By Brahima Mbodje, USA
My answer is a categorical yes, in 20 years maximum. And in 10 years, she surely escapes poverty. And here is how [you start.] Just a few ideas jotted down on the fly!
At the primary and secondary levels, we shall begin by changing the name student to pupil. Please, do not flatter them; they are not students.
First of all, I am going to put the emphasis on science and technical education. Ok, not that I have little respect for the other disciplines. On the contrary, on another occasion, I shall say why the arts too are pretty important. There will be emphasis on true, genuine, basic education. By that, I mean we will make sure that pupils that complete primary school can genuinely read and write. For that we shall invest more money in that area to train teachers, and also to pay them better. We shall put emphasis on training teachers who can really teach the English language to non-English speakers. Because without a certain mastery of the language as the medium of instruction and learning, well our children’s precious time will be wasted at least in part.
Then, gradually we will up the level of mathematics and science starting from the fourth grade to have the same instructional time duration as does English. The reason we need to wait a while for math and science to catch up with English is that we would like our children to learn to start thinking in English before they are introduced to more subtle math and science notions in a foreign tongue. At grade 6, we should begin to know the strength of each student. Those who show promise for the Arts will have their science hours lessened comparatively. And those who show more promise for mathematics and the sciences will have their science hours upped and their arts hours lessened. But there will still be those who will never be cut out for academic stuffs. For those, it will be better to orient them sooner rather than later to vocational schools where they will be schooled in more technical subjects and trades of their own choosing, while continuing to study with a lesser emphasis the academic components of their school program. These folks shall learn the practical art of carpentry, auto mechanic, plumbing horticulture, electronics, etc. etc.
Then we know that our nation shall need engineers, scientists, and first class professors in our universities and colleges to keep training the nation’s work force. This is where we will focus on our youngsters who really have shown they can do the rigorous learning, the academic stuff. [I for one do not think that every single person ought to matriculate into a university in order to have a good life. Trade and vocational schools too are an essential part of the developmental matrix.] Also, in our universities, the subject areas we should put emphasis on should be those that are more relevant to our development needs. For example, if you are going to support a student research, say, in Physics, well you might want it to be in the renewable energy field, like solar or wind energy. Similarly, if you are going to support a student research in Botany, well you might want it to be in the area of strengthening the peanut species to certain diseases. After we’ve implemented these common sense measures for a few years, we as a nation should be on our way to a decent living standard. But that is not the end.
Now, at this point in our development, we need not continue to just survive, we need to excel. I shall say, we need to beat, say for example, Europe at its own game: the game of SCIENCE. We should not become complacent in our success as it was remarked in the “Ambiguous Adventure” of Cheick Amidou Kane, by the family matriarch, the Most Royal Lady; we should perfect the art and science of the white man and return to beat him at his own game. I mean the game of scientific innovation and technology. For that to happen, we do not have to go into all fields. Given our size, we may focus on just a couple of research areas, say Agriculture, Computer science, and renewable energy. Just three fields will suffice for tiny Gambia. [This is one of the rare domains where smallness becomes an asset; I call this the art of Tzu Shu.] These fields, especially computer science and mathematics do not take much to innovate in them. All you need are the brains, the intellects. Put them in an ideal condition or setting, and they will create. If you can beat Europe in this her game, then the world will come to you. And before that the whole of West Africa will come to tiny Gambia. Believe me!
This is exactly what Europe did to the Islamic world, they beat us at our game, the game of science, exactly at the time we Muslims started fighting amongst ourselves. And that has continued up to this day!
I will elaborate [in the minutest details] if need be, and should you have any questions. But these are the major points!