Please allow me space in your newspaper to express an opinion. A few weeks ago, you profiled one Dr Seedy Drammeh of Gambia Revenue Authority in your Bantaba column. Seedy’s interview and background are very interesting. One area of interest is his academic achievements, which were scantly listed. In the interview, Seedy Drammeh stated: “I bagged another diploma in South Calfi College in Brixton. I then moved to City Banking College in the UK where I had a post-graduate diploma in banking and financial services. Then I went to Leicester University in the UK where I got my master’s degree. After that I proceeded for a PhD programme in USA.”
What Mr Drammeh failed to mention is the United States school he “attended” and obtained a PhD. While he mentioned that his diplomas obtained in the UK are in banking, he never mentioned the subject of study for his PhD. Thanks to Google, a name search of Dr Seedy Drammeh reveals this interview – Spotlight on Dr Seedy Drammeh – a self-made man (http://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/article/spotlight-on-dr-seedy-drammeh-a-self-made-man) from December 2012. In this interview he mentioned that his PhD was from the University of Belford in the United States.
As it turns out, University of Belford is one of those bogus universities where anyone can purchase a diploma (BA, BS, MS, MA, and PHD) for a few hundred dollars without meeting or sitting in a classroom or participating in an online course. According to Wikipedia, Belford University was an organisation that offered online unaccredited degrees for “life experience”. The organisation maintained a post office box in Humble, Texas, but its certificates were mailed from the United Arab Emirates. On August 31, 2012, Belford University was shut down and its founder, Salem Kureshi, had been “ordered to pay $22.7 million in damages”. “The judgment established the truth of allegations that Belford High School and Belford University are fake schools that do not actually exist.” Court documents from “McClusley v. Belford University” revealed that Belford University was run by 30-year old Salem Kureshi from his apartment in Karachi, Pakistan. The court found that Kureshi “operates a sophisticated Internet rip-off scheme through various websites, which falsely represent the existence of an accredited and legitimate high school, whose diplomas will be widely accepted by employers, professional associations, other schools, colleges and universities.” Kureshi has created 44 online universities and more than 100 promotional websites. “With an inkjet printer, a Microsoft Word template, and a few cheap websites, Kureshi became an overnight millionaire.” He earns over $70 million per year “selling fake diplomas.” He is currently involved in a class action lawsuit over his involvement with Rochville University.
I think such a move by Mr Drammeh is an insult to the few fine Gambians who sat in classrooms and wrote academic papers to earn their doctorate degrees. It is also important that The Gambia doesn’t serve as a dumping ground for fake online diplomas.
Stop glorifying violence
I am putting pen to paper in response to your editorial on crime and the stabbing to death of a 23-year old by his girlfriend in Bakau. I have argued with friends for some time that we have to take a more cerebral and less emotional and reactionary approach to the problem of crime. The difficult and inconvenient truth is that the root causes of crime lie within us, our society and our people.
Unfortunately, we have allowed ourselves to become a people who put down everything to Allah’s will with resignation. Instead of vilifying and maligning attitudes that lead to such behaviour, we tolerate them. When our politicians on both sides watch violence rise in our houses and streets, thus plunging our country into one of its darkest and most shameful eras, we remained largely silent. When our musicians with no moral compass from Jamaica and the US infiltrate our airwaves with their crude and violent lyrics, we turn a deaf ear. Our kids who are supposed to be future leaders elevate them to celebrity status and make them their role models.
We allowed terms such as “bad man”, “don man”, “killa”, “gyalist”, and “gangsta” to enter our lexicon as terms of endearment. Silently we watched as our families fall apart, as our men and women are marginalised, and as respect for our traditional pillars of the society slowly erode. Slowly the fabric of our society has been unravelling. And yet we have done nothing. Are we too blind to see or just too foolish to understand that there would be consequences?
Additionally, many of us have allowed ourselves to become too indifferent to the cries of the poor and disenfranchised. Why bother with them when we are ourselves doing okay? Few of us seem to realise that the little boy we chase away from washing our motor vehicle windscreens at the stoplight will, in a few years, be a fully grown man and, without some type of intervention, could soon be slinging a deadly weapon rather than a squeegee. We have abandoned the poor, leaving them trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and despair.
Of course, not all criminals are from the bowels of the poor, nor are all poor persons destined for lives of crime. But few can challenge the powerful nexus between poverty, desperation and criminality. Today, therefore, the responsibility for rehabilitating our society is not that of the police force or even the government. In any event, they lack both the ability and the resources (human and material). It is our responsibility. Collectively, we now need to slowly begin to right the ship by correcting our core set of values, principles, attitudes and behaviours. The urgency of now demands it. We need to begin rejecting violence, aggression and vulgarity in all their forms, especially in our music and our politics. We must change how we raise our children, particularly our boys who must be groomed to become responsible husbands and fathers. We must also look at how we treat each other. We may never be able to love each other unconditionally, but we should at least learn how to respect each other. Importantly, we must also learn how to respectfully disagree, recognising that a diversity of opinions, ideas and behaviours strengthens our society.
Most importantly, civil society needs to redouble its efforts to help the poor and disenfranchised. When the poorest among us can also enjoy lives of relative decency, then the wealthiest among us will no longer need to seek refuge in gated communities as it is happening in other African countries like South Africa and Namibia.