Momodou B Dem
It has been said of our country some decades ago that, the highest number of degree holders could be found in the agriculture sector. Words have it that the sector boost of many degree holders of all levels. This lonely narrative is said to be changing. Certainly, it is.
Evidence of it, is the journalism sector. Thanks to the School of Journalism of the University of The Gambia, now our country can pride itself with homemade degree holders in the journalism trade. This was a sector that was largely dominated by high school graduates who had growing passion for the trade.
In fact, virtually all sectors of the country now have degree holders. Importantly, the UTG has nine schools. These schools on an annual basis graduate students. Some of them coming out with stainless academic records. Earning them the conferment of awards of excellence such as Suma Cum laude, Magna Cum laude, Cum laude and the likes.
One sector that was hardest hit by the low presence of degree holders within its ranks, is the education sector. Until recently, the sector was a base for the less privileged-those that could only obtain Primary Teachers Certificate and Higher Teachers Certificate from the then fully government financed Gambia College. The few that had degrees were either of the rich families or the lucky birds to secure scholarships from government or its partners. The sector was dominated by individuals who had decades of qualification in either PTC or HTC.
This could be ascertained by those that lived the story. Sadly, it is said that a teacher at the time could teach until at the time of retirement with only a PTC or HTC qualification to his/her name. University education was a road less travelled-by for teachers.
Like journalism, the education sector has witnessed a massive facelift. Degree holders in the sector are abound. One thing that was never/rarely seen or heard of in the sector for over four decades after independence is, having a degree holder as a Principal or Headmaster/mistress of a school. The very few that had degrees were quickly snatched by government to either use their expertise at the Education Ministry or Regional Education Directorates.
Thanks to the intervention of the unmatched philanthropist- MRC-Holland Foundation, Gambian teachers could include Bachelor of Arts in Education in their curriculum vitae. This doesn’t mean there were no degree holders from among our teaching population. There were! The Ministries of Education (Basic and Higher) and other relevant partners have been doing what was perhaps within their reach to award scholarship to teachers to pursue university education. But, there has been a massive surge in the number of teachers being awarded scholarships to study different Programme levels at the university another tertiary institutions. This, is at the intervention of the Netherlands based foundation-MRCH.
The most soothing of these, is the foundation’s stern focus on giving opportunity to the rural poor to bag degrees from colleges and universities.
A university degree for a child from Laminkoto, Bureng or Borabaa or at best a teacher, was only a dream that was hard to translate into reality. The narrative is changing. The education sector now doesn’t only boost of degree holders at the top echelon but also among classroom teachers. Many a commentators are predicting that in the not long distance future, qualifications that were so much held high- PTC and HTC will lose their glories to university degrees. With such unprecedented happening, many are of the belief that, days of quality education will soon return in our schools.
In fact, there has been emerging discussions within some players in the education sector that previous policies that based promotion of teachers and other education officials on longevity-length of service, be revisited to suit the current realities. Many suggest that from henceforth, teacher or promotion in the education sector should be based on merit or qualifications.
All these discussions are being generated as a result of the revamp being witnessed in the sector. By the next few years, more than half of the teacher population of the country would have had university degrees. This is through the intervention of the MRC-H and other key players in the sector. Should that then mean authorities should revisit policies on promotion???
Whether that happens or not, you and I of the less privileged class and by extension the entirety of our nation, owe praises to MRC-Holland Foundation. Make no mistake to think the acronym MRC represents the most popular British’s Medical Research Council. The MRC-H foundation, a Netherlands based was founded in December 2011 with the aim of contributing to the development of a better world. The foundation’s objective is to support projects aimed at increasing the educational opportunities of children in less privileged countries. In the Gambia, since the foundation started operations few years ago, its attention has been on improving the educational facilities and resources in The Gambia. This is in close collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education of the country
MOMODOU B. DEM
MRC-H SCHOLARSHIP BENEFICIARY