By Tabora Bojang
The higher education minister, Professor Pierre Gomez, has hinted that the planned commencement of classes at the UTG Faraba campus expected this month cannot now be achieved because, among other things, the furniture and lab equipment needed are yet to arrive in the country.
Prof Gomez, who said this on national broadcaster GRTS Tuesday, pledged that classes are expected to commence at the campus around April 2023 as the government awaits a no objection for the purchase of furniture and lab equipment from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa and the Islamic Development Bank, respectively.
Ever since the ministry announced in October that classes will commence at the campus this month, with President Barrow expected to do the inauguration, concerns around accommodation, equipment and transportation continue to rise among UTG students. The UTG has fewer than ten functional buses.
But according to the minister, President Barrow has arranged 100 buses expected to ease Gambian transport problems and some of these would be used for the services of the university until the accommodation issue is resolved.
Asked about student accommodation at the campus, the minister said owing to the difficult economic environment, the government does not have funds as of now to construct on-campus accommodation for students at Faraba.
He said government will be willing to go into a private sector-led student accommodation project where private entities would build and operate the facilities for a number of years in order to realise their profit and then transfer it to UTG’s control and ownership.
“You know we are investing about $150 million at the university and these are all loans and if you are taking loans, which you must obviously pay back, you must exercise caution because the loans are going to be paid if not by us but generations to come. This is why we will leave the issue of student accommodation to the private sector for them to chip in and construct facilities for students. In such arrangement, government will allow them to operate it for 20 or 25 years depending on the feasibility study and also negotiate the tariff students are going to pay then if that elapses, they [private entities] can transfer the facilities to the University to own and manage it, then the private entities would have made their profits,” Professor Gomez explained.
He said until these arrangements are made, buses would be provided to ease transportation for the students.