Dissection by Taxi

Swansea-Gambia Link scoping visit.

I was asked to teach the medical students in the Medical School here in the Gambia, so this morning I gave a lecture for an hour or so to the third-year students as an introduction to the nervous system. Anatomy is taught in an integrated manner here, with gross anatomy, histology and embryology taught and assessed together, alongside the relevant physiology, etc. Anatomy is taught by system rather than by region, and the first part of this semester will cover the nervous system.

Similarly to Swansea’s anatomy teaching the students use some plastic models, some human material, lots of textbooks, bones and a little bit of elearning, with instruction from lecturers from Cuba. Hopefully the students will be able to see some human anatomy via the post-mortem exams too, in a similar way that the Swansea students can. One of the major causes of death here is road traffic accidents. The taxis here must have enough mileage on the clock to have gone around it two or three times, but none of the gauges actually work so it’s impossible to tell. There are safety drives in place, for example at the moment there is work to ensure cars have working lights to help safety at night.

I hope and think that the lecture was well received. The students and the lecturers are incredibly welcoming, and considering the distances between us geographically and linguistically, the number of similarities between students and teaching methodology in Swansea and Banjul are numerous and surprising.

Most of the students seemed well aware of where Swansea is, and of a link between Swansea and The Gambia. Student exchanges organised by the students themselves have been popular. They responded to questions in a similar manner to that of small groups of Swansea students: mostly whisperingly and self-consciously, with maybe one louder voice. My animated flapping and gesticulating seemed to unintentionally entertain them, and some of them started to open up, giving me a good feel as to what they had covered in other lectures and practical sessions so we were able to link that knowledge into the topics of the lecture. By the end of the lecture I was pretty confident that they could fulfil the requirements of the learning outcomes that I had set at the start, even though I had prattled along at break-neck speed through the structures of the sympathetic nervous system. Little bits of repetition and scribbling on chalkboards tended to solve that.

So, sweat dripping from my nose and chalk from my fingers I thanked the students and said good-bye. I may see some of them again if they come to visit us on the proposed exchange programme with Swansea University’s School of Medicine. Some of the Swansea students are travelling to The Gambia in December. I hope to send with them lots of eLearning material for the students I met today and their colleagues.

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