NO.2 MONDAY 25TH MARCH 2013
Welcome back to another edition of the Encounter, a column where different people are accorded the platform to share their experiences and achievements. In today’s edition of the encounter, we bring you a face-to-face discussion with the first ever Gambian female sea pilot. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science (BSc) in Nautical Science from the Regional Maritime University in Ghana and a Master of Science Degree (MSc) in Maritime Administration from the World Maritime University in Sweden. Read on to find out more about this person
G-Now- Madam, can you please introduce yourself to our dear readers?
Rohey Samba- My name is Rohey Samba. I work at the Gambia Maritime Administration. I also write during my leisure time and I have recently published two poetry books.
What is your marital status?
I am married to a very wonderful man, Ismaila Jallow, who is calm, collected and very down-to-earth. We have been married for eleven years this year.
Can you give an account of your educational background and some of your achievements in your respective schools?
I did my primary and secondary schooling at Ndow’s Schools and graduated in 2001. When I sat to the Common Entrance Examinations in 1995, I was among the three young students accorded full scholarship by the then AFPRC Transitional Government.
I joined the Gambia Ports Authority as a Trainee Pilot in December 2001. I was inducted and underwent on the job training for two years. In 2003, I was offered a scholarship to further train in Ghana at the Regional Maritime University, where I obtained a BSc in Nautical Science in 2007. I came out as Overall Best Student and received the Admiralty of Ghana Navy Award for Best Student in Nautical Science.
Upon my return, I was promoted to Junior Pilot in 2009. In January 2010, I was seconded to the newly established Gambia Maritime Administration as Assistant Marine Surveyor. I received a scholarship from IMO to pursue a course in Maritime Affairs, specializing in Maritime Safety and Environment Administration at the World Maritime University in Sweden in September 2010. I obtained a Masters with Honours and was promoted to Principal Officer Maritime Safety and Environment upon my return, a post I hold to date.
What motivated you to become a writer?
Writing has always been my passion. I love to watch people, conjure their emotions, their thoughts and their feelings without judgment or prejudice. I love to ponder about nature, creation and the Creator. Wound together, the fabric is created for exploration of the mind in its deepest recesses, which I can only access through my writing. Effectively, by writing, I echo the lives of other people through the tenets of my own beliefs and experiences. Again focusing on things over which I have influence and/or control, I jab gently yet unequivocally what I hold to be true. Writing for me is therefore a dream come true. A means to bring about the change I want to see in society and within ourselves.
We learned that you are the first ever sea female pilot in The Gambia. How did that come about?
In 2001 when I had recently completed high school, my uncle Adama Samba (Hala) showed me a newspaper advertisement for the post of Trainee Pilot at the Gambia Ports Authority and suggested I apply. Before that, I’d never heard about sea pilotage or even been to the GPA for that matter. As fate would have it, I was called for an interview which I prepared myself for and amongst many other applicants I got the job along with three other young men. I was highly motivated on the job by my bosses especially Pilots Dad Mboob and Kulay Manneh. I spent the best years of my career thus far at the Harbours Department at GPA.
What is your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement right now is the confidence I am gaining with age transpierced by the knowledge of profound possibilities for Gambian women in general. At the moment, I love myself, loving what I’m doing and for me this is the greatest gift of all.
Who is your role model?
I have many role models through the years. Some have nurtured and fostered me, some have changed my career facility, some have broadened my mental and intellectual capacity and some have inspired me in ways that are very difficult to express at the spur of the moment. To be specific my role models have been my parents, my guardians, my teachers, and some of my bosses. I am worthy today because of the culmination of life experiences I have garnered over the years through these people.
Can you tell us some of your challenges?
My biggest challenge is what to write without offending a soul yet, remain true to myself. You see, most people do not like to be despised so they develop different personas for different people and/or situations. A day in time, these facades will crash, so one better be true to oneself.
Another one is my very high expectation of people. It’s a challenge every time my peace of mind is shattered due to disappointment by people I hold in high esteem. Expectations in general are future disappointments planned out in advance, so I’m learning to expect less from people.
You authored two books: “Behind My Back” and “Heart Songs” which are currently hitting the market. How did it come about?
