This afternoon, a friend from the Gambian government took me to see a few of the sites around Banjul. The first we stopped was Gambia’s sacred crocodile pool: this pool was discovered long before colonial times, the home of myriad crocodiles, and has since developed into a must-see spot in Bakau.
As we approached the pool, we saw a crocodile or a model of a crocodile lying out in the open, stock still. I started to ask one of the attendants in the crocodile was real, and he said, The plastic one? So I walk over to the plastic crocodile and begin to reach out to touch his long nose when another attendants firmly instructs me not to touch the snout, as it’s very dangerous: just the tail. Oh. Not plastic.
Yesterday I flew to Banjul, the Gambia, where I’m working on an impact evaluation of an education project. In economics, it’s tempting to examine the research on the topic and to neglect the place, de-emphasizing context. To add to the education reading I’ve done, I took a look around to see what other recent research has been done in the Gambia. For being continental Africa’s smallest country, there is a lot.
Some of it is far from my subject, like the paper on agriculture-related injuries and rural nursing service. But other research, despite no blatant connection, has the potential to yield real insights into the context of my work. A study on childhood vaccination practices uses qualitative methods to explore why some people are more likely to complete their children’s vaccination schedules, and those reasons could inform my hypotheses as to why some parents are much less active than others in the school management community. Some of the methods used to produce a locally accessible film about tuberculosis could be tentatively applied to make education more accessible.
In searching specifically for papers on the Gambia, I also found education papers that would never have turned up in a general education search but which provide invaluable background. One paper assesses the returns to education in the Gambia; another explores the relationships between democracy and the structure of the Gambian education system. I’m learning my lesson: Read spatial, not just topical.