In some sense one can gauge the development of a society by the number and quality of its higher education institutions. The university is the apex higher education institution hence the quality of a university will also determine the quality of development of that society.
This is simple because a university is a citadel of study, learning and knowledge production. A university is a place to study society and environment in all their living and non-living phenomena in order to understand the nature of things and thereby determine the life, resources and affairs of that society and environment. It trains and produces individuals to acquire the tools of research and analysis hence are capable of observing and studying their society and its environment to identify and bring out issues and offer solutions.
No society has developed in the world in the absence of knowledge – whether in the ancient world or in the modern times! The great and strong societies and empires of the past had more knowledge than those that were weaker. Whether it’s ancient Egypt or the Roman Empire or the Ming Dynasty or the British empire or the Ghana or Mali empires among many, the deciding factor was knowledge.
These societies had developed tools, processes, structures, and standards to produce information which are analysed into knowledge products used to build their armies, run their institutions, build their economies, improve living standards, and make them strong and powerful. No nation can be strong and powerful socio-culturally, economically, politically and militarily without the acquisition and utilisation of objective and analytical knowledge!
This is why when one reviews global university rankings it is not difficult to see why some countries are powerful and others are weaker. The strong and powerful nations, regardless of their size or political or religious systems are those with highest number and quality of universities!
For example, look at Singapore which is a tiny country but with a strong and powerful economy. That success is not achieved in the absence of high-quality universities. It has universities within the 25 best institutions I the world. Singapore gained independence in 1965.
Look at the Netherlands with universities ranking within the best 50 to 100 global institutions. Anyone who knows the Netherlands will not be surprised at its high human development and strong economy thanks the quality of knowledge in that society. The same can be said of many other countries including China, UK and even North Korean which has built one of the strongest and highly technological militaries of the world.
Therefore, the social, economic, and political progress of The Gambia cannot be achieved in the absence of university education. Unfortunately, UTG as the only university in the country is hugely underfunded and ill-equipped. The quality of infrastructure, facilities, and services as well as the conditions of work at UTG are hopelessly poor and weak. Visit UTG classrooms and halls to see the scarcity of equipment.
Evidently UTG is not within the list of best universities in the world. UTG stands at number 9583 in the global ranking of universities of the world (https://www.4icu.org/reviews/15163.htm).
Apart from the poor facilities and services, knowledge production is low at UTG. A university is worth its name when it carries out multiple researches and publishes books as often as possible. A university is a university when it has high quality academicians and labs of all sorts to carry out research, write papers, convene knowledge forums, and publish books among other knowledge products and exercises. Are these taking place at UTG?
There’s no doubt that there are lot of well meaning, competent and qualified Gambian academicians at UTG. But they are not enough. More importantly they cannot reach their full potential if the university is not well funded. Without adequate funding and fully equipped, UTG cannot be relevant to the needs of the people and be that engine of development for The Gambia.
Without funding and equipment, the quality of teaching and learning will be substandard hence produce weak graduates who will turn into weak policy and decision makers, development practitioners and poor leaders. This means the progress and future of The Gambia shall be undermined.
Therefore, the Government should invest hugely into UTG if this country is to salvage itself. There’s no excuse for the Government to fail to do that since we now have a former UTG professor Pierre Gomez as the minister of higher education while another seasoned academician/practitioner Herbert Robinson is the Vice Chancellor!
For The Gambia to develop and grow UTG must be well funded and well equipped. UTG should produce the thinkers, leaders, technicians, doctors, lawyers, technologists, engineers, agriculturalists, inventors, artists, designers, scientists and experts and creators in all fields that The Gambia needs. Without these experts and creators no country can be strong and powerful.