OBSERVER's JULY 22nd BUS NOW IN KANIFING MUNICIPALITY
Friday, July 17, 2009
Based on the line of official demarcation, the Kanifing municipality commences from Abuko and it ends at the Denton Bridge, at the entrance of the country's capital city of Banjul.
If there is any place in The Gambia that represents this country's accomplishments in terms of business, it is undoubtedly the Kanifing municipality as it is arguably the most rapidly developing in every aspect of development - infrastructure, business, the standard of living of the people, which is inspired by the opportunities which abound, and the basic necessities of life, health service delivery, education, and recreational facilities, etc.
It is quite difficult, however, to defend this argument, but the KM mayor, Hon. Yankuba Kolley, strongly believes in an ingrained development orientation the people of his municipality have espoused from the pioneer of modern Gambia, the architect of the July 22nd Revolution, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh.
But the glory the Kanifing municipality currently basks in did not just come out of the blue; it was born out of years of hard work and dedication, the hallmark of 15 years of AFPRC/APRC administration, an administration that amplified the power of the bottom-top approach of development in this country.
Prior to 1994, the deficiencies in development within the KM, just like in the rest of the country, were so enormous that the people needed not only a well defined approach, but also the political commitment, and, above all, the rightful leadership to steer the affairs. As far as Mayor Kolley is concerned, "awareness is the cornerstone of development." And this, he acknowledged, is the first thing this government had worked on. In essence, awareness creation among the people had set the pace for them to know their right to demand what they want and to take part in the process of providing their needs.
Today, for instance, as one of the most latent of settlements in the municipality prior to the July 22nd Revolution, Abuko has carved an identity for itself. But this was not until it got the recognition it needed from government in terms of the provision of basic necessities. It was not until after 1994 that the children of Abuko had access to basic education, with the establishment of Abuko Lower Basic School.
The extraordinary feeling of the people of Abuko can best be described by their insistence on their choice of name for their new school. While the school is officially Abuko Lower Basic School, natives there, according to the head mistress of the school, Aminata Gassama, continue to insist on naming it after the president's father, Sulayman Junkung Jammeh Lower Basic School. "This is just a way of expressing their appreciation to him [President Jammeh] for his efforts in bringing an end to their years of hardship," head mistress, Aminata Gassama, told the Observer crew. Like many other schools built by this government, Abuko LBS also aims at eliminating the longstanding tradition of long distance trekking by students. As a matter of fact, very many children in Abuko had dropped out of school because of this, according to the head mistress.
"They were either frightened on their way to school, or, as in many occasions, they were attacked or their valuables confiscated from them. Many students reportedly returned home bare footed," She said. According to the school authorities here, President Jammeh had sponsored, single-handedly, the construction of an adjoining nursery school in the area, which is named after the president's late father.
In addition to a lower basic school, Abuko now has an upper basic school, offering the children there the chance to get that level of education, for the first time. Abuko Upper Basic School is one of the many schools that cropped up in the early days of the Revolution. Also, the Westfield-Mandinaba Road has added colour to this once dormant settlement. A new market, which is expected to boost business and change the outlook of Abuko significantly, is nearing completion.
A number of settlements in this area, some of which are officially not part of the Kanifing municipality, have taken shape within this period, with the provision of schools, health posts, pipe borne water and electricity supply, alongside an increase in business and other human activities. These include Wellingara, Kunkujang Keitaya, Sinchu Alagie, Sinchu Sory, Nema etc. These are all in the Western Region.
Tabokoto is an epitome of the rapidity that characterises developmental transformation under this APRC government. Just before July 1994, Tabokoto was barely a village, but toda, it is just like anywhere else in Banjul or Serekunda. It has become such an important strategic point that it gives the impression of an established business centre.
The Tabokoto-Old Yundum Highway was indeed quite a catalyst for this. Along it lie the once almost nonexistent settlements of Sinchu Baliyaa, Kunkungjang Keitayaa, etc., all of which form part of the Western Region. In addition to this catalytic mini coastal road projects, the introduction of stable electricity supply has kind of facilitated the evolution of Tabokoto into some sort of a modern town. Its compactness, especially as highly manifested on the Tabokoto-Westfield Highway, makes it had to identify the border between it and Fajikunda.
Despite the hugeness in terms of population of a place like Fajikunda, its people had to struggle through years of discomfort and want of space at its lower basic school, St. Charles Luwanga Lower Basic School. In response, government constructed three buildings between 2003 and 2005, to cater for the high demand for space. The school, according to its head master, Francis Gibba, used to operate on only one shift, but now it operate on two shifts.
The construction of these structures, Gibba told the Observer crew, has greatly lessened burden on both parents and school authorities as thereis space for most, if not all of the children that come requesting for space. Stability in electricity has impacted positively on Fajikunda, the result being a proliferation of businesses especially on the main highway. The situation is the same in the rest of Fajikunda. One noticeable development that has had a dramatic effect on the people is the construction of the road that runs from Kaw Junction to Fajikunda Dummos.
