Honourable Minister and my dear respected kotor,
I salute you with great reverence and with good reasons for that respect: You have always been a great source of inspiration for us throughout the nineties and beyond, as one of the brightest stars in our academic firmament. Indeed I have never met a public official so eloquent and imbued with brilliance like you.
That respect remains to this day. And it is because of the high esteem in which I have always held you that this epistle, which should have been penned much earlier, got delayed. Indeed it is very difficult to criticise public officials on policy matters in our little town called Gambia. This is due to the fact that our people prefer to hush down issues and make gossip mills out of important matters rather than coming out boldly to challenge the relevant authorities.
We used Yahya Jammeh’s heavy hand as an excuse for this but the same attitude remains, by and large, post-Jammeh. And that is why I developed a new descriptor hashtag #HushHushNation as I still ride on my foundational one #CantCageMe.
It is sad to note that whenever I publish open letters to serving public officials, some people assume that I have personal problems with those officials despite the obvious fact that the matters I raise are issues of genuine public concern. Therefore I am very careful and I do not rush to issue critiques of public officials; I became extra cautious on this one because of the respect and admiration I have for you.
However, the matter at hand is so critical and so urgent that if I do not write this letter, I would not be able to sleep peacefully. The subject is education, a matter I deeply care about in this country.
When I first heard that The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) virtually our only vocational training institute worth its name was going to be transformed into a university alongside the Management Development Institute (MDI), I thought it was some kind of a joke or a case of newspapers misreporting a matter too complex. Alas, I was wrong and I knew that to be the case when I read yet another news report announcing Cabinet approval for what I have now labelled the worst decision in our educational history.
Honourable Minister, I believe that you may disagree outwardly but in the inner recess of your heart, you would firmly agree with me that our only public university, the UTG is not in good shape at all. The students of this university do not have adequate classroom and sanitary facilities. UTG still lacks the right numbers of professors and lecturers to be able to fully and effectively carry out its mandate.
Funding for the UTG is inadequate and the leadership at that university is certainly suboptimal, to be euphemistic about a very serious and critical situation. Most times I have said that the energy, and brilliance, exhibited by the students of the UTG far outpaces the leadership at that university and something should be done about that to help us duly harness the brimming potential of our dynamic young minds.
After two decades of operation our only public university does not have a proper library, talk less of modern laboratories. Recently one of the programmes in that university (UTG) in the area of science could not pass the test of accreditation from relevant authorities but desperate efforts had to be mounted to make sure that programme is given a pass.
Why then do you think that it is prudent to create a new university of science and technology and in the process rob us of the only vocational training institute we can boast of as a nation in dire need of skilled technicians in every field?
Honourable Minister, I am sure you have seen my comment on Facebook on this matter but it is important that I repeat it here for emphasis as I conclude part one of of this epistle: A country that doesn’t have a single solid high school level physics lab has no business trying to set up a so called university of science and technology…stop misleading our President!
‘Jeurejeuff kotor Badara’, you have served us well from the previous government as a very effective permanent secretary at the Ministry of Basic Education. You continue you serve us well as Minister of Higher Education and we appreciate your service. But this move on GTTI is not a wise one. Let the conversation continue in part 2, inshaa Allah.
Former Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, author.