interviewBy Ousman Njie
After undergoing the basic primary and secondary education, Michael Hamadi Secka was later enrolled at Armitage High School. He taught for sometime, went to the Gambia College and did the General Teacher's Certificate. Michael came back to the field again and later did the Higher Teacher's Certificate. He taught for sometime in various schools and went to the University of the Gambia. Presently he is working with Corriculum Research and Development Department in Banjul.
Mr. Secka has authored over 10 books and in this edition of Arts and Music, he had an exclusive with Kebba about the books and other issues:
Kebba: Can you please tell us about the books you have written so far?
Mr. Secka: Well, presently I wrote 10 books. Initially, I wrote 4 books which were The Shock, Love Infatuation And Broken Heart, Education In Tears And Women In Distress, The Trials Of Mandela. I later wrote other books among them a book called It's your conscience which matters and not the system, Africa robbed of its history, culture and dignity, Management in Gambian schools and also Critical Essays In Education, among others.
Kebba: Were they successful books?
Mr. Secka: To an extent, yes, they were successful books especially the book called Africa robbed its history, culture and dignity. This is because the transition that Africa underwent is good to expose it to the young people. Africa has played a very important role but most Africans are prone to works of people. The other books also have been successful because one of the books focuses on the developing countries, how women suffer to educate their children.
There are children who could have been potential academics and intellectuals but for one reason or the other they are not because of poor background. The books in general, are in close affinity with African culture. If you look at literature you find out that there is no literature that is complete.
Kebba: Have you arranged to make sure your books go to the schools for students' usage?
Mr. Secka: Yes, I did that arrangement and I must say that they are positive. I want to thank the ministry of basic and secondary education, they have been so helpful and most of my books are in the system. They are not only looked at the upper basic and secondary schools but even at the university. They have been patronizing me. The six publications are yet to be in the system but even without that information is for sharing. The essence of my book is to share information to communicate to people who have eyes but cannot see, those who have ears but can't hear. Once again thanks to education ministry, they really supported my books.
Kebba: Tell the layperson what book writing entails?
Mr. Secka: You have to pass through a lot of hurdles. We write in English and want to communicate with the people but we realise that we are communicating with only the elite. If you look at the society the elite comprise just 15%. The information we are trying to send belongs to the local people, the oppressed, but they cannot read or write. So they cannot get what we are trying to send across.
Book writing involves money and is expensive and that we have a low reading culture, very few people read. To write in a developing country is frustrating because there is no stable electricity. You can be in the middle of your book and electricity goes off and sometimes you lose all what is written. These are some of the problems that we undergo.
Kebba: What is motivating you to write after going through all these challenges?
Mr. Secka: Talking is the measurement of humanity, so all along there has been what is called a cultural gap in the sense that most academics focus on pre-colonialism and post colonialism but during the system not much has been talked about. I then told myself that I have to communicate to the young people so that I can talk about our culture. Europe should not see Africa just as a mere consumer of goods and a mere colony, Africa plays a very important role towards civilization. Our children can attend the highest institutions in the world but they will not be fed with the right information. This I think is what is motivating me to write to the oppressed.
Kebba: How many copies of the books have you been publishing?
Mr. Secka: Altogether the books I have printed are over 50,000 and they have all sold very well.
Kebba: The four books you are working on are they published or about to be?
Mr. Secka: I published six recently and there are other five that I am working on. There is a poem I am working on called Casamance. So, I was telling them to sit and dialogue and maintain the peace in that region. Early morning in the village, also a poem I am working on, talks about a lot of issues. Another book I am working on is the back way journey. I was trying to discourage the youths from venturing to risk the back way journey. In doing that too there should be things created for them here so that they can stay.
I am working on another book called False Image. In that book I was talking about our young men who go overseas and marry white people and tell them that they have no wife or children back home; they introduce their own wives as sisters. The trauma the wife feels is what I want to expose. I'm working on books every day.
Kebba: It seems you are very busy, how much time do you have to write books?
Mr. Secka: I can say I write books at any time. When you ask me this, my mind goes to Picasso when he was asked why he was great. And the answer he gave was if you can dedicate every 59 seconds of your minute, every 59 minutes of your hour, every 22 hours of your day, every 360 days of your year and every 8 months of your months, if you dedicate it to your work, it becomes very successful. So I write at any time of the day and especially when I'm much oppressed and frustrated. Sometimes late at night is when I wake up and write. Sometimes when I am on holiday or on leave I do most of my writings. Sometimes during weekends I lock myself up in the office and write. Basically I can say I write at all times.
Kebba: How do you assess the students of today's generation? Are they developing the reading culture?
Mr. Secka: One can say that at the university, I am seeing the reading culture developing in one way or the other. But it is unfortunate that most of our youths are not reading. They rely so much on the internet. I do take information from the internet but you have to ask yourself about the author of the source you are taking from the net. But our kids just swallow whatever they see from the internet. They should do their own research than to rely entirely on the internet. The youths are not reading as expected. They have more technologies now but they are not changed because in our days you need to pass your subjects before you are promoted. But now students with very low grades go to senior schools.
Kebba: How do you market your books?
Mr. Secka: I do the publications. I have not taken my books to Bookshops for one reason or the other. The moment I publish them, they are sold off. I am even thinking of reprinting my books and they are already being booked. I have my own contacts and upon consultation I deliver my books to them.
Kebba: What will you recommend to the education authorities about the quality of education nowadays?
Mr. Secka: You will force me to look at what you mean by education. But by the definition of Thomas, who said "education is a supreme human gift to a unique individual that helps him to become what he has in him to become. You can see that now our kids have enough schools and buildings. What education should do is to control the number of schools. It is not mere buildings that make a school. Even if the buildings are built of gold what is important is what the child comes out with from there. If the buildings are nice and the quality is not there, then that's funny. We need to have good schools with enough learning facilities including workshops and other learning materials. But if you say science while there are no laboratories in most schools, how can they become scientists?
The education department should try to divorce education from politics because it is a very complex issue. Educationists should sit down and discuss what types of schools need to be built and what kinds of students are needed.
We need to do research and think harder.
Kebba: I am told that professors need to write lots of books to become professors. Am I correct to call you a professor?
Mr. Secka: (laughs) You are flattering me. Those titles will come into the essays I'm working on, that is the mystification and the quantification of knowledge. All these titles are so mystified. There are millions who are far better than professors and intellectuals. They are better than those intellectuals but they are not known nor treated so for one reason or the other. These are titles just to confuse us but of course we need to respect them.
Kebba: What advice do you have for a reader of this interview who will want to emulate you?
Mr. Secka: Well, the person can do even better than me. The person should be good in planning and being time conscious. Let them not only look at the money aspect of things but they should be ready to sacrifice. People are sacrificing and working and they don't even have a thank you at the end of the day. Sacrifice is important. They may face lots of challenges but that is what justifies their humanity. They should make lots of research.
Kebba: How can you be contacted?
Mr. Secka: I can be contacted through the great office curriculum region one, state department for education, ministry of basic and secondary education. I can also be contacted on telephone number- 9313951 or 7723846.
Kebba: Thank you for our time.
Mr. Secka: It's a pleasure, thank you.