By Alagie Manneh
The higher education ministry will introduce a tertiary education loan scheme next year for some of the country’s needy and bright students, Minister Pierre Gomez said yesterday.
Every year, hundreds of underprivileged students who graduate from senior schools in the country struggle to gain admission into tertiary institutions or even to secure government scholarships to advance themselves.
Reacting, Prof Gomez said the government is well aware of the issue, pointing out that President Barrow himself made a declaration during the laying of the foundation stone of the University of Applied Science, Engineering and Technology (USET) in Brikama, that The Gambia government will introduce a loan scheme to support tertiary education.
“That was the decision of The Gambia government, and this ministry is mandated to implement that,” Minister Gomez said in an interview with The Standard.
He added: “The objective is to ensure that we support maximum number of people. There will be a system in place where the State will come to their aid for them to have their training. When they finished, there will be a grace period, but they will have to pay the state back [its money] after they secured jobs. That money that is paid is going back again so that it is given to others. We haven’t finalised everything yet, but what we expect is that at the end of the day after being given the loan, they will sign an agreement indicating that after the completion of their programme they will pay back the money. They will also indicate how much they will pay. The [initiative] will go through a validation.”
Minister Gomez said once the whole idea is finalised, stakeholders will be invited to assess its viability.
“But for us as a government, we think that this is good because right now you have some people, they are very good but they don’t have the money. But we don’t want people to be derailed because they don’t have the money. If you don’t have the money, you should be supported. What we are also saying is that we cannot just give people taxpayers’ money and you do whatever you want and nothing comes out of it. When the state comes for you, you also need to be honourable later and do the needful so that we can help others coming after you,” the ex-acting vice chancellor of the University of The Gambia said.
Minister Gomez was evasive when asked if the initiative can make the issue of access to tertiary education in The Gambia a thing of the past.
“Let me tell you, go to the United States, you don’t… there’s no country in the world where you have that [privilege]. What we are saying is that this status quo…like for example every year we give more than five hundred scholarships. This is tenable at the UTG, every year. The following year government has to look for money again to pay for another 500 and the year after that. You and I know that that is not sustainable. That is why we are saying that it’s important for us to have a [payment] system in place,” Minister Gomez stated.