your answer?
d) … what he had done
i) What is the grammatical term for the above extract?
ii) What is its function?
e) How will you describe the relationship between Sulayman and Mallen?
f) Why did Sulayman call the police?
g) Find a word or phrase to replace the following as used in the passage.
i) ado ii) flooded iii) disposition iv) wont v) Chillaxing vi) grotesque

THE DOCTOR’S DILEMMA

Doctor Alieu Bitteye stepped on his accelerator and sped off towards the hospital. He couldn’t go fast enough and kept silently praying that the traffic remains in its current state so that he could reach in time to safe the lady in labour and perhaps, her child as well. He had no other thoughts in his head, only how to reach and do what he did best; help pregnant women go through the pains of child birth. When he reached the hospital junction, the traffic lights had turned red but he pressed on nonetheless. He knew that it was dangerous to do that, but so was a gynecologist being late to the operating theater. ‘I will have to deal with the consequences later,’ he thought.
He arrived at the hospital and rushed past the reception desk leaving Jones, the receptionist, shocked. He had never seen Dr. Bitteye in such an agitated state before. He was dressed as if he was going to dinner but here he was rushing into the hospital. This must be an emergency.
Dr. Bitteye didn’t wait for the nurse standing at the door to let him in but rather barged in past her. Aisha was sprawled on the hospital bed and seemed to be unconscious. Dr. Bitteye went straight away to operate on her. He was her doctor and therefore knew that this was the way to go, having operated on her all the three times she’d had a baby before.
It took frantic work to do all what needed to be done. Dr. Bitteye kept yelling and screaming at the nurses who were in attendance.
‘Don’t just stand there, get me a scalpel!’ he shouted to one of the nurses. She was so scared that it became difficult to identify which one was a knife and which one was a scalpel. But she managed to get the right one after some conscious effort anyway. Doctor Bitteye must be having something on his mind, he’s never like this. He’s always gentle and caring. ‘What must have changed overnight?’ she asked herself, handing over the scalpel.
The cry of the baby eased the tension and brought a broad smile on Dr. Bitteye’s face, the kind of smile only the first cry of a baby brought to him. Not even a candle light evening with his wife brought that on. The thought of his wife brought back the scene of earlier that evening.
When he had left Annie agape near the car and driving like crazy to the hospital, he did not think of the repercussions. They were just about to board the car to a party they had been invited to, when the call came in requesting his immediate presence at the hospital. He now felt his tenseness return. ‘How am I going to make her understand the compelling pull that drags a doctor to the hospital in such situations? She had said she will pack up and go away if I leave her there. But she’s forgiving and I hope I am right,’ he thought.
An hour later, he entered his apartment and was greeted by a deafening silence. ‘I am dead;’ he wailed and slumped into a nearby chair.

SHOULD WE LEGISLATE IlLEGAL MIGRATION?

