Please allow me space in your widely read newspaper to write on the sad but popular issue of our Gambian students and self-development. The education sector in The Gambia has undergone many changes since Yahya Jammeh became president. But over the same period, the saying that our graduates have become unemployable has been proved to be true. The question remains, is the growing worry over their unemployment justified?
The sad truth is that many senior secondary and university graduates in the country are unemployed, due to a myriad of reasons. The problems facing Gambian students are quite many and would take more than a post-graduate thesis to even dissect them. Most of these students on their own have always called for reforms and a holistic approach to tackle unemployment among graduates. While I would encourage the best environment conducive to employment creation, I believe students themselves still have some corrective measures which they have to undergo.
There are organisations concerned with community work and charity, some of which develop students’ business sense and acumen, among other things. One thing very common to these groups is that they develop a student’s planning ability, self-confidence and expose them to scenarios where their thinking faculty and leadership skills are challenged. But not all students who develop themselves belong to such organisations. A lot of students have continued to wow the student community with their creativity and business savvy, most of them have gone on to create a brand for themselves. These are students who came to learn and are really learning.
Quality education is every child’s right
Investing in education and the right to acquire it is one of the rights of every child as highlighted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children’s Act 2005. Quality education is the bedrock of every sustainable development and the foundation for building lives that would create healthy and sound communities. Inasmuch as there is a need for other sectors of development to be invested into, the fact remains that when education is poor, the whole development drive will come to waste and will be unsustainable. This should engender in everyone who is in the realm of policymaking a grave concern.
The Gambia has for the past years been keen on investing in the area of education. With the creation of many schools around the country, the government is only to be commended and patted on the back for such a drive. However, much is left to be done. The hinterland suffers more than anything else with the inadequacy of teachers and other relevant materials. It’s understandable that most of those in the teaching field shy away from being far from the urban areas but the simple fact that they have taken up the noble profession by choice should make them cooperate willingly in making it possible for the provincial child to enjoy the same quality education as those in the urban. The onus lies on both the teachers and those who employ them; for in the end we all are equal agents in the developmental process of the country.
Looking at the continent as a whole, the statistics don’t look very good when it comes to providing quality education. So it is not only a Gambian problem. Millions of children throughout the continent, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, continue to be without education of any sort. This is due to many factors ranging from poverty to gender-based issues. It is without doubt that before we can address the problem of a child-friendly educational environment, we must first deal with the problem of not even attending school in the first place. There are far too many children who should have been in school but are caught up in forced labour or worse, in prostitution and other hazardous forms of life. Lest we forget the various forms of child labour in the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast and other places.
Yet in our drive to provide quality and child-friendly education, we must put into consideration the need to provide proper learning institutions for the disabled people especially the ones with hearing and speaking difficulties. It’s a sad fact the most of them pass their lives in illiteracy when they could have attained the highest levels of literacy. The fact that there is only one school for the deaf and hard of hearing in The Gambia which can cater for only 25 percent of the deaf population in the country. This should force the government and other stakeholders to partner in building more schools. It must be remembered that it’s every child’s right to have a decent and proper education even he or she have difficulties in learning. A society’s development is not to be measured by its many modern infrastructures but in how it deals with its most vulnerable constituents.
In our agitation for sustainable development for the mother continent whether home or abroad, we must always remember that development is the outcome of a mature and developed minds. However, we can never have those types of minds if we don’t invest heavily in education. All sectors of the society must work harmoniously for the production of such quality education that can put Africa on the right track towards the much-needed and cherished development
Alieu A Bah
Sanyang, Kombo South]]>