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City of Banjul
Saturday, September 23, 2023

What occurs when we reach the point of retirement?

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By Sarja Jarjusey
MPhill Candidate Applied
Epidemiology University of Ghana

It is an undeniable truth that everything which commences must eventually conclude. This particular fact has occupied my thoughts as I have observed numerous experienced civil servants bidding farewell to their careers. However, this departure is not typically accompanied by a sense of delight. While it is the desire of every individual to serve until retirement, the question that arises is whether we are truly prepared for this significant transition.

Regrettably, the answer is a resounding NO. Please do not inquire as to how I have acquired this knowledge for one does not need to travel to America in order to comprehend the greatness of America. When a Gambian civil servant reaches retirement, they are often left with limited options. They may choose to become a Justice for Peace or perhaps resort to newspaper collection as occupation because they find themselves with very little to occupy their time. Even if they wish to embark on a vacation, the financial compensation they receive is meager, and they must consider the needs of their family, who rely on them for sustenance.

These circumstances among many others further exacerbate their overall well-being as they find themselves confronted with a multitude of problems for which they possess few solutions to. However, it would be remiss of me to suggest that this is the entirety of their experience. There are a fortunate few who find themselves in a more favorable position, having accumulated sufficient wealth, and whose children serve as a form of security to them.

It is quite disheartening to realize that despite dedicating over three decades of their lives to public service, many of these civil servants have seen little improvement in their circumstances. In the typical Gambian context, they continue to live from hand to mouth, struggling to make ends meet. Let us take a moment to ponder this: if we were to convert their years of service into hourly wages, it is not an exaggeration to say that some of them would have amassed fortunes in places where salaries are more generous. However, regrettably, we find ourselves in Gambia, where we are perpetually in a hurry to replace these individuals.

Upon retirement, these civil servants carry with them a wealth of institutional knowledge and extensive experience that could greatly benefit the younger generation. Their insights into the past could serve as a guide for the present. Unfortunately, the transition of this invaluable wisdom has been sorely lacking. It is imperative that we contemplate this matter sooner rather than later as it would undoubtedly be advantageous for all parties involved.

Mental health is an important aspect to consider, particularly for retired civil servants who were accustomed to the company of their colleagues and enjoyed engaging with them. It is unfortunate that some retirees may find it difficult to adjust to this change and may not be welcomed back into their former workplaces. Although this may seem inconsequential to some, it is worth noting that time passes quickly and circumstances can change unexpectedly.

Retirement should not be perceived as the end, but rather as the beginning of a new journey where retirees can impart their knowledge and experiences to others. In light of this, it would be beneficial for the government to consider restructuring the salaries of civil servants. By doing so, financial concerns would not be a burden for retirees to contend with.

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