Grenadian educator sows ‘seeds of curiosity, knowledge’ on maiden mission to The Gambia

Mam-Yassin Sarr and Dr. Ansha Clement.
Photo courtesy Dr. Ansha Clement

On returning from her maiden mission to The Gambia, West Africa, Grenadian-born educator Dr. Ansha Clement says she sought to “ignite young minds with the wonders of science education.”

“My journey was not just about visiting schools; it was to sow the seeds of curiosity and knowledge, knowing that education is the key to a brighter future,” Dr. Clement – a trained principal, master teacher at Math for America, chemistry teacher and author of “Baby’s First Science: ABC” – told Caribbean Life exclusively on Saturday.

The Baldwin, Nassau County, Long Island, resident was among leading educators from the United States and the United Kingdom, who undertook the nine-day mission, from Feb. 10-18, which sought, among other things, to “lay the foundation for a more educated and skilled workforce” in The Gambia.

Among other educators on the mission were: William “Billy” Green, the 2023 New York State Teacher of the Year and a master chemistry teacher at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School in New York City; and Alhassan Susso, the 2019 New York State Teacher of the Year, who founded the Namie Foundation, a tribute to his beloved grandmother, dedicated to advocating for educators and global education initiatives.

Dr. Clement makes presentation of books to The Gambia Teachers' Union.
Dr. Clement makes presentation of books to The Gambia Teachers’ Union. Photo courtesy Dr. Ansha Clement

“The schools I visited were beacons of hope amidst economic challenges,” Dr. Clement said. “Eager faces greeted me with curiosity and enthusiasm.”

She said conversations about science education flowed “effortlessly”, as she shared anecdotes and insights, hoping to inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators.

“But inspiration alone is not enough; access to resources is crucial,” Dr. Clement said. “That’s why I made it a point to donate books to various institutions, including the Teachers’ Union, Timbooktoo Bookstore and Starfish International.

“These humble contributions aimed to support science literacy at a young age, providing students with the tools to explore and understand the world around them,” she added, stating that two individuals she met stood out as “beacons of change and influence”.

“Their dedication to education and empowerment was palpable, inspiring me with their unwavering commitment to shaping a better future for their communities,” the Grenadian-born educator said.

She said one such individual was Mam-Yassin Sarr, a visionary educator, “whose passion for women’s education was infectious.”

Dr. Clement said Mam-Yassin Sarr is the co-founder and director of Starfish International, a nonprofit organization “that seeks to advance humanity through girls’ education and service-learning opportunities in The Gambia.”

“In the words of Mam-Yassin, ‘I am honored to be able to say that my academic and service life has been focused on practical ways to play my part in helping bring to fruition the ideal that the world is one country and mankind its citizens’”, Dr. Clement said.

“It was empowering to see living proof of how one person can actively break barriers and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society,” she added.

Dr. Clement said Sanna Camara, “a trailblazer in his own right,” was another remarkable individual she had the privilege of meeting on the mission.

She said he is a journalist who spent years in exile before returning to his home country, The Gambia.

The Timbooktoo Bookstore in The Gambia.
The Timbooktoo Bookstore in The Gambia. Photo by Dr. Ansha Clement

Dr. Clement said Camara has over two decades of experience covering The Gambia as a reporter, staff writer and editor of several publications and international outlets.

Camara worked as the media officer and senior communications officer at the Office of the President of Banjul between 2018 and 2020, Dr. Clement said.

She said he currently works as an independent journalist and media consultant, “continuously covering topics from migration reporting to transitional justice in The Gambia.”

During the mission, Dr. Clement said US and UK educators, among other things, visited several schools; convened with their Gambian teacher colleagues and education officials in sharing observations and insights; conducted professional training for Gambian teachers; held an awards ceremony at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Center; toured the rich history of The Gambia; and learned about the culture, “enabling them to better support their immigrant students, especially those from West Africa.”

Dr. Clement said the delegation also visited the “home” of Kunta Kinte, a fictional character in the 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” by American author Alex Haley.

“Kunta Kinte was based on one of Haley’s ancestors, a Gambian man who was born around 1750, enslaved, and taken to America where he died around 1822,” said Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. “Haley said that his account of Kunta’s life in Roots is a mixture of fact and fiction.”

Dr. Clement said “Baby’s First Science: ABC” – her first children’s book that was launched in Brooklyn last Christmas – was available at the Timbuktu Bookstore, the largest bookstore in The Gambia, and at The National Library.

In getting the opportunity to travel to The Gambia, she said she was able to “observe and experience new educational settings, build relationships with great educators from around the world,” and created “a space” for her to be “curious, reflective and explorative of the impact and differences” that she can make “globally, specifically in the Caribbean.”

Dr. Clement – who earned her Doctor of Education (Ed. D) in organizational leadership, with emphasis on organizational development, from Grand Canyon University – said the mission helped her to better “develop an understanding of goals for educational systems, and the best ways for expansion and growth within systems but also within stakeholders of those educational systems.”

In addition, she said the trip helped her to “exhibit integrity, develop specificity behind visions and be compassionate to inspire all stakeholders.”

She said it was her “first step to making systemic change globally, socially and culturally,” stating that, in order to be a transformational leader, one has to be “self-aware, authentic, able to collaborate (and) build networks to influence positive change.”

The statue of Juffureh.
The statue of Juffureh. Photo by Dr. Ansha Clement

“As I bid farewell to The Gambia, I carried with me memories of smiles and laughter, eyes alight with curiosity and hope, and the humbling experiences of the origins of the slave trade from visiting Kunta Kinteh Island and Jufureh Island,” Dr. Clement said.

“My journey was a reminder that the power of education knows no bounds and that, by investing in the minds of tomorrow, we can create a brighter and more prosperous future for all,” she added. “I take these experiences back to my home country of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique as a global agent for change.”