We hear and see many success stories about people who reach Europe through the back way. They send money home and build beautiful houses and, or send their parents to perform the fifth pillar of Islam – Hajj. These success stories serve as motivation for others to also join the bandwagon. It has now become common to hear of young girls also risking the high seas to go and pursue greener pastures! Well, my readers may think that I am somehow obsessed with the issue of travelling to Europe via the risky and highly perilous back way. That may actually be true, waw daf ma jaahal di. The truth is I can’t help it. For, luring as these success stories are, we must not forget the gory stories of drowning as well, or, for that matter the stories of those who are trapped in Libya and other strife prone parts of Africa when they are transiting through these to Europe. Now, let us try to examine thoroughly the reason(s) why people risk their lives to reach the shores of Lampedusa or Spain. Why do young men do this seemingly illogical thing? It is true that the economic crisis have hit the world (and we are a part of that world) hard but is it reason enough to abandon your family in a venture that is most likely to end in your death? Funny thing is, it is said that it is very expensive to reach Europe through the back way. Rumour has it that one needs at least eighty to ninety thousand dalasi to be able to make the journey. Now, that is some real money…. Oops, at least for a poor teacher like me and those in my ilk. With that kind of money, I think rather than waste it on a journey without return one would be better off spending it on a business venture here at home instead. Truth be told, Europe is not as flushed as it used to be. Most of the people who leave our country and go to Europe find it a far cry from what they expected. I have seen a man in Oxford City operating a barbing salon. I was informed that he used to be a branch manager of one of our local banks here. He went to England on a visitor’s visa and overstayed and thus his job as a barber! In Stockholm, Sweden I met another man who pulled me aside after a programme we attended and told me that he had been there for fifteen years. He said that initially he was fine because he had a good job and was doing well but that for the previous five years, he hadn’t been able to find a job. No job, no money, no way back to The Gambia. I am in no way saying that people should not go to Europe, but I think if you have to go, go the right way, wolla? There is no denying that the country is hard but we have something that many others lack. In the few countries I have visited outside The Gambia, I have not seen people free enough to count money (cash) of up to ten thousand. The reason is that they are afraid that if they do that they may be robbed or even be killed in the process. They use credit cards instead. This reminds me of something I read in the newspapers last week announcing the death of the pen. In those countries, cash is dead; they use credit cards and other means instead. In The Gambia though, sometimes you see someone counting money of up to ten thousand or more in the street because it is safe here. I for one, would use such money to start a business, invest in something rather than seek to go back way. Let’s face it; no country on Earth has it all. Wherever one may go, you will find want and poverty, the only difference is in degree. What is the way forward? The solution to the problem of migration, legal or illegal, in my opinion, does not lie in legislation. We see that in Europe nowadays, most politicians focus their campaign on ending migration. That sucks! If they really don’t want people to migrate to their countries, then they have a moral duty to better the economic condition of the countries from which people migrate. To this end, it is also important to say that the solution to the problem is not in aid but in trade. We live in a global village; after all, so one crisis affects everyone. Equal opportunity and fair trade will go a long way in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. And I am not talking about individuals here, I am talking about nations. It is the duty of the governments of Africa and other countries from which people regularly risk their lives to create a conducive environment for investment so that jobs will be created for the youths of their countries. It is unfortunate to see the extravagant waste of money that goes on in some African countries whilst their people are wallowing in abject poverty. It is common to hear in the news of African presidents buying private jets while the budget of the country will not be able to accommodate such lavish expenditure. As a result, some donor countries think twice before they give their monies to corrupt leaders who will put it in their pockets instead of spending it on the development of the country. In fact, this is the cause of some of the bloodiest conflicts of sub-Saharan Africa. Here, the case of the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND) comes to mind. The central government was using the oil wealth which is largely deposited in the areas of the Niger Delta and completely ignoring the welfare of the people of their land. We have heard of the Shell Oil Company executive members living in mansions while the people around them live in abject poverty. This causes some of them to attack oil pipes so as to get their share of the national cake, as it were. The examples are so many that we can’t list all of them. Europe has woken up to the economic problem migration can cause them and as such have started formulating laws which will make it very difficult for someone to get into their countries. But the truth is, they have a moral duty to help the poor African and other backward countries to stand on their own feet. As has already been said, this will not be accomplished by aid and grants. It will only be achieved through the leveling of the playing field in trade and commerce. One can see the bias of the West in the fact that they always welcome people with skills into their countries but if someone has no skill that is marketable in Europe, then they will do everything to make sure you don’t leave your country or get into theirs. Mustn’t we wake up to this fallacy?

RANDOM THOUGHTS

My dignity is stolen
My pride broken
My efforts are brazen
Atmosphere an oven

I am sad
Sometimes mad
At others glad
When properly clad

I am dejected
Having been rejected
I feel neglected
I am the people reflected

I am angry
Cus I am hungry

Doomed!

THE AGONY OF AFRICA!

