The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) purportedly signed between the Gambia Press Union and the School of Journalism and Digital Media, University of The Gambia and which unjustifiably discriminates its own former students, is highly unacceptable and a separatist move.
The previous students of the Professional Reporter Diploma Program have transcended beyond all doubts to make themselves not only the first trained Gambian journalists under our own initiatives, but also the best to have undergone any such training. The program to be later qualified as an advanced diploma was a two-year intensive course. The 12 students, who progressed through sea and mountain, were certified and continue to tirelessly work in our media fraternity using their expertise to make us all proud of their 24 months adventure. Some of them are editors, instructors and some made their ways to the UTG and other institutions contributing to national development and the advancement of our national media landscape particularly. The students, who have been admitted under what could be seen as very outstanding natural selection methods, are still some of those best brains any union would do everything to support in their professional aspirations. To have those people fallaciously segregated in the MoU is both unfair and self-defeating for the institutions involved and for the general goodness of the nation.
I write my grievances not only as a friend or colleague but most importantly as a Gambian. I vehemently believe our national progress is paused by some of these transcendental nonsenses. To deliberately exclude the PRDP from this gallant opportunity will be counterproductive especially for the GPU who has demonstrated nothing but oblivion for what they called a success today. I would expect the PRDP students to be the main beneficiaries of this MoU. I did not get it wrong, it was a foul played by SJDM and co-authored by the GPU.
According to the key MoU against which I write,“… is for the SJDM to allow students graduating with a diploma from the GPU J-School into the second and third year respectively pending they meet the entry requirements of the University of The Gambia.” That statement is irrationally conjured and unjustifiable under the very conditions the GPU and the UTG rightfully should know. The MoU would have solicited different voices including those it intentionally worked against today, before it is signed and proclaimed worthy of celebration (for those who do not know the bigger picture.)
But, what is really behind this so-called MoU? To start with, the first batch of the GPU School of Journalism had had 2 years intensive course (some with even four years’ experience when they joined.) Now, the MoU straightforwardly without neither consultation nor convincing points to make those PRDP graduates feel represented. I am genuinely annoyed for what I consider an irrational behaviour in both academic and economic sense of the MoU. To accept the new students who are going to spend one year or less for an advanced diploma might be understandable, but will be unforgivable for restricting the former graduates from the MoU. Because the MoU is either enunciating that the Advanced Diploma earned by the previous batch is substandard than the one foreseen or, it is just another managerial incompetence of our bureaucratic DNA. Yet, we cannot ignore the foolish nature of such agreements; they are not natural laws nor are they fixed and binding. Therefore, without any iota of doubt, I challenge the UTG and the GPU to revisit their drawing board and do what actually has to be done. Such an MoU voices out what we must all endeavour to avoid in our daily institutional discrepancies.
If the MoU is motivated by a national agenda, why exclude the PRDP batch? If it follows another FTI paradigm, it would do better by including this group of devoted and outstanding professionals who have spent 2 good years for the same diploma that now weigh inconsistently. But until then, the MoU is an authored unjustifiable discrimination that might haunt us for long. We must start to solve our problems by facing them as they are rather than ignoring them. We cannot wish to solve our problems by temporarily ignoring them.
Let’s look at it this way for the perfect sense of dispute resolution. Both the excluded and the included are nationals of The Gambia and have shown their desires to further their professional interests to the UTG. The excluded (PRDP graduates) have demonstrated their will and academic potentials to undergo a degree program in journalism at the UTG after SUCCESSFULLY completing the Advanced Diploma Program (now reduced to less than 1 year or so.) From this picture, (excluding all the expenses that the GPU and its sponsors must have taken to make it what we are all unanimously proud of toady as the GPU School of Journalism,) it will be nonchalant to be oblivious of those PRDP graduates who have sacrificed their time and resources to cross the sea and climb the mountain at both personal and collective levels to make the school of journalism come true. Prof. Irmelin Mei Vegas must be gravely disappointed in her grave for what I genuinely believe will be seen by her as a gross injustice after all her personal efforts to let the GPU to this level. She is one professor I will never forget and shall always be proud of. Rest in Peace Prof. Irmelin Mei Vegas.
What do we have to celebrate about this MoU if those who led to the success story are neglected? And, readers be informed that, I am deliberately using every word and construction here, if I am found naughty, I will bear the consequences. I know very little about the GPU to unfoundedly allege them of anything, but I will not surrender my intention to fight what seems to me as a brutal injustice. I will have to appear if need be, before the national courts to settle the matter and establish the right playing cards for all. The UTG School of Journalism can no doubt have their own admission criteria, but it will be bias if people who have fulfilled all the requirements of the GPU for 2 years can just be absurdly ignored and nothing whatsoever is done about it to make them covered in the MoU.
For the PRDP graduates to have to undergo another 4 years of instruction for a degree in Journalism after all what they’ve undergone can at best be seen as the lack of transparency and effort to reward the right individuals for their rightful achievements. To exclude the PRDP from this MoU is outrageous and bad for the nation. It does not matter even if it affects only 15 capable people who still work in journalism or other national and personal adventures. The resources the UTG will need for these people if they are included in the MoU, would be less expensive and more of national interest. The UTG and the GPU will better enhance their academic and professional aspirations if they should consider the PRDP graduates. To add another 4 years to what these people have already accomplished will be contrary to any FTI approach or any developmental agenda as much as my stupid brain is concern. The last thing I will do is to discourage such people from achieving their true potentials and dreams but, as much as I know these colleagues of mine such an MoU is foresight killing for those unlawfully discriminated.
The GPU and the UTG need to strongly come out and justify beyond what I can imagine and take as irrational towards the good of those our brothers and sisters affected by this so-called MoU and how this will haunt our national identity.
Author: Alagie Jinkang