Could you please tell us who you are?
My name is Seedy Drammeh. I was born in Si Kunda, Jarra. I began my primary education in Jarra Soma and then went to Tahir Ahmadiyaa Muslim High school in Mansakonko then completed at form three at Muslim high school in Banjul. I proceeded to GTTI where I got my first diploma after a three-year course. Then I moved to the United Kingdom where I bagged another diploma in South Calfi College in Brixton. I then moved to City Banking College in the UK where I had a post-graduate diploma in banking and financial services. Then I went to Leicester University in the UK where I got my master’s degree. After that I proceeded for a PhD programme in USA. Upon return home, I picked up my first job with the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA). Previously, it was Customs & Excise Department. The name was only changed to GRA in 2007 as a result of the merger.
How did you raise funds for studies in the UK and US?
That is a very good question. I haven’t had any government scholarship. I had a Dutch friend from Amsterdam in Holland who has been helping me all along since I was studying at GTTI. He was not actually supporting my education as a whole. I was also working to raise funds to pay my school. It was very hectic and difficult but I was able to manage it all the way through to where I am today. I thank God for it.
Tell me how you did it?
I can say through determination and hard work. Anyone who studied abroad or in the UK will tell you it is not easy. You have to pick up a casual job which might go up to twelve hours and attend classes alongside that job. You do not have to compromise with any of the two because if you are late at school it is a problem and if you are late for work it is a problem. It is a question of being very strong and enthusiastic, showing courage and determination otherwise it is difficult to make it.
Having worked as the human resources manager of GRA for many years, what do you see as the biggest constraints to productivity in the Gambian civil service using your institution as a microcosm?
I have always been advocating for training because without training people cannot live up to their expectations. When you talk about productivity in the work force you are talking about people and if those people are not well-equipped in terms of education, training and experience they wouldn’t be able to deliver and as such the institution will not realise its objectives so the problem with human resources, in my own thinking, is lack of capacity building. People are attending workshops and seminars but that’s not enough. People need to also understand the kind of workshops and seminars to attend that will add value to their workforce in order to attain productivity at all times.
How do you assess the country’s progress in harnessing its human resource potential on a score of 1-10?
If you follow the media you know that people have continued to advocate for training and capacity building. Maybe the pace at which we were moving was very slow. We could have done better than that if everybody worked together and sent people for relevant training courses where after acquiring knowledge and skills they can also come and share the same skills with other people who were not lucky because not everybody will have an opportunity to be trained by the institution considering the budgetary constraints. The few who are lucky to be trained must come back and translate the same message for the benefit of everybody. But unfortunately this is lacking in many places. Most of the time people are sent for training and when they come back home even to write a report about the training to share with the rest of the staff is a problem. I think all institutions should have a strong policy that whoever is opportune to attend training should come back and filter it to the rest of the staff so that everybody will benefit and the organisation will achieve its objectives.
But most of the time after expending huge amounts of money on training staff they emigrate to the West in search of better life. How could this be stopped?
With brain drain I think it is natural human beings look for greener pastures in different parts of the world which is difficult to stop but we can minimise it greatly. The way to go about it after investing on human beings is to put a great value on motivation. This is a relative term because what motivates you may not necessarily motivate me. It could be money or anything. But generally when we conduct an opinion polls you will realise that 98% of people will need a conducive workplace; they need support and recognition. If those things have been put in place it will reduce brain drain in the country.
But some people grouse that there are other reasons for the brain and skills flight among Gambians like low pay?
Naturally everyone would want to get good pay but even in the developed world pay is not used as a fundamental means of motivation. It is not. The fundamental issue is about giving comfort to people. It is about supporting them and making them progress in the workplace. Career progression is the most important thing in any work place. You could start a job at a low pay but also climbing the ladder until you get to a stage where you will get something reasonable to sustain you and your family.
But don’t you think putting food on the table takes a higher position on the hierarchy of needs for most people than anything else and that ability is impaired by low pay?
We have to understand that the reason everybody is concentrating on putting food on the table is because of the dependency ratio in the country. You have four or five people in a family all depending one working person. Knowledge is about mind preparation. It is to educate people and if people are educated that understanding will be there and the ratio of dependency will be limited. Then people will be more focused on developing themselves and developing the entire family. One person cannot pay attention to the entire family. The need of human beings are unlimited and resources are scarce which makes it impossible to satisfy human beings, even your own kids. If the education is there and people are ready to work with opportunities obviously the pressure will be limited.
Don’t you think the dependency ratio is due to the failure of government to provide jobs in sufficient numbers to haul people out of poverty?
I don’t believe that because even developed countries, for example, the USA, have a problem with a large number of people out of work which it has been battling for many years up to now. The US is one of the super powers in the world and despite that they can’t provide jobs for everybody. I do not think it is only the responsibility of government to provide jobs for everybody educated in a school. You can be educated in a university but there is no law that forces you to pick a job. But again as a human being it is incumbent upon you to contribute to the development of your nation. And contributing to national development depends on how you go about it .You can pick up any job and still contribute to the development of your country. You can venture into many things that can develop the country. People think when they acquire their degrees the only thing to compensate them is office work which is unfortunately not the case in the developed world. In the developed world people with Masters and PhD do jobs that do not entail sitting in an office and they are doing well .Their contributions also complement the efforts of the government. It is things like that which help the government to also realise its dreams.
But don’t you think that is a comparison beyond the pale because we have different systems. For example the US have a safety net for people who are not employed and we do not have that here?
I know that but it takes time to get there. Those things were pioneered by people who came together, worked together and because of that they were able to be where they are today .Reaching the development of such societies will obviously take a long time but we will surely achieve it. If everybody in the country be it a mechanic, carpenter or any other person does their job well we will surely achieve it.
You have written 18 books. What is the goal behind it all?
First and foremost, I want to share the little knowledge I have with the rest of Mankind. I want to promote the reading culture in the country. Being a writer does not mean you are the best intellectual and intelligent or opportune person in the country. It is a question of having the time to sit down and reason well and do something to help people. Sharing knowledge with people and inspiring them are fundamental to human progress.
But a reader of one of your books alleged that despite your profligacy you have put quantity over quality with the poor writing of one of your books. How do you respond to that?
I have no problem with that at all because no matter what qualifications you have you always have a proofreader to go through what you have written to correct any mistakes. I accept most of their contributions which are reflected in the books and most of the time the majority of people in this country appreciate it .If other people have a different view I appreciate that too. There is nothing you will do in this world without people criticising you. And if you do not appreciate that you wouldn’t even prosper. I welcome negative comments as well as I welcome positive comments from the general public.]]>