Honourable Minister and my respected brother,
It has been more than two months since I first penned the first part of this epistle on the above subject. I am well acquainted with the tremors that article created, shaking the very foundation of your ministry. So I thought you would rethink this misadventure you are set to plunge our President and the entire country into. But it seems you have dug in and decided to go ahead with no motivation but the pursuit of a perceived legacy and the very phrase you used 25 years ago in a meeting I shall never forget: political expediency. Et tu, Badara?
I thought you would rethink this move and hence I never wrote this sequel; but I was awoken from my reverie when I heard President Barrow mention your project in his recent State of the Nation Address. As usual, I know that the segment he read on higher education are the exact words of your own ministry as submitted to the office of the Secretary General. I was shocked to learn that you are going ahead with this project but what was even more disappointing was the lack of detail in this segment of the Presidential speech:
“Under the African Centres of Excellence Impact Project, Government will shortly access Twelve Million US Dollars (US$12,000,000),for infrastructure and capacity development. Another three million five hundred thousand Dollars (U S $ 3 ,5 0 0 ,0 0 0 ) has been secured from UNESCO-KOICA to transform The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) into a university;”
When I read the above portion of the President’s speech, I knew it is business as usual at your ministry — throwing money at a problem. This is nothing but the fruits of a mindset beset with poverty. The problems confronting our educational system are deep-rooted. The solutions must come from serious soul-searching and across the board consultation with a view to come up with fresh ideas and strategies to completely “overhaul” our system as promised by President Barrow during the early days of his administration.
But running around with handouts from our so-called development partners in the name of projects will surely not cut it. It is sad to note that I have not heard about a single block being laid by your ministry from the public purse. It is always one donor or the other (primed by their own interests) funding some classroom or toilet project; but nothing comes from our own initiative and resource base. I would excuse any minister for this but you, the most erudite Badara Joof, blessed with a wealth of practical experience in education.
Honourable Minister, you have a thousand questions to answer regarding this matter, but you remain mute in your pursuit of glitz and glamour rather than meaningful change for the benefit of posterity. A recent news report I chanced upon has heightened by worries about this project of transforming GTTI into another ivory tower. Of all the universities in the UK, Europe and the United States, why did you choose De Montfort University “to help create The Gambia’s first university of technology”? What expertise does De Montfort University have? What is their ranking in the area of technology among the leading universities of the world?
These and many more questions keep ringing in my mind. But what is even more worrying is the demand for answers to these and many more questions from generations yet unborn.
And lest I forget, what plans do you have for our struggling, still fledgling University of The Gambia? It looks like the problems are getting worse. Please take a step back, pause your GTTI misadventure and give some time and energy to our most important institution of higher learning, the UTG. At the very least, I expect you to try and resolve the pending matter of unearned per diem before you finally nail the last straw into the administrative coffin of your most ardent adversary at that institution. But is it not the case that the main man standing up to your bullying tactics at that institution has already been defenestrated?
May Allah preserve our nation and bring down His special favours upon our nation’s pride, the beleaguered University of The Gambia, our main alma-mater.
Former Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, author.