A TRIBUTE: DR RALPHINA D’ALMEIDA, NEE PHILOTT

Friday, July 07, 2017

It is announced the passing away at the Medical Research Council, on Tuesday, 4th July 2017, of Mrs D’Almeida. The great Lady was popularly known as Ma D’ Almeida in academic circles, as a mark  of respect for her teaching career. Mrs D’Almeida was an educationist, an administrator and a genuine academic.

So to say Ma D’Almeida has thought many Gambians at various schools, including my own self at Armitage Grammar School at Georgetown in the 1970s. Thereafter she was lecturer and Vice Principal at Yundum College now Gambia College and in her later years, she was a Senior Lecturer at the nascent University of the Gambia (UTG). Her area of speciality was Gender Studies, a course that she diligently handled with her astute knowledge of the subject matter. Her dedication in this regard enhanced the cause of gender emancipation in the country. Before her lecturing career at UTG, Ma was the first Executive Director of the Women’s Bureau, established during the first Republic to champion the cause of women status in the country.

At Armitage I knew her as a morally upright Teacher, who not only inculcated subject matter knowledge but was resolute when it comes to enforcing rules on punctuality to class, politeness, dress code, and moral standards. We owe her gratitude for those moral values and social etiquette she inculcated in us which undeniably made us we are today, responsible citizens of The Gambia. No doubt, we would realise that such important moral values are fast diminishing in today’s society.

When I met her at UTG where I started lecturing from 2002, I paid her the respect she splendidly deserved. In return, I richly benefited from the mentor hood of the wonderful mother who had done a lot by giving me knowledge and shaping my attitude in society. Ma D’Almeida was a special character of self-respect, gifted with immense drive for hard work. Besides, she demonstrated her uprightness, as a matter of principle, in standing by those who addressed the wrongs at the university during its tumultuous years. Particularly during the war I waged against corrupt practices at the university which resulted in litigations. I owe her unquantifiable gratitude for her resolute support during the tribulations we were subjected to but vindicated absolutely and ostensibly.

As an academic, she belonged to the old genera, meticulous with English grammar where every punctuation, word, or sentence mattered.  She was a prolific writer. Her works include a booklet published in 2011 titled “A Succinct History of the Kingdom of Pachesi in the Empire of Kaabu”, an historical work reminiscent of her days at Armitage as History teacher.

As years roll by, we were both at UTG, another opportunity we had to come closer. Indeed, the more you are closer to a person, the closer one is to a person, the more they appreciate each other. For us our closeness brought better understanding, enhanced trust, and collegiality. Ma became more of a parent to me, as an adviser in life and a mentor. She was more of a mother to me. I visited her regularly at her Pipeline home behind the Fajara War Cemetery, a gesture which she reciprocated many times at our home at Kotu West Layout. My children equally paid her regular visits with presents. She never forgot us at during Christmas and Easter festivities during which she showered gifts on the children and the entire family. Truly a great bond existed in between us.

Her passing away is indeed a big family loss and to the Gambian academic community. But as no life is eternal, we take solace in her undisputed fortitude of mind, as an educator who contributed immensely to the welfare of this country and above all as a fine mother of character and deep religious conviction.  A mother who did all she could to push back the frontiers of poverty and illiteracy that once engulfed the women and children of The Gambia. We shall miss Ma D’Almeida but her memory will always remain deep in our hearts.

On behalf of my family and particularly the young ones, Pa Abdoulie and Awa Yombeh, who she was very fond of, we pray to God to grant her all the forgiveness and lead her to heavenly paradise as a final resting place. Ameen.

 Adieu Ma D’ Almeida!

Gumbo Ali Touray

Former Director of International Affairs and Information

 University of The     Gambia.

Source: Picture: The late Madam Almeida