Mar 20, 2012, 2:47 PM
This was revealed during the presentation of scholarships awarded by the Africa Centre of Excellence project (ACE) held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel on Thursday.
ACE awarded the scholarships to the Gambia government through the implementing agency, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.
The awardees, drawn from various priority sectors of the country’s economy such as education, health and agriculture, are expected to be in various universities in Africa, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Benin.
In his speech at the presentation ceremony, Dr Abubacarr Senghore, Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOHERST), said the award ceremony was historic and significant to the country’s sectors and institutions concerned.
According to Minister Senghore, this was the first time that over 142 candidates are given the opportunity to pursue Master’s and doctorate degrees, under the ACE capacity-building initiative project.
Minister Senghore further said the large number of Gambians drawn mainly from the public sector, with few private sector participants, would contribute immensely to addressing the capacity and competency gaps which had been a challenge for many years now.
He recalled that since the establishment of the University of The Gambia about 16 years ago, many graduates have been produced in various fields of study at bachelor’s level.
He disclosed that recently, few Gambians have started pursuing courses leading to master’s level, but no PHD programme is currently being offered at the University of The Gambia.
He indicated that over 75 per cent of Gambians are involved in food production, but mostly at subsistence level, adding that the country is endowed with natural resources in terms of arable land, the River Gambia’s fresh water for irrigation and the youthful population.
The agricultural sector has the potential to reduce poverty, household hunger, and most significantly ensure food security, he said.
According to Minister Senghore, the capacity building initiative had not lost sight of the fact that health service delivery was critical to national development.
However, he said, the current capacity gaps in terms of the required number of qualified personnel in specialised fields remains a challenge.
“We at the ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology are convinced that we have the responsibility to address these capacity gaps in the health sector,” he said.
It was for this reason that the ACE Project selected a total number of 31 health personnel to pursue various courses, ranging from nursing and midwifery, to laboratory studies, public health, neonatal health, reproductive health, molecular cell biology, among others, stated Minister Senghore.
He said it was envisaged that the project would complement the remarkable efforts of the government under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh, in prioritising health, agriculture and education in the country.