Minister says no turning back
By Tabora Bojang
With only few weeks to go before the proposed commencement of classes at the Faraba Campus of the University of The Gambia, student leaders and academic staff have said they wonder how this is possible with basic amenities such as running water, internet and electricity not available at the campus.
Student Union president Kemo Conteh told The Standard that the Faraba campus is simply not ready to welcome students in its current state.
“For a start, classroom chairs are not yet installed, internet is not sorted out and water and electricity still remains a nightmare. Also, the step-down transformer is not in place and there is no laboratory equipment too. So, there are so many things lacking,” Conteh lamented.
He said students are totally opposed to any imminent relocation of classes to the facility without these basic things. “We have had series of engagements with the ministry and the UTG authorities where we highlighted these issues and we were assured that these things would be in place in September but to our dismay this is not the case. Our position is that we cannot move into such a modern edifice only to start protesting or agitating for these basic things to be in place,” he said.
The UTG staff union president Dr Ensa Touray, said the absence of basic amenities will hamper effective learning as students will be preoccupied with challenges of transportation, security, water, food and accommodation among others. “We know that the UTG is spending a lot of money on rents outside, but we are equally concerned about the lack of basic things.
But again why is the minister pushing hard, almost forcing us to move to Faraba when basic conditions are not yet addressed? Government is owing the university over D 70 million and I think the minister should preoccupy himself with ensuring that those arrears are paid. People are suffering in the UTG. The institution is weak,” Dr Touray said.
He expressed concern that sending academic and faculty staff to the new campus in isolation of the office of the Vice Chancellor will create weakness in governance of the university.
However, the authorities are insisting that the decision to move classes to the new campus for the upcoming semester still stands with majority of the civil works nearly completed.
On his part, the minister of higher education, Prof Pierre Gomez, insisted that delaying relocation to Faraba for another semester or academic year is unfathomable.
“We are ready for Faraba this semester. I understand that some people don’t want Faraba because they still have activities in Serekunda and Banjul that they cannot run when they are moved to Faraba but we will not allow them an inch. As far as national interest is concerned, we must conclude this matter. It is the longest project in this country, lasting for 12 years and any time there is delay Gambian people are paying for extra,” Professor Gomez stressed.
He said the ministry remains resolute to ensure that students no longer hold classes outside or under trees.
Addressing concerns about the non availability of basic amenities, the minister disclosed that the first batch of chairs have arrived in the country and others will arrive next week while installation of water tanks will be completed soon.
He said the ministry is also partnering with the police to provide security over the materials to be installed soon.
According to the minister, there is a contingency plan to move electricity from the old campus to some schools in the new campus while others will use generators until a transformer is made available by the contractor.
Professor Gomez further disclosed that an MoU has been signed with the Gambia Transport Service Corporation to provide school bus services for students.
The minister added that some buses will run the route from Westfield- Brikama Highway to Faraba while others will run from the Bertil Harding Highway to Airport- Junction and Faraba.
“Again, we did not say classes are starting on exactly September 11. Let them wait, the UTG management will tell them the appropriate time to start lectures.
Among the schools proposed to relocate to Faraba this year are Education, ICT, Arts and Sciences, Business and Public Administration.