I have been working as a teacher since 1986, when I graduated from the university, and education is very important to me.
This is culled from the Unesco website and I want to begin here, before I add my own thoughts.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that education is a fundamental human right for everyone and this right was further detailed in the Convention against Discrimination in Education. What exactly does that mean?
Why is education a fundamental human right?
The right to education is a human right and indispensable for the exercise of other human rights.
Quality education aims to ensure the development of a fully-rounded human being.
It is one of the most powerful tools in lifting socially excluded children and adults out of poverty and into society. Unesco data shows that if all adults completed secondary education, globally the number of poor people could be reduced by more than half.
It narrows the gender gap for girls and women. A UN study showed that each year of schooling reduces the probability of infant mortality by 5 to 10 per cent.
For this human right to work there must be equality of opportunity, universal access, and enforceable and monitored quality standards.”
I grew up as a poor child in Finland, and for those of you who believe that poverty doesn’t exist in Europe I can tell that you are wrong. Of course societies have evolved and things are not exactly the same as when I was a kid, but there are still people who suffer from poverty all over the world.
My family in Finland is large, I have seven aunties and plenty of cousins. In my family we are only two people who have graduated from the university. Most of my aunties and cousins are working class people, with low paid jobs – if any. For me it was a big achievement to study at the university and having my master’s exam after four years. I had no role models and no one who could encourage me when I struggled with my studies.
Growing up poor and suppressed does something with your mind. You don’t trust that you have the capacity to achieve great things. You don’t see studying on a higher level as a normal thing to do. I actually thought that I was stupid until I was about 35 when I had a discussion with a friend who questioned my statements. He asked me why an intelligent person as I said something that stupid. I don’t remember what we discussed, and I wasn’t offended by him questioning me. Instead I was baffled that he called me intelligent so at first I thought he was joking. My friend was deadly serious and he made me begin to look at myself in a different way. I began to think before I spoke out about some serious matter. That is actually a great habit more people should have.
So what about human rights and education? Let us ask our people in power that question: what about human rights and education? How about implementing these in The Gambia and make sure that not one kid stays out of school? How about changing the curriculum so it is up to date and includes useful subjects? How about helping our school drop-outs so they can have an education, learning a skill and be able to support themselves? How about helping those who have come back home after having unlawfully stayed in Europe? They fled their home country for a reason, why not change things for the better so they feel that they are welcome back home?
Has anyone pondered why so many are using drugs and committing crimes? It doesn’t change anything just to complain about the drug addicts and the effects thereof, we need to look beyond the obvious and see the reasons. Hopelessness can drive people to desperate actions as trying drugs to forget their despair for a while. Young people who roam around, without a purpose, are easy victims for gangs who are involved in drugs and crimes. Drugs and crimes always go hand-in-hand as no one has that amount of money you need to pay for your needs. The drugs affect your brain and force you to take more and more to get that kick you are after. More drugs mean more expenses and the only way to get these amounts of money is by stealing them. A job doesn’t give you enough money and the drugs demand to be refilled every day.
The Gambia is a poor country, but is that a curse or only a fact? What I mean is: must it remain this way or can something be done to change the circumstances for the better? There is a huge sense of defeatism when I think of The Gambia. What does that mean? Look at the word defeat, as in defeated, as in someone who has given up because she or he can’t win anyway so “why even try”. Every step on the development ladder takes you one step up and three steps down. As soon as you feel that there has been some small improvement in your life, something happens that pulls you down again. There are no security nets catching you if you fall, you hit the ground and have to crawl up again the best you can. No wonder people give up when they have fallen too many times.
Whose responsibility is it to pick you up? Well, that depends on whom you ask, and looking at the level of solidarity – or should we say the lack of it – it is up to you if you stay down or try to get up again. There is no solidarity shown from the government so far, and they are the ones who are elected to be the voice of the people. Looking at how little is done for the people, it seems as all Gambians are mute. The defeatism is holding you back and your only comfort is your religion. How many generations will it take before there is a genuine change for the better in The Gambia? The only way we can change things is through education, but as long as you are denied a proper and equal education there will be no change.
The School Improvement Grant (SIG) is a government project that fund the education of all children in The Gambia. All the needs of the pupils are to be met by SIG. Sounds great, don’t you think, but we are speaking about The Gambia and that means that every funding comes with a delay and every delay comes without any explanation. These monies are in the budget, the funds for the schools should be paid at the beginning of every term, but they are not. Why? Who knows, because the high and mighty do not bother to explain. It is like you are not worthy to be given an explanation. It is like you are some kind of low class people.
If I should continue this chain of thoughts, I would end up with comparing this with how the colonisers treated your ancestors, and we wouldn’t want to believe that, or? Your own people are really good at keeping you down at the bottom. The colonisers didn’t want your ancestors to have quality education because they didn’t want your people to rise. What is the reason why your own people don’t want you to rise? Have you asked them, or have you accepted to stay at the bottom of the ladder – glancing upwards, hesitating to step up?