Samateh Died On October 22, 2014
Mr. Momodou Samateh, the principal of Kinderdorp Bottrop Technical High School, in Brikama was never famous or rich; never led troops into battle; never found the cure for any diseases. Mr. Samateh never led troops into battle, but he served his country as a teacher, and he was proud to have done so. He loved his country, despite the times it bewildered him, and he taught his students to love it as well and to contribute to the best of their abilities. He never let other men down. He fulfilled every obligation he had ever undertaken. His word was his bond, and everyone knew it. I never heard him utter a lie, nor intentionally deceive. By the usual standards, he wasn’t known due to his quietness; however, he was something much more important— he was a ‘Good Man’. Great men will change their whole world. True, yet they do it from a distance, from a height most of us never dream about reaching. But a Good Man walked among us. We saw him every day. And it wasn’t until times like now that we realise what he had given us.
Momodou Samateh was a teacher of all things. His methods were simple. He taught by example and rationalisation especially when faced with an ethical dilemma. As his former student, his character was the foundation for my conscience. His teachings were endless. Let me share a few. Mr. Samateh was strong in body, mind, spirit, and in his commitment. He never missed a single day of class from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation, his perfect attendance award being the one honor he remembers receiving as a child in Faraba Bantang Primary, St. Augustine High, and at the helm of Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, leading to his master’s degree in Education in the United Kingdom. Mr. Samateh’s deeds weren’t just a mere eulogy, but a posthumous recognition that deserves declaration, and not residence behind closed doors. He may not have been a famous man, but in the towns of Gunjur, Brikama, and The Gambia, where he spent (almost) all of his life, he was honestly respected by everyone who regarded him as a wonderful provider of knowledge. His contributions to higher education were indisputable because he provided for so many needy Gambian students by selling his sweat and making sure they succeeded. A notable example of his work began at Gunjur Secondary where he taught the late Oustas Omar Bun Jeng. His hard work was beyond the comprehension of my generation—notably, during the time period from 1989 to the present. He worked tremendously hard and rose from Vice-principal to Principal in 1993 at Bottrop High School. He desired a better life for his children and the children of Gambians. Consequently, his natural intelligence was recognized, and he accepted a white-collar job which he handled superbly. The indelible mark of his teachings, intelligence, and personal character was visibly seen in the primacies’ of Bottrop, Gambia, and the world-at-large where his students made immense contributions to socio-economic and political developments.
Mr. Samateh was self-made and self-reliant from his education to his career; he used his skills with all kinds of tools—from chalk and blackboards, to books and pens. He engaged with the world as a man who would be its master in mentoring—producing teachers, administrators, engineers, and countless others for The Gambia. Mr. Samateh was conscientious and determined to help many an underprivileged student’s education most of whom are now contributing to the national development of The Gambia and in the world-at-large. He loved a good joke, including every imaginable kind of ethnic joke. Yet his humour was never mean-spirited, nor designed to hurt or humiliate. I never once heard him utter a racial or ethnic slur, nor did he ever treat anyone of any station with anything other than with respect, and supportive kindness, encouraging them to succeed in life. He never treated anyone of any nationality, religion, skin color, physical, or mental condition with anything other than unremitting respect, until the person proved undeserving of it. Consequently, Mr. Samateh had a quiet dignity, respecting himself the way he respected others.
As he faced his final days, his body ravaged by diabetes that attacked his organs, he would occasionally lose his good humor, but never did he have one moment of self-pity. His unflagging support for personal development in education, and in life, created the perfect balance producing a childhood environment for me as well as for many of his students that today gives the impression of a ‘lost American dream’. The day before he passed away, when students and his neighbors alike asked him how he was doing, he gave the same answer he had given every day—I’m fine. I loved him; I admired him, I am proud to be one of his many students because he was the type of individual that our country needs; A man whose legacies were worth commendation and open emulation. I know how much you all loved him. And while it is natural for us to be sorry he’s dead – it is infinitely more important for us to be happy that he lived, and that we were privileged to share with him a part of his life.
By Lamin Keita
Madison, Wisconsin, US