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City of Banjul
Wednesday, June 19, 2024

‘Education is not a privilege … but rather a birth right’

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With Aisha Jallow

These are words from a speech made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the World Education Forum “Sustainable Development Goals and Education”, in the Republic of Korea, in May 2015.

Article 28 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the right to education no matter who they are: regardless of race, gender or disability; if they’re in detention, or refugees.

Children and young people have the right to both primary and secondary education and should be able to choose different subjects when in secondary school. This should include the option of technical and vocational training, so they shouldn’t have to focus on academic subjects if they don’t want to.

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Governments should support children and young people in education. They should: make efforts to reduce dropout rates from school, make sure teachers can’t use violence against children or young people, make sure teachers don’t publicly humiliate children or young people and make sure children or young people aren’t bullied by their teachers or classmates.

Government should also make sure that all children in the country can afford to go to school. The school fees and all the material the pupils need should be paid by tax money. This is the only way to make sure that all schools and all pupils are treated fairly. As the system works, at the moment, the teachers and headmasters are forced to kick children out of school. This is causing a huge stress for everyone, and a terrible humiliation for the pupils. First becoming scolded by either the teacher or the headmaster for unpaid material and fees, then being thrown out in the sight of their class mates. The child can never be blamed for the financial situation of its family, but for some reason that is exactly where these leads. Education is a birth right but the child didn’t ask to be born. The child exists because of a choice its parents made, and it is their responsibility to care for all the child’s needs.

What is the UNCRC that was mentioned at the beginning of this essay?

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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a legally-binding international agreement setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.

Has the government committed to the UN Convention on the rights of the child? When we look at the situation of so many children and youth of The Gambia, we can see that there is no commitment to anything else than to the Almighty God of the Holy Corruption. This God is worshipped and obeyed more than the God so many claims they believe in. Praying in public, giving zakat in plenty to impress or throwing pious words in each and every sentence doesn’t please our God. Following his words do.

When we look at the articles of the UN Children’s Convention, we could just as well listen to what either the Holy Bible or the Holy Qur’an tells us. We are supposed to care for and care about our children and their wellbeing. Most parents do their best, but they need help from those who are supposed to care about the whole population of their country. Ask your politicians why they are involved in the politics. Ask them why they think that too many people dislike and distrust politicians. Ask them how they feel about the opinion of the public, or if they don’t care about it. Ask them how they can change the opinion of the public. What are their strategies? To become respected or even more corrupt?

At the moment we are at the beginning of the Holy month of Ramadan, a time for reflection and an opportunity to change one’s behaviour. Why not take this opportunity to make a profound change in The Gambia? Why not actually listen to those who suffer and help them to a better life? Isn’t the thought of that tickling your mind a little bit? Doesn’t it feel revolutionary, like something that is too good to be true, something no-one has tried in The Gambia before? Why not go out among the people, I mean real people. People who live in shacks, who share one outhouse in their compound, one outhouse that stinks in the heat? Why not speak to those who don’t have electricity, whose children have to study at the light of the kerosine lamp in the evening? Why not speak to those who have lost a son in the Mediterranean Sea when he tried to flee to a better life? So, many lives shattered, so much pain and grief!

When our high and mighty finally leave their air-conditioned offices and cars, they do that in times of election. They have had 5 years to make up new phantasies, new imaginary promises and manufactured new dust they can throw in the people’s eyes to make them blind for the reality for a while. New t-shirts with new catchy slogans have been printed to hand out to those who came out to listen only for the reason that they finally get a new piece of clothing. Large posters with the faces and the heavenly visions are prepared to be printed and put up on every billboard along our roads.

This is what the money is spent on; the show. The show must go on, is a saying. This comes from the world of theatre where the show must go on, night after night, as the audience has paid for their tickets and are awaiting to become amused. The level of amusement is not high when we speak about the election, though. It is more a sad affair where we know that so much bulls**t is going on behind the curtains.

As long as we keep our population uneducated, the bulls**t can go on undisturbed. People are busy surviving and don’t know their rights. That is perfect, from a decision maker’s point of view, as they can keep on with their monkey business, business as usual, the show must go on, the business is a show! Hmm… let us ponder that for a while! The business is a show. On a theater stage the actors wear costumes and wigs. Their faces are covered with makeup to change their features. In business, doesn’t matter if we refer to politics or any other kind of business, we have people who wear fancy clothes as a costume to impress the audience …sorry, the public. In theater the actors study their roles to become convincing. In business people are so convinced of their own importance that others don’t dare to question them. The show can go on, because we allow it to go on.

I have pointed out before that during the colonisation, the colonialists didn’t want your people to become educated on a higher level. This was a way to control you and to teach your people a lesson that you, your life and your opinions didn’t matter. I must say that your current masters, those who are of your own people, have learned their lesson well. They have learned that it is those who are in charge that matters, not you, not your children. For how long will you accept that? That is a question you must ask yourself. Educate yourself about your rights.

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