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City of Banjul
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Spuddle

Spuddle

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What a marvelous word! It’s a verb, a verb stands for something you can do, like run or laugh. Spuddle is a word from the 17th century and means to work ineffectively; to be extremely busy while achieving absolutely nothing. Isn’t it wonderful to have this opportunity to enrich your vocabulary and at the same time be able to tease someone with your greater knowledge? If you are the busy kind of person, who is always on the run from one thing to another, then you might become annoyed from someone who is spuddling. If you want to let out some steam, tell the person to stop spuddling and you will leave that person scratching his head, wondering what you said.

Using “big words” is a technique popular among people of importance, or at least they believe they are important. The presidential election was not long ago, and how many of you, who listened to the political debate, understood everything the candidates said? They were not the only ones speaking, long and loud, they were accompanied by other representatives from the party they wanted you to join. Our so-called important people know that the citizens of The Gambia hold them in high respect. Respect is good, but respect can also be misused. Using people’s low literacy level for your own purposes is nothing new, but must we continue making the same mistakes as generations before us?

People of importance are no demi-gods; they are humans who do human mistakes. Our obligation is to hold them accountable for their mistakes, and also keep an eye on them so there will be no new mistakes. Look at the word spuddle and apply that on some random person of importance. How many times haven’t you seen people work ineffectively, doing nothing on the longest time possible? This is the norm in The Gambia and as long as we allow that, there will be no progress in the country. All of us know that whatever needs to be done, it takes forever. One example: if you need an important document; you have to wait for it. When you go to pick up your document; the person is not there. If you find someone to ask; they will not know when the person you are looking for will come back. If you are lucky enough to have a phone number for the person you try to reach, he will not pick up.

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Familiar case, isn’t it? It happens to you every day, but you are so used to it so perhaps you don’t spill your energy on complaining about it. So many of our important people studied abroad, many in Europe. They studied there for some years, learned a lot, not only the subjects they studied but also how the systems work in the country where they studied. Coming home to The Gambia with a framed diploma is a great achievement, admired by friends and family, and must feel amazing, but what about everything else you learned? It seems as most of the knowledge of efficiency and anti-corruption faded out of your mind as soon as you stepped out of the plane that took you home.

As long as The Gambia is ruled by spuddles, we will never go further than we are right now. The pace is too slow and there seems to be no political will to change the system. The unwillingness to change the current system depends on the fact that it benefits the important people, and they don’t give a damn about everyone else. Sounds harsh? Well, the reality is harsh so it cannot be explained in any other way. The politicians who promised to fight corruption said it because that is the right thing to say at the moment. In times of election, so many promises are given, and so many fancy words are used, but they mean nothing.

As soon as someone reaches a position where that person is in charge, the spuddling kicks in and the pace goes down. The good intentions are forgotten and the old patterns feel comfortable and secure. Why change something that already works? Don’t mend what is not broken, they say, but the system in The Gambia is shattered and someone needs to pick up the pieces. Who will that “someone” be? No one seems to know because the system is not built for taking your own initiatives. You wait until someone who is in charge will give you orders, and as long as that person doesn’t turn up or say something, nothing will happen.

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I find it strange that there is such a difference between Senegal and The Gambia. You are the same people and except for the language of the colonialists, you speak the same languages and understand each other perfectly. You cross each other’s country borders and have families on both sides of the border. How come there is development in Senegal and stagnation in The Gambia? I’m sure there are many reasons for that, but do you ever compare yourself with the Senegalese and try to analyze the situation? I know that there is a kind of rivalry between these two countries, but does this rivalry lead to anything good? Since when has whining and side glances led to development?

Try to learn from Senegal, not everything is good there, but pick the useful parts and leave the rest. Begin by looking at the education system where the Senegalese have come further than you have. No one can deny that the Gambian education system is old-fashioned and needs a revival. Recently there was a change for the better considering the educator’s salaries. That was a good start, even if it wasn’t enough, but what is the next step? The curriculum needs to be updated so the children learn what is adequate and nothing else. What about your own history, are there any history books written and addressed for the pupils? The main focus must always be what is relevant and useful for you as Gambians.

It takes a long time to change the education system and to educate our young ones, so why not begin today? We have clearly seen that the current system is inadequate, so why allowing it to remain? Why spuddle? What are the high and mighty up to when they have reached the positions they have required? Are they holding meetings and trying to inspire each other to achieve new and fresh ideas on how to develop The Gambia, or are they spuddling? This is a rhetorical question. My aim with my questions is to make you question the system where you are brought up. Are you satisfied or do you feel there needs to be a change?

Perhaps you don’t know what the change should be. Perhaps you doubt yourself and don’t want to appear troublesome by asking too many questions. It is not easy in a society, where you are raised to be obedient first of all to be questioning the system, but you need to. As long as you accept the current system, there will be no change. It is not dangerous to ask questions and to show that you are concerned about your and your children’s future. Don’t allow those who have the power to change the lives for all Gambians to spuddle. You don’t need to hold big demonstrations, you can deliver a lot of smaller statements instead. It is the drop that hollows the stone, so don’t give up by the first setback. Never allow anyone to spuddle, not even yourself.

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