Behind My Back and Heart Songs are complementary books that were bundled in one book called “Tomorrow Waits.” When I finally had money to publish on my own, I decided to separate the two parts of the book into two different books because in spite of the central theme being the same, the style and rhythm of the two parts were intrinsically opposed.
Actually, 99% of the poems were written whilst I was away studying for my BSc in Ghana. It’s funny that a majority of the themes centered on life’s three days espoused by H.E. President Jammeh, i.e. yesterday, today and tomorrow.
With regards the themes, the notion is that yesterday is gone, today is now and tomorrow waits. Sadly people are either too busy dwelling on issues yesterday or dreaming about tomorrow to enjoy today, which is a gift and that’s why, it is called present.
Today, we all have to agree that we are doing better, with the coming of age of the internet era, proliferation of high institutions of learning and increased engagement in youth activism by an enlightened youth population. Yet our problems are inspirational since somebody is always doing better. Sadly everybody is yearning for more than he/she is entitled so we live in a society of morose individuals who should have been happier than ever if only they had appreciated the gift of the present. Contentment is what we need and faith to guide us to a tomorrow of possibilities as it waits to happen.
When was your happiest moment?
My happiest moment in life was when I had first child. As a writer, in preparation for his birth I wrote the poem - My Unborn Child; I was carrying him during my final year in Ghana. When he was born, he put everything in perspective. I never knew such love existed before. It made me look at children with a different eye.
When was your proudest moment?
My proudest moment was when I had my Masters Degree. It was like, I have done it! The reason being, I got married very early, much to the trepidation of my father, whose biggest fear was that I would not pursue my academic inclinations. When I had my first degree, it was a sigh of relief and when I finally obtained my Masters degree, I exhaled! Yet the sky is the limit, if I have the opportunity to pursue my PhD, why not? I’ll love to learn till I’m at my deathbed as it is what will make me complete.
What advice do you have for young people who want to be writers like you?
My advice would be to be disciplined and persistent. When I say disciplined, it means to keep on writing whenever you have the muse, fastidiously and unwaveringly, because talent is not genius, you need to hone your skills through practice.
Again be persistent because if you are not, you will be easily consumed by the clout or discouraged by petit squabbles. A passion is worth living for as much as it is worth dying for. So write.
How do you feel when young people regard you as their mentor especially after reading your books?
I feel honor, privilege and humility because I am myself inspired by people such as Mariama Khan, whose first launching of Futa Toro made me dare to realize my dream of authorship. I am not satisfied being a spectator in life; I believe that by writing, I can positively influence people so that if that call is recognized, it’s a bonus.
What is the secret behind your success?
There is no secret at all - its hard work and dedication to duty and God and moreover veracity to self. I touched a little on that in the poems Behind My Back and Speech of My Silence.
As a writer, what plans do you have for people who love reading your books?
I am a writer and one of the things I will like to do is not just to write for writing sake. I’m starting with poetry because it is easier but I’m better at prose and storytelling. I’ll like to touch on issues dear to me such as women empowerment in the real sense and not by lip service as is common in today’s society. I will love one day to collaborate with Social and Child Welfare to tackle issues affecting our youth, expound on teenage pregnancy, rapes and child delinquency amongst others. These institutions have the raw data but we the writers can make light of the situation in forms of parody and educative texts to inform the populace. I believe when we read these books written by Gambians for Gambians, it will have greater impact.
In short, I will like to effect positive change in the attitudes of teenagers and youth in general but especially young women because we are in greater need of mentorship if the truth is to be told.
Have you launched your books yet?
No, not yet.
Having published with my own meager resources, I could not launch the books on my own because I don’t have the funds to do so. Thus after publishing the books I wrote to all the major companies in the country for sponsorship to advertise and/or launch the books, enclosing a copy each of my books, but I did not receive any positive feedback. My sister, from the same mother, Ndey Kumba Demba, helped me get an interview at the GRTS, which was phenomenal in that right after the interview, I received many phone calls from well wishers who used to read my articles on the Daily Observer newspaper and within a short period of time, I was able to sell a reasonable number of books at the local stores. Good things take time so it’s okay not to launch because what is not meant to be cannot be. I guess I have to work harder the next time around. Once there is life, there is hope. I’m still young.
Your final words
I am very proud of what you are doing Fatou – interviewing young people, profiling them - this is very educative and motivating. Thanks so much for the good work.