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Friday, October 30, 2020

Letters to the Editor

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Does the Ministry of Education know the cost of education?

Dear editor,

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Daily, it is becoming clear that the government of the Gambia either doesn’t know the real cost of education or was ill-prepared to put in place some of the policies that they did. This malady is surfacing all the time and it is bound to affect both the quality and standards of the education system which is already in shambles.
A few weeks ago, the Coalition of Teachers for Change went on a sit-down strike over demands of better and more timely payments of salaries and a few other demands. The ministry officials had to negotiate a solution which by all indications appears to be a short-term one. Though the teachers have gone back into the classrooms, it is not clear if, and when their demands will be fully met, if they ever will.

Barely a month after that, there is talk of the teachers in the Catholic schools also going on a sit-down strike. Now, we hear of the teachers in the Arabic schools also complaining of lack of increment in their salaries and not receiving the D1000 transport allowance announced by the government of the Gambia. Most of these if not all, are sub-vented schools. They are also lamenting the late payment of salaries. Next, we may hear of the nursery school teachers also going for a sit-down strike for a thing or two.

All these make it quite clear that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is not fully aware of how much it will cost to pay for all these policies and initiatives they have put in place. The integration of some Arabic schools in the system and paying their subvention like in the conventional schools seems to be haphazard and rushed. It seems that proper research and feasibility studies were not conducted to ensure that the government has the ability, financially, to shoulder this responsibility.

These disruptions to the education of our children could – and should have – been avoided. A proper research should have been conducted and the entire cost so scope of the policy be put in place. Integrating the Arabic schools in the manner that it has been done suggests that we are having a parallel system of conventional and Arabic school system. If that is the case, then there should be a whole department of education responsible for Arabic Schools.

Again, if government is going to pay the teachers at the Arabic schools, then what they teach, how they recruit teachers, admit students and other managerial issues should be controlled and regulated by government just like it is done in the conventional system. As it is now, everything seems to be in chaos and certainly, order cannot spring from chaos and confusion.

Going forward, government should conduct a proper and thorough research into the total cost of education in the country. This study will look at what and how much we will need to fund the conventional and the ‘nonconventional’ education up to at least grade twelve. Then, with that information, we will be able to find the funds and budget for it appropriately.

I suggest that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education submit consultancy fund to the World Bank to determine how much is the cost of education in the country. Without this, we will continue to experience unnecessary interruptions in our school system.

It is also important to note that a few people just getting up and organizing strikes is not the proper manner to approach issues. It should be that people employees – join organizations and unions so that when there is a need they can call for and go on strike. If not for anything else, then for effectiveness and maximum impact. Without this, the protests could be many, continuous and continual, but will not be as effective as they should be.

We need better preparation!

Musa Bah
Nusrat SSS

Imam Fatty got it wrong

Dear editor,

The assertion by Imam Abdoulie Fatty on Paradise FM on Monday, 12 March, 2018, recaptured on The Standard of Tuesday, 13th March 2018 as to the reason for Jammeh’s long stay in power is totally wrong and falsifiable. According to the imam, “What kept Yahya in power for 22 years was hard work”. This is far from accurate, the truth being that Jammeh withheld what he knew was the most powerful weapon that could be used by Gambians against him; ‘information’. This, he succeeded in doing by muzzling the local press through the promulgation of obnoxious media laws as well as meting out physical violence against media institutions and persons. In consequence to this, all but a few daring journalists tried to stand up to him to ensure that the principle of transparency and accountability in governance prevailed. As was the case, they too paid the ultimate price for that…Deyda Hydara, wherever he is right now, knows what I am talking about.

In such an atmosphere of tyranny characterized by targeted killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, indefinite prison terms, beatings, arson attacks and enforced disappearances agents of information dissemination and voices of the people were silenced. For fear of their lives and properties, the private media imposed self-sanctions, others fled into forceful exile while the state media became personalized. Eventually, the nation was put to total media blackout, leaving its people in fear – powerless and helpless – which easily paved the way for Jammeh to become the next thing closer to a demi god to be worshipped. thus, for twenty-two years he had it his way.

But if, as alluded to by the imam, that hard work enabled Jammeh to stay put, how could he explain his departure given the huge victory he had in the immediate previous elections? In other words, if Jammeh was able to cling on to power for so long because “he worked hard”, did he lose his grip because he became all of a sudden lazy? The answer is “No”. The people reclaimed their lost power thanks to the dynamics of Information and Communication Technology. Resorting to social media, over which the tyrant had no control, Gambians – those at home and in the diaspora became more informed (as information is power), interconnected, empowered, fearless and motivated.

In exercise of our newfound power, we destabilized the forces of evil and all of their enablers and on that fateful day of December 1st 2016, the leader of Satan’s party could not withstand our might and, under the heat of the moment, had to start packing up to board the final flight to Equatorial Guinea on midnight of 21st January, 2018. So, basically, this was why Jammeh stayed for twenty-two years yaa imam, and not because we loved him.

Finally, I want the imam to realize that if, as he claimed, “ ‘Dinoo’ is what they studied and will talk about it whenever they deemed it necessary”, the people that listen to him also studied some other disciplines and will stand to challenge his analysis whenever they deemed it right.

Omar L Ceesay
School of Arts and Sciences, UTG

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