May 13, 2014, 10:02 AM
(Issue,Monday 30 March 2015)
The party leader of Gambia Moral Congress, GMC, has weighed in on the ongoing disorder at the University of The Gambia (UTG) calling on the government, university authorities and students to “amicably resolve the issue in favour of quality”.
There is an ongoing disorder between the university students and their administration over a new grading system introduced by the university, which the students say “is not friendly”.
In a statement issued at the weekend, Mai Ahmad Fatty said the UTG cannot insist on quality grades from students “if it did not provide quality teaching and quality faculty” facilities, first and foremost.
However, the lawyer cum politician said the GMC will support efforts to stake the proposed grading system in an objective manner reflecting best international standards as the system should aim at preparing the students for global competitiveness.
Below we reproduce the GMC statement verbatim:
When the university system becomes an instrument of partisan propaganda to advance partisan political interests, academic and intellectual excellence get ejected. No government should play politics with education. As an institution of higher learning, government should as a priority unleash the pursuit of liberal intellectual thinking, allowing the university to breath free from asphyxiating exterior bondage. GMC believes education is the most vital transformational tool and a formidable instrument for socioeconomic empowerment for any country, including The Gambia. The goals of wealth creation, employment generation, poverty reduction and value reorientation can be pursued, attained and sustained only through an efficient, relevant and functional educational system. Education is critical to our goal of transition to industrialization.
The opportunity for university education must be accessible to all, and only those who deserve by merit ought to be accorded the right to admission and continuity. The UTG being the most important highest institution of learning in our country has the mandate to insist on providing quality education to our children, and the students who are the immediate beneficiaries have the right to also insist on quality delivery. The quest for quality education must be a continuous project by itself, a project with UTG students as the primary stakeholders. GMC therefore fully supports the goal of ensuring that graduates of UTG are able to fully measure up to their equals in any part of the world. The astronomical investments into the university system, so as to ease the country’s human resource exigencies must pay dividend in terms of quality and NOT just quantity.
The criteria for quality education also involve quality teaching and quality faculty. The UTG cannot insist on quality grades from students if it did not resolve this issue first and foremost. There is no short cut to quality education. The nation expects all parties to comply with all measures, initiatives, policies and goals that would advance the provision of quality education, or substantially uplift professional and academic standards in the university system.
The UTG should be supported in the development of policies, practices and standards to promote and uphold the academic integrity of higher education. The grading system proposed should aim at preparing our under-graduates and graduates for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. Therefore, GMC will support efforts to stake the grading system in an objective manner reflecting best international standards, and we strongly urge all stakeholders to do the same.
However, the challenge of quality is systematic and cannot just be solved at the tertiary stage. The beginning years of a child’s life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success later in school and in life. Leading economists agree that high quality early learning programs can help level the playing field for children from lower income families on vocabulary, social and emotional development, while helping students to stay on track and stay engaged in the early elementary grades. Children who attend these programs are more likely to do well in school, find good jobs, and succeed in their careers than those who don’t. Early learning facilities must be equipped to prepare our children from primary to university education. The poor quality of our basic education system is partly responsible for the challenges the UTG confronts in ensuring requisite standards.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education has to do a better job, and if it performs that task efficiently, the bottle-neck being experienced at the UTG would be eliminated. It has to go back to the drawing board, fix the many gaps and lapses and provide strong foundational basis for quality education delivery to our children. The Ministry cannot achieve this without adequate budgetary allocation and resources from the government. It would therefore be accurate to aver that the challenges of quality education are a result of systematic failures of the educational policy of this administration. There are acute shortages of infrastructure and facilities at all levels, while enormous disparities continue to persist in educational standards and learning achievements between rural and urban Gambia. Clearly, changes and approach to foundational education are required at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education.
GMC calls on the government, UTG authorities and students to amicably resolve the issue in favour of quality, affordability, certainty and consistency. The issue of tuition increase understandably should be resolved quickly. We propose the hefty budgetary allocation intended for national holidays be converted to close the tuition gab or through supplementary allocation. Educating our children is more fundamental and urgent than celebrating national holidays. We encourage the university Governing Board to thoroughly, exhaustively and objectively investigate the grievances, complaints and concerns of the students and resolve this imbroglio in a dispassionate and just manner without further delay. Sincere, objective dialogue that openly respects the rights and obligations of both parties, minus authoritarian political inhibitions, should be the path of negotiation and solutions. This would provide a win-win solution for all.
GMC has a better educational agenda that recognizes that unless young people are given greater certainty about their post secondary pathways, they will inevitably lower their ambitions. The Gambia will become a much weaker nation for the loss of ambition of its young.
We are committed to providing the best educational opportunities for every citizen from early child education through school to vocational, technical education to university and beyond. We will substantially increase the budgetary allocation for education more than ever provided for since independence. We will enhance the working conditions, pay and other benefits for teachers and lecturers; enhance and maintain quality and standards through relevant, competency-based curricula and effective quality control at all levels. We will enhance the efficiency, resourcefulness, and competence of teachers and other educational personnel through requisite training, capacity building and motivation. We will recruit more trained teachers, lecturers as may be appropriate so as to attain the required teacher-student ratio applicable at different levels. We will provide an enabling environment and stimulate the active participation of the private sector, civil society organizations, communities and development partners in educational development. The most important objective is to ensure and sustain unfettered access to education for the total development of the individual.