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Gambia College seeks bailout from Alumni

Mar 23, 2016, 10:03 AM | Article By: Ebrima Bah

Issue Tuesday 22 March 2016

The Gambia College and its governing council received about D10, 000 on the spot at the 2014/2015 graduation ceremony, from personalities and ex-students of the college at the Brikama campus on Saturday.

The cash-gifts began to rain in the hands of the master of ceremony, following an open call for support to the college by the principal.

The college’s need for support was heightened by the lack of sufficient teaching and learning materials, classroom space and furniture in addition to poor infrastructure.

Students say the scramble for classroom space and furniture before lectures has been the order of the day, since they began to share the facilities at the Brikama campus with students of the University of The Gambia.

The conduct of a whole lecture under the shade of trees with two students sharing a single seat and some others on their toes or on roots of the tree became the norm and culture.

Rex Bojang, a senior lecturer at the Gambia College, translated his lessons of “using locally available resources” to teach by creating a classroom niche under the big tree supposedly car park for his Education technology course, for many years now.

The college administration has for the past seven years been entrusted to the management of the University of The Gambia, limiting chances of the college staff to speak on its behalf at the previous three graduation ceremonies.

In his address to over four thousand graduands and invited guests, principal of the Gambia College Aboubacarr Jallow explained that he was appointed by the President of The Gambia to move the college to academic excellence.

Dr Cherno Omar Barry, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST), who was the guest speaker at the graduation, pointed out that the Gambia College is the longest surviving tertiary institution, established since before independence to date.

“It has evolved from 1946 as the Georgetown Teacher Training Institute to Yundum College in 1952, and gradually to what it is today which started in 1982, expanding its functions from education to health and agriculture.”

In his report, after one year in service as principal of the college, Mr Jallow noted that the college relies heavily on the government subvention. He said students are aware of the struggle, especially during lectures.

Declaring that “furniture is a big problem in the college”, he called on the outgoing students to form an alumni association to raise funds for the college.

He reminded them further that “every dalasi matters”, while extending the appeal to all former students and friends of the college.

Consequently, the Minister of Higher Education proposed a contribution of D100 from every ex-student. His suggestion was announced by the master of the ceremony amidst thunderous applause.

The newly-appointed chairman of the Gambia College Governing Council, Ebrahim Tas Dondeh, said the college should be allowed to compete with other similar institutions and demand for compensation for the services it offers. He pointed out that the college may not do well, if they continue to advocate for business as usual without the necessary changes in the modus operandi, in the face of financial shortages that have shown no sign of abating.

“If we don’t, we will be unconsciously undermining or curtailing the potentials and ability of this great institution of its well-being and its economic and social development goal.”

Mr Dondeh believes that the beacon of hope, bastion and citadel of intelligence which captured conscience of the nation, and created by the college decades ago, should not be forgotten.

The permanent secretary of MOHERST, who pledged the sum of D3000 to the college’s coffers, urged every other former student of the institution to emulate him or do much more than what he has done. To him, the words of Nelson Mandela are enough to justify dipping hands into his pocket for supporting the college.

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given that separates one person from another.”

According to Katim Touray, history lecturer at the Gambia College, the trend at which the new administration is striving to govern the college will earn the institution a greater reputation on the production and delivery of its services. He pointed out that the areas of concern are many, but hopes are brighter.

According to analysts, the large turnout of graduands at the ceremony was an indication of students’ long-awaited wish to see the college assert its independence. Many of them have arguably failed to show up at the grounds of the last three graduation ceremonies, based on the fear that the “marriage” with the University of The Gambia was meant to overshadow them.