By Omar Bah
The security of students at Serekunda Lower Basic School yesterday dominated the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education’s engagement with National Assembly members. In the recent past, there have been numerous criminal activities in the school, leaving students terrorized and insecure.
Yesterday the minister, Claudian Cole, her colleague Prof Gomez of higher education, Defence Minister Serigne Modou Njie, Health Minister Amadou Samateh were invited by lawmakers to answer questions on issues concerning their ministries.
Responding to a question from the National Assembly member for Serekunda, Musa Cham about security at the Serekunda Lower Basic, Minister Claudiana Cole, said: “The ministry is aware of the security situation at the school and we have recruited an additional watchman to boost up security at the school. However, the school is very big and will also require additional staff. This is why we want to approach the ministry of public service to address the problems as getting able bodied men as watchmen has always been a very big challenge because of the low salary being offered, (Grade 1) of the government integrated pay scale,” she said.
Minister Cole said her ministry will be operating an upper basic school this academic year in the same grounds to ensure the full utilisation of the school grounds in a bid to minimise the presence of criminals.
“We will also further engage the ministry of interior for security presence in the area. It is regrettable that the security threat is from people in the community. We are doing our best to get the issue addressed but it may be very difficult to get it overnight because it has to go through process,” she said. She said all the schools around the country are provided with a caretaker and watchman.
Answering questions on the number of tertiary and higher education institutions in the country, Prof Pierre Gomez said the country has 82 tertiary and higher education institutions.
“These are 2 higher public education institutes, 11 public tertiary institutions and 22 private tertiary institutions, 9 public none tertiary institutes and 33 private none tertiary institutes as per records in line with the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority (NAQAA),” Minister Gomez said.
According to Minister Gomez, majority of these institutions are in the Greater Banjul Area.
“But the ministry is trying to address this because higher education must be accessible to every Gambian and it must be democratic. Therefore, the paradigm shift in our ministry is to bring tertiary education and TVET in the provinces to address rural-urban migration and the back-way syndrome,” he said. He lamented 57 years of independence, Gambia cannot still boast of a homemade engineer. “It is now time to change that by bringing TVET in our system,” he said.