The Unesco regional director based in Dakar, Senegal, the former Hon. Minister of Basic & Secondary Education of The Gambia; Anne Therese Ndong-Jatta accompanied by Madam Emily Sarr, program officer non-state actors & governance at NAOSU met with top UTG staff on Friday 18th July 2014 at the Faraba Bantang Campus. The purpose of the meeting is part of Unesco regional director’s mission to clarify issues surrounding EU funded Media Democracy Project in The Gambia as well as discuss with the UTG top echelon on how Unesco could support the recently launched School of Journalism & Digital Media.
In his welcome statement, the vice chancellor of the UTG, Prof Muhammadou MO Kah commended director Ndong-Jatta for taking the time to visit and meet with UTG Staff on issues that will enhance the development of the country’s highest institute of learning and for her immense contribution to the education sector in general. VC Kah gave a run-down of the numerous support received from the Unesco regional office to the UTG by highlighting the support received from Natcom Office in The Gambia for being very instrumental in the development of the School of Journalism & Digital Media curriculum. He also commended Unesco regional director’s support for facilitating the EU funded project on Media Democracy in The Gambia.
Prof Kah further stressed the importance of journalism and digital media to the socio-economic development of The Gambia. He called for concerted efforts to ensure the successful implementation of the program and said despite the limited available resources, UTG continues to provide free accommodation and facilitates transportation for visiting professors to lecture in all our programs. VC Kah said plans are on the way to establish a UTG radio and television stations and a newspaper that will reflect the vision of the university, which is purely academic. The UTG newspaper will be managed and run entirely by the students under the supervision of faculty staff in order to avoid it being used as a tool for disseminating negative information to their fellow students and the wider public. Prof Kah emphasised on the quality of the Journalism curriculum, which is in line with Unesco, Ecowas as well as curricula from other universities around the world and this makes the curriculum universal. He said the curriculum has provision for cross and inter-disciplinary courses blended in the program that will better equip the students with the requisite and sufficient information to report on different spheres of life. Given the strategic location of the School of Journalism & Digital Media between the Faculty of Law, The Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies and the School of Business & Public Administration, it will provide the necessary human resource to equip the students in their interrelated and inter-disciplinary courses offered in the program.
In her remarks, the Unesco regional director Anne Therese Ndong-Jatta thanked VC Kah and his staff for a warm welcome and congratulated them for the achievements UTG has registered so far. She said her mission in the country, particularly at the UTG is to meet and discuss with the senior management of the university on the existing relationship between her organisation and UTG. Part of her mission is also to discuss on how Unesco could support the new School of Journalism & Digital Media as well as clarify the issues surrounding the EU funded project for media democracy in the country and get the support and approval of government to continue to embark on their new and existing projects in the country. Director Ndong-Jatta said she was here to listen to UTG and know their needs that could be embedded in their proposal to benefit from the media democracy project grant as well as know the needs of the School of Journalism & Digital Media.
The Unesco regional director also emphasised on the importance of blending inter-disciplinary courses into the Journalism Program, particularly digital media as an important component of the program. She also elaborated on the EU grant and how the funds can be accessed on short, medium and long terms. She spoke of the importance and pivotal role that information and the media has in the development blue print of the country, which is one of the most important pillars of development. She highlighted some of the objectives of the media democracy project, which includes capacity building that the UTG can take a lead role in this aspect, the review of the communication Act, to enhance legal & regulatory framework and a host of other important components.
Speaking at the meeting, the coordinator of the new School of Journalism & Digital Media Hon. Grey-Johnson also thanked the Unesco regional director for creating the enabling environment for UTG to take its lead role in the field of Journalism training in the country. Mr Nana Grey-Johnson mentioned the efforts he had taken to engage and update all the stakeholders in the media fraternity about the newly established School of Journalism & Digital Media, particularly The Gambia Press Union. In his closing remarks, Mr Grey-Johnson elaborated on the importance of upholding the principles of ethical and professional journalism in the country.
Taking the floor, the permanent secretary of MOHERST, Dr Cherno Omar Barry, congratulated UTG for launching the School of Journalism & Digital Media and implored the Unesco Regional director to channel their funds for capacity building through established institutions like the UTG. He underscored the numerous plans his ministry is working on to ensure quality in the higher education sector, which include among others to come up with accreditation and regulatory authority that will replace the NTA and serve the needs of all higher institutions of learning in the country. He also mentioned that plans are on the way to set up a national examination board that will harmonise and centralise certification at tertiary and higher education levels in the country. Dr. Barry finally called on Unesco & EU to continue to support the UTG. In his remarks, the deputy vice- Chancellor, Dr Omar Jah also commended the Unesco regional director for being very supportive to UTG. The program officer non-state actors & governance at NAOSU, Madam Emily Sarr spoke of the importance of ensuring sustainability of projects and borrowed from Barrack Obama that; Africa does not need great leaders but great institutions. She said the EU funded project is designed to address the felt needs of Gambians that is addressing capacity building gaps, review existing programs and a host of other needs.
In her final remarks, the Unesco regional director, reiterated the different components of the EU funded project and her office’s stance to work closely with the ministry of Information & Communication. The Vice Chancellor, in his closing remarks once again thanked the Unesco regional director for her time to visit the UTG and assured her of UTG’s stance in promoting the good image of the country by launching a UTG social media site that will promote the great achievements of the country to the outside world. He said curriculum are not static but requires periodic reviews and reforms to meet the demands, needs and aspiration of changes around the world. VC Kah through the permanent secretary at MOHERST expressed his sincere appreciation to the Unesco regional director and Mrs Emily Sarr.]]>