…but you can never claim you haven’t seen

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With Aicha

Teachers are curious people. We always want to know more, learn more, see more. Sound curiosity makes people take that extra step, make that extra effort to dig deeper and try to understand.
Something I am really trying to understand is why there is such a huge difference in the living conditions of children in The Gambia. I do understand it in some way because this is also an international problem, but what I don’t understand is that I haven’t heard anything from the new government about it.
Doesn’t every kid deserve to have a home, a bed to sleep in and food to eat every day and parents who care about their health and safety? Doesn’t every Gambian kid deserve to go to school so they can build a better future for themselves and the coming generations?
Some kids stay at home because even if they don’t have to pay a school fee their parents still have to pay for school books, examination fees and so forth. Free education means that everything concerning education is free. Books, pencils and whatever the kids need to be able to study should be free. Exams – for what reason must this be paid extra? Isn’t the exam included in the education? Isn’t the new government able to see the importance of giving our children a good education? Are not all kids in The Gambia worth the same? Obviously not as those who can afford to send their kids to private schools do that because they are not satisfied with the public schools. Is that just something that should be accepted or should we demand a change? The choice is yours, dear people of The Gambia. Even those of you who can afford to send your kids to private schools should spare a thought for those who can’t , because you are all Gambians.

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Something I have noticed is that every family, more or less extended, is like a secluded island. The solidarity stretches to those who belong to your own kin, while others have to manage on their own. Where is the solidarity with people in your own neighbourhood, your village, town or even country? You need to be able to work together to make a change but it seems as every family is a tribe of its own and only do what will benefit the family. We shouldn’t be complaining about the politicians because they behave like everyone else – they make sure that whatever they do will benefit themselves. Do I sound harsh? Yes, I do, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A chain is strong but it can break if it is damaged somehow.

Instead of being so occupied with interfering in people’s business it would benefit everyone more if you occupy your minds with problem solving – together. You are only strong if you stick together and work for the same goal. So what is the goal? You are the ones who have the answers for that question . After so many years living under oppression you are still not used to think independently. You had enough with surviving from one day to another. When I sound harsh I don’t do it because I am criticising you, I do it for love. I am like a mother who is worried about the future of her children. A worried mum can sound harsh but you know she does that because she loves you and she only wants what is best for you. You might think that I shouldn’t sit here, far away from you, and question your actions. Well, maybe you are right, but sometimes the distance can be healthy because I can look at the problems with clear eyes.

Divide and conquer – that is an old strategy that has been used by kings and other rulers. Keep people divided, give benefits to some and nothing to others, change the positions from time to time so no one can be sure of what they will have the next day or so. If the chain I mentioned a bit earlier in this article only is made by a few parts, or by a weak material, it doesn’t have the strength to endure a high weight. The chain can only be strong if all parts of it stay together and the parts are equally strong. Through education you learn to think independently, but that doesn’t mean that you only think about yourself and your own needs. If you think independently, you are able to see if your leader is leading you in the wrong direction. You don’t follow someone, who might be a self-appointed leader, and do as you are told without questioning. Independent thinkers are able to see clearly about problems and they try to find solutions. They search for solutions, often together with others because they understand that we are stronger when we work together. What is good for you and your family will also be good for others, it is as simple as that.

I know you question your leaders, and that is how it should be because you are the ones who pay their salaries. You should always be able to expect the best from them. A good leader is the one who has the ability to listen, contemplate issues and give wise directions when the time is ready. A good leader is not the one who writes or shouts profanities, instead the good leader is able to use his or her words wisely. That is how you become a leader others respect. It doesn’t matter if you are the leader of a group of young people, in your village, a mayor or even higher – you reach a position and get respected by listening and using your words wisely.

There are so many things that needs to be improved in The Gambia, all of you know that and you are waiting for someone to fix it. If that fixing doesn’t happen fast enough the frustration will spread, people will get angry and demonstrate. Holding a demonstration or a protest meeting is a right you have in a democracy, but as the former IGP Landing Kinteh once so wisely said: ”Your rights end where someone else’s begin.”
Did you listen to his words and did you try to understand what he meant? ”Your rights end… means that every right comes with a responsibility, a limitation, because we are in this together and every action has a consequence. Everyone has the right to be heard, to move freely in their own country, to feel safe. Everyone has the right to feel secure that nothing happens to their wellbeing even if they don’t share the same opinion as you (or cheer on the same football team as you).

The freedom we have in a democracy is a gift that must be cherished, it is not something we can grab, hold on to and use for our own purposes. The freedom and our human rights are to be shared wisely. We must never be selfish and claim that some of the rights must benefit us more than others. ”Your rights ends where someone else’s begin.”

Divide and conquer tribalism is a perfect example of that. Focusing on differences, on how some have had benefits because they come from a certain tribe is making people lose focus on what is important. Political parties and their agenda are another perfect example. The focus seems to be on accusing each other on this and that instead of finding a common goal – the common good. Arguing, gossiping, name calling, Internet trolls, you name it – it leads to nothing good and that can easily be used by those who have an agenda. Smart people, with a hidden agenda, are often patient. They spread some words here and there, like sowing seeds. The problem is that these seeds are from weeds, so when they grow larger they suffocate the good plants.
In the Bible, there is a story about a man who was out on his field to sow. Some of the seeds fell on to the good earth and began to grow directly. Other seeds fell among the bushes and because of the lack of sun, it took long for them to grow.

Some seeds fell on the stones, they dried under the hot sun and couldn’t grow at all. This metaphor tells us something about the messages we give others. Words used wisely begin to grow in other people’s minds and bring about a good harvest. Some words take longer to grow, depending on the circumstances. At last – some words dry up and die. They don’t do anything good and will benefit no one. What kind of words are we using and what kind of message do we want to give others? Is the message only about myself and my needs? Do I want my message to also benefit others? Do I earn respect from others when I speak or does my words come back and bite me after a while ? Am I a useful citizen, do I take my responsibility as a citizen and not only vote every fifth year but also express my rights in between? Do I want the best, not only for my kids but also for all kids in The Gambia?
Is it okay to fool others as long as I don’t get fooled myself?
Is it okay to be bribed but not pay bribes? Is it okay that I can afford to get good health care in Senegal but others have to go to poorly equipped clinics where I must bring medication and the material the doctors and nurses need for taking care of me or my loved ones? Is it okay that it is only a matter of me, me, me and not us? Where is the solidarity? Those who are rich are able to pay for everything they need, and by that they should also be able to pay higher taxes so the tax money can pay for the common good. We pay high taxes in Sweden but we also get a lot for our money. Hospital care is free, schools including school books and other material is free. It is only at university level you begin to pay for the books. What concerns the common good is paid by our taxes, those who are rich pay more than others. This is solidarity, this is what I mean by saying that what is good for you is also good for others.

If we share the expenses, through our taxes, all kids will have a good education – not only the rich. By sharing expenses all citizens will have proper healthcare in clean, well equipped clinics where the doctors and the nurses have good salaries. By sharing expenses all citizens have access to well maintained roads, electricity, clean water. Learn from others, learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes. Don’t look away from the problems, look straight at them and find solutions. Do you allow your kids to do the same mistakes over and over again? No! Then be role models for them, teach them how to be creative, how to think independently, how to work together for a common goal. That is the only way forward. Work together for a common goal!

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