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City of Banjul
Thursday, May 23, 2024

Inspirational meetings

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With Aisha Jallow

During my 6 weeks stay in The Gambia, I met a lot of interesting people. These meetings gave me a lot of inspiration, and I struggle with where to begin to tell you about them. As many of you know by now, I work as a teacher so let us begin there. Already on the plane from Brussels to Banjul, I met my great friend Dr. Ismaila Ceesay. Many of you know him as the founder and also the leader of one of our political parties: Citizens’ Alliance, CA. This is one of his roles, but the one that means a lot for many people – especially the young people in The Gambia- is that Dr. Ceesay is lecturing at the UTG, University of The Gambia.

When two or more dedicated teachers meet, they can go on forever discussing the joy as well as the challenges of teaching. Being a teacher is like no other profession, it is more of a calling than just any kind of job. In the old days people said that working as a priest, a doctor or a nurse is to be considered as a calling, and I want to add teachers in to this important group. We would be nowhere without teachers, and it is about time that our politicians in The Gambia realized this. Too many teachers are struggling under awful conditions where they try to teach very large classes in classrooms that are not suitable for humans. Teachers are mostly underpaid and still they must take of the little they earn to buy equipment for their pupils and their classrooms.

I wish that people like Dr. Ismaila Ceesay would be in charge of the education system in The Gambia. He has been studying at the University in Sweden and has been inspired by our education system here. I don’t say that everything is perfect here, far from it, but we do our level best to keep us updated with the scientifical research. Those of our politicians who are responsible for the education system, study results from other countries. When they find interesting results, they also try to find ways of implementing them in our own system. Education is a science in itself, and it has something in common with every kind of science – it evolves. Our public school was founded in 1842, back then the classes were small and the kids studied in shifts – either morning or afternoon shift. You still use this oldfashioned shift system in The Gambia. Why?

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My question is rhetorical, I wish to start a discussion with it. I know why you still use this oldfashioned system, my question is why you still use this system as it is so oldfashioned. Don’t tell me that it is because it has always been that way, because that is the lazy answer. The Gambia has been independent for more than 50 years, but still you use the system the colonizers implemented. I understand that it takes time to find a new system that works better for your own conditions, but this long? Why? Are you happy with it? Is it so perfect that nothing needs to be changed? Do you realize that the colonizors didn’t want you to be well educated? Do you know why? Do you know your own history? Are you questioning the history you are currently studying at the schools in The Gambia?

Where are your own history writers? Where are the books where your kids will learn about their ancestors and find pride in their own roots? Dr. Ismaila Ceesay is part of your modern history. He took part in overthrowing the dictator. Do you tell that to your children, to your pupils, to your friends? If he doesn’t belong to your tribe, is he still worthy of your respect and admiration? Dr. Ceesay is a Gambian citizen and that is the only thing that matters. He is a kind and humble man who has dedicated so many years of his life to study so he can lift up your young people from the darkness of ignorance. That is worth respect and admiration, and those of you who disagree should use some time to search your souls for the reason. Ask yourself what you have done for your country and your people, before you begin to question someone else.

Dr. Ismaila Ceesay is a dedicated teacher and his students love and respect him. This love and respect is not easily earned, young people can be hard with their judgement as we all know. The youth of The Gambia are also the future of The Gambia, we need to ask what kind of future we believe they deserve. As long as corruption is the keyword for every level of the society, there will be nothing left for the youth to take over.

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There is this saying: Children don’t do what we tell them to do, they do what we show them to do. If we keep on showing them that committing crimes pays off, that is what our kids will learn. It doesn’t matter how much the Imam or the priest is preaching that crimes are a sin against God and humanity, when we can see that people in leading roles of our society get away with crimes every day.

Corruption is criminal, don’t tell me otherwise. As soon as anyone is using money that are not their own, it is a criminal act. It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator is the president, a bank manager or the local Alkalo, it is still criminal. Not using public money on a proper education for all children of The Gambia is to steal their future, their hopes, their dreams and possibilities.

We must invest in our youth and the only way to evolve them, and by that our society, is through education. I met another great man who I wish I would have had time to speak to for hours and hours, Professor Pierre Gomez, the Minister of Higher Education. The Honourable Minister, and this time I can say this without stumbling on my words. I know that the ministers are supposed to be addressed like that, but I am that kind of person who believes that respect must be earned, not taken for granted.

Professor Gomez is, just as Dr. Ceesay, a highly educated, kind and humble man, a man with a vision and I pray that both of them will be able to achieve a lot together to lift up The Gambia from the bottom of Africa. During my conversation with Professor Gomez it was clear that he has been thinking a lot of how to change and update the education system in The Gambia. He has an insight in all the levels, even if he has been teaching at University level. Being born and sprung in The Gambia gives you a certain insight in the challenges of both the society and the education system. It is an amazing achievement to have been began one’s studies in The Gambia and to end up as a Professor. What an inspiration for Gambian boys and girls who struggle with their studies but never give up.

Professor Gomez didn’t only speak about studies on a University level, he also spoke about Tivet. Not everyone is suitable for studying at the University, all humans are born with certain skills and many of us are more of the practical than the theoretical kind. There are many trades where we don’t have any Gambian representation, so we need to educate our youths in these. There is a certain sense of pride when you learn a skill and are able to provide for yourself and your family. Skill centers are a true investment in the future of The Gambia. We give the youth opportunities to build up something better than what we left for them. Don’t you think they are worth it?

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