It is tricky to know where to start when one wants to catalogue the woes of the African continent. Do you start with poverty, disease, illiteracy, corruption or the problem of leadership? All these are of mammoth significance to the African continent and have to be discussed at one point in time or the other, but the sooner the better. This is more so when, instead of moving forward, most African countries seem to be retrogressing. It is ironic to know that the African continent is so endowed with natural resources that it is unfathomable to see the poverty we wallow in. For instance, we know that Nigeria, the largest oil producer in Africa, has the eleventh largest oil reserve in the world. Yet Nigeria is plagued by constant and endemic poverty largely due to mismanagement of these natural resources. The case of Nigeria is not an isolated case as the same, or even worse, is observable in most other African countries.
Looking at the list of problems in Africa, all of them could have been or could be solved if the will was there. First, Africans have to work together in the area of trade and support each other economically without the interference of the West. If one African country has a commodity or product which is needed by another, then it will make sense if they trade with each other so as to promote wealth and economic activity. This will promote the creation of job opportunities for the youth of Africa as they are the ones who are involved in most economic activities.
The same could be said on the issue of disease control. African countries should work together to set up disease control centres who will do research and study particular disease and develop vaccines in a united effort to eradicate viruses which are wiping out our populations. Take the case of the current Ebola Virus which is ravaging the West African countries with no end in sight! The Western countries have their disease control centres and, of course, they will show interest because we live in a global village and anything that affects one country is likely to affect another as well. But if there had been research centres in Africa it would have made the development of a vaccine and a cure that much easier.
Illiteracy is another very significant issue Africa has to contend with. The lack of basic education in most remote African countries is damaging the chances of most African children. Certainly, great efforts are being made in some countries to provide basic education for all but that is also hindered by the ignorance of some parents who do not know the importance of education. In The Gambia, for example, the government has made great efforts in recent years and the enrollment has certainly improved. Also, more Gambians are now having access to university education not only here at home but there are thousands of Gambians studying abroad in various fields of knowledge at present.
With all the natural resources we have in Africa, development has been slow in coming, if it is coming at all. What is responsible for this sorry state of affairs? First, as has already been hinted, is the lack of a focused and determined leadership. With most African leaders so shortsighted that they cannot see beyond, ‘their pockets’ it is clear that they cannot move the continent in the right direction. We need leadership that is honest and selfless. Leaders who will put the national interest first, and the national interest second and then personal interest third. To achieve that, we need an informed and interested citizenry who are mature enough to choose the right leaders.
The issue of leadership is closely connected to the issue of corruption. When we talk of corruption, it becomes painfully clear that the leaders alone cannot, and should not be blamed for this. The ordinary citizen is as corrupt, if not more, as the leaders. People practice corruption at all levels of society and as such, they are as much to be blamed as their so-called leaders.
To recapitulate therefore, Africa needs to revamp its education system and make it more focused on practical output than entirely focused on passing examinations. What I want to put across is that the government should give guidelines to educational institutions that at the end of a given period, students should be able to do certain things on their own. But if the entire system is prescribed and students have to pass an examination, then that is the only thing the youth will focus on. Sometimes one finds out that having excellent grades does not translate into being smart in the work place. It is strange someone with very good results from high school, but taken to an office they will not be able to do simple things. Also, they will be as ill-informed about world issues as those who have never sat in a classroom.
Besides this shortcoming, exam focused education has another more dangerous disadvantage. When students are so much pressed about passing exams, there is a danger that those who do not come out with good grades will be viewed as failures in life. If, let’s say, they don’t have a credit in Math or English, they cannot go to university or college or do anything for that matter. They have been in a school system for twelve years. Meaning they did not learn any skills or trade, now they cannot further their education and as such will ultimately see themselves as failures. If we were talking of tens of youths the problem would not have been a source of great concern but we are talking of thousands here or perhaps hundreds of thousands all over Africa. They become frustrated and easy recruits for unscrupulous rebel leaders to wreak havoc on our continent. We must introduce or should I say reintroduce civic education in schools so as to prepare the young ones to love their countries and be models of self sacrifice. As this has been the trend in Africa in the past, it is not strange that coups and counter coups have been rife in the continent.
The way forward therefore is more focused and planned education for the youth. The creation of young people who know that they don’t have to depend on the government to do everything for them, but also who will have the skills to build something for themselves thus creating job opportunities. This will also promote self reliance with which comes dignity and self respect. We must stop looking to the West for solutions to all our problems and focus on what we have, what we can do and who we are!

Love
Tha Scribbler