In the words of Alkalo Dodou Njie, that road was virtually unusable, because of its deplorable nature. For this, he said, the people of Fajikunda feel a great deal of commitment towards President Jammeh, who, he added, has relived them of the burden associated with this road prior to its construction. The Alkalo also told the Observer crew that it was the APRC government that made their taps to start running, although they had been erected and lefty non-functional for up to two years. Enhancement of electricity supply as well as upgrading of service delivery at the Fajikunda Health Center, Alkalo Njie said, have made enormous differences for his people.
The APRC government's crusade especially in the area of education has paid dividend in Latrikunda Sabiji, another highly populated settlement that, until 1994, could not realise its rightful place.
Latrikunda Sabiji finally got an Upper Basic School in 1999. But it was not until 200, that the actual structure was built. Today it serves catchments areas such as Nema, Fajikunda, Bundung etc. In addition, Latrikunda Sabiji Lower Basic School also received major boosts in the form of the construction of three blocks of story buildings, between 1996 and 2007. The buildings here, according to the school's head mistress, Fatou Dampha, came fully furnished, with all teaching and learning materials available for the students.
The parity in terms of enrolment between boys and girls represents an impressive outcome of 15 years of a campaign spearheaded by a government that has given education its rightful place in the national development efforts. In almost all the schools we have visited so far, the girls have been seen to outnumber the boys, and the only available reason we come across is the outright sponsorship for girls being provided by the President's Empowerment for Girls Project (PEGEP), an offshoot of the Jammeh Foundation For Peace (JFP). The APRC Government also established a new upper basic school in Tallinding, besides upgrading the lower basic school in the area.
The enrolment figure at Bundung Lower Basic School gives a picture of how demanding space had been in these areas. With 3431 students, Bundung LBS, which started as a community initiative project with just one insufficient building, now has a total of 7 buildings added onto its structures between 2003 and 2004, all of them story buildings. The school now serves catchments areas as far as Fajikunda, Latrikunda Sabiji, and Sukuta, among others.
Charles Jow Memorial Academy
Charles Jow Memorial Academy is the success story of what has been described as a test of local government intervention in the educational sector. It was constituted to fulfil a manifest need for an upper basic school in the Bundung catchment area, according to a statement on an official document of the school. The school's current principle, Alpha Khan, embodies the ambition the school's initiators had for it. He introduced the Observer crew to a number of ongoing projects which, on completion, will set the school on course to actualise these dreams. Already, construction is underway for the latest project of a senior secondary school, just two years after establishment. The first batch of grade 10 will commence classes when school resums later this year.
A magnificent three story building which will see the commencement of subjects in the industrial arts awaits commissioning. There is also a borehole that provides the entire school with unrestricted water supply, fixing a formerly very big problem of water supply. Here again, the girls outnumber the boys in terms of enrolment, and the reason is the intervention of the President's Empowerment of Girls Education.
Health has been a key area of priority for President Yahya Jammeh, and his fervent expression of concern is seen in his personal involvement in the form of provision of medical assistance either in the form of financial aid or provision of medication as in the case of his HIV/AIDS and other treatment programms. But one very important initiative of the Gambian leader was the establishment of the Jammeh Foundation for Peace, which gave birth to the now popular Jammeh Foundation for Peace Hospital in Bundung.
Accordingly, JFP was founded on the three fundamental goals of education, health and food security. The JFP Hospital came as result of a manifest need by the people of Bundung, who demanded the favour of the president in upgrading the former Bundung Health Post. Between 2001 and 2004, the hospital operated as a day care, on quite a low profile. The authorities, through the support of the JFP, invested heavily on its human resource base. And today, the hospital operates 24 hours round the clock. It provides services such as maternal and child health care, delivery, outpatient, dental, eye care as well as attending to people with TB and HIV/AIDS.
There is also a functional laboratory at the hospital. Its popularity is widespread, with patients coming from a wider spectrum of communities. The average turnout recorded for out patients stands at 4000 plus. Statistics show that in 2008 alone, the hospital recorded an outpatient turnout of 88,900. Average antenatal cases stands at 3000 plus, while average delivery cases stand at 3000 plus.
The JFP Hospital, according to chief executive officer Yahya Manneh, provides one of the highest delivery services in the country, after Brikama. The success behind it is "commitment" of the founder. Manneh revealed to the Observer that plans are underway to establish a 230 bedded maternity unit that will resolve the problems of its current level of high demand. JFP Hospital has been operating mainly on the support of the JFP and the occassional philanthropic help from institutions and individuals with similar aspirations as the founder of the Foundation.
This publication is directed by
Pa Malick Faye
Kemo AM Cham
Author: Daily Observer