Iman Hussein is one of The Gambia’s leading educators. At 75, he says modestly that he is retired, but when asked about his day to day projects, it’s clear that’s not exactly the case. He still manages a 750-student high school he started, his wife runs a daycare centre below their home and his entire family has dedicated their lives to educating their country’s youngest generation.
Iman and his family live above the local preschool and day care centre that his wife leads. Dozens of local children arrive each day for class, the youngest ones as part of the child care programme where they begin to study animals, the alphabet and numbers, the older ones to work on more advanced reading and writing skills. Detailed paintings of animals on the outside of the school building welcome the students each morning and make clear to any passerby that it’s a place passionate about education.
Iman’s early career began as a Regional Education Manager, but it took a sharp turn after a family tragedy. After one of his sons passed away, he chose to start a high school in Banjul in the young man’s honour. The school continued to grow until it reached the remarkable point where it is today — over 750 students. That number may not seem unusual by U.S. standards, but launching and sustaining a school of that size in a developing country is no small feat.
His family also adopted young children, so many that they stopped counting. They just considered it part of their service, an extension of their commitment to the Banjul community.
When he took us on a tour of the preschool his family runs on the bottom floor of the building, the pride swept across his face. Even if he could not see very well, the sounds and energy of the place could be sensed.
Months ago, Iman noticed he could no longer write cheques to make payments for his students’ school supplies. Vision in both of his eyes became nothing more than a blur. And he could no longer recognise the faces of his students.
Now that he was losing his sight and couldn’t help with the programmes, how much longer could he expect students to fill the classrooms? How could he keep teachers if he wasn’t able to write their pay cheques?
When he was screened at a local eye centre, he was referred to Sheikh Zayed Regional Eye Care Centre, HelpMeSee’s partner in the area and The Gambia’s top eye hospital.
Iman was one of the first dozen patients treated during the launch of HelpMeSee’s campaign in The Gambia. Just days after he had the procedure on his eye, we followed up with him at home. The result? He was already back at work alongside his family in the preschool.