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City of Banjul
Saturday, September 26, 2020

US diplomat hails gov’t commitment to education

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Charge’d’Affaires Richard Yoneoka made this comment on Friday at the US ambassador’s residence in Fajara while presiding over the swearing-in of 19 US Peace Corps education volunteers at the start of their two-year service in the country.

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He said: “Let me start by congratulating The Gambia on the announcement last week that the president already declared free education from grade 1 to 12 and from this September, education will be free in all government upper basic school. By next year, it will be free for senior secondary schools too. One of the strengths of this government has been its commitment to education and the progress it has made especially in reference to girls education.” 

Mr Yoneoka told the new Peace Corps volunteers: “Welcome to the Peace Corps and welcome to the most rewarding two years of your life. I envy you a little – but I admire you a lot. You are going on an adventure to change the world – and you will. Your work will contribute directly to the economic sustainability, education and the future of The Gambia.”

Advising the new cohort of volunteers, he exhorted: “Three things you must remember while you are here: absorb the new culture, live within it, but never forget who you are – your culture, your beliefs, your principles are what brought you here and they will keep you grounded and will take you home. Understand the new culture you are now part of it; find value in it; learn from it; be open to new ideas, to the road talking. Be open to how things will play out. You may not understand right now why you are assigned to certain villages in West Africa when you planned to be in Central America. This is definitely not Guatemala, but you are here for a reason and time will make it more clear to you; allow yourself to make mistakes. Find compromises if your original ideas do not work or your projects, developed links. Give yourself break! If you never fail, you are not trying hard enough. Regroup, redress, recommence but please don’t lose the courage to innovate and create.”

Recalling Peace Corps history in The Gambia, the top American diplomat added: “Peace Corps long history is pretty well known here. However, Americans involvement and engagement in Africa’s ‘Smiling Coast’ go back much further. American diplomatic representation was established in The Gambia as early as 1830. We opened an Embassy following Gambian independence in 1965 and sent its first ambassador in 1980.”

Also speaking, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Fatou Lamin Faye said the Peace Corps “are making changes” to the lives and livelihoods of Gambians.

“The Gambia was one of the the first recipients of American Peace Corps volunteers since the start of the programme in 1960. From 1967 to date, a substantial number of volunteers have worked in remote parts of the country, often in very difficult conditions. Their efforts, and more importantly, their ability to speak to Gambians in their native language, have played a major role in fostering better understanding between the cultures of our two peoples. Your sustained commitment will give new strengths and inspiration for the long and warm relationship between The Gambia and US. I believe they are well positioned, well placed to build on this continually expanding relationship.”

The new country director of PC in The Gambia, Jennifer Geotte said: “Since the inception of the Peace Corps in 1961, the mission of the organisation, to promote world peace and friendship, remains unchanged in a changing world.  Volunteers of the Peace Corps are united under the principle that development is achievable through common appreciation and respect, and by the celebration of cultural qualities that mutually exist among Americans and other people in the world. Development is also nurtured by celebrating those qualities that make us distinct and unique.”

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