Observer's July 22nd bus reaches CRR South -Exploring 15 years of exponential progress
Monday, July 06, 2009
As the administrative capital of the Central River Region, the island of Janjangbureh is the seat of the governor of the region. However, years of neglect had turned that small but potentially lively town of a population of over 3000 into some sort of a ghost settlement, a situation that this government has been determined to reverse. Today, there is every indication that the government's efforts are paying dividend. Already, the country has just witnessed the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of the Janjangbureh-Sankulay Kunda Bridge, which will serve as a recipe for intensive revival of the town and its surrounding settlements.
The Sankulay Kunda river crossing forms part of the dark memories of the people of that area, as a bus packed with people plunged into the river in 1992, claiming the lives of six people. The bridge, on completion, will not only facilitate the easy movement of goods and people, but will serve as a cushion against the occurrence of a similar tragedy. If there are people well placed to explain the achievements of government in this area, a man who has kept close contact with everything within the region, CRR Governor Ganyie Touray, is one of them.
"There are lots of developments in all aspects," Governor Touray told the Observer July 22nd bus crew at his residence, as he recounted the development undertakings of the APRC government in the region since the beginning of the Revolution. "From infrastructural development to strengthening of institutions necessary for sustainable development such as agriculture, security, electricity and water supply, education, etc," he listed.
President Yahya Jammeh's preoccupation, as he has stated on a number occasions, has always been directed towards making this town regain it lost glory. And the CRR governor remains rather optimistic about what the future holds for this historic town of a place especially so in the light of a renewed display of attention by government. Although electricity is said to have been in Janjangbureh before 1994, its hideously erratic nature effectively added to the frustration of the people. Today, thanks to the coming of the Rural Electrification Phase I project, the story is much different. A brand new power station, located in the town of Bansang, replaced the old, decrepit structure that used to serve Janjangbureh's electricity needs.
Apart from increased comfortability at the home level, more lodges have been cropping up in response to this situation. And existing lodges are not taking chance. People like Sutay Sinyan, owner of Baobolong Lodge, are looking ahead to the imminent resurrection of business activities in the town. He is currently upgrading his lodge with the addition of more quarters, in apparent anticipation of the demand of future prospects. Baobolong Lodge is among the most standard of lodges in the town.
A new military post on the northern part of the town in Lamin Koto, as well as the Police Intervention Unit post at Yorro Beri Kunda on the south side, provides some kind of security for not only Janjangbureh, but the entire area. Consequently, the people feel more secure today than ever before. Armitage High School, now Armitage Senior Secondary School, although constructed during the colonial era, has been receiving boosts in all forms from both government and the president himself, all geared towards ensuring the continuation of the provision of quality and affordable higher education for Gambian children in that part of the country.
Before the construction of Janjangbureh Upper Basic School, there was no separate junior secondary school in the town. Students had to score special grades in order to be enrolled at Armitage, where they had the chance to school from grade 7 to 12. And as part of the national education policy, Janjangbureh has one of the regional education offices built across the country. Other projects implemented by government include renovation of the Janjangbureh market, the post office - now called Gampost, as well as the Janjangbureh Police Station.
There has also been a great stride in terms of enhancing the lives of the women farmers, with the construction of two course ways linking the rice fields. This happened alongside the upgrading of the Janjangbureh rice farms. And just recently, the community of Janjangbureh received a brand new tractor, courtesy of the Gambian leader himself. Janjangbureh Health Center has also received a boost in the form of expansion. And its staff now has a new ambulance that will facilitate their delivery services.
Also of significance to the people of Janjangbureh is the transformation of the town into a constituency, effectively giving them quite a wider say in national issues. Being an island, the people of the town had had problems linking with the other sides of the country prior to the July 22nd Revolution. But today, they have at their disposal two ferries equipped with modern facilities, for the first time in the history of the country, plying the Lamin Koto-Janjangbureh, and the Janjangbureh-Sankulay Kunda crossing points.
A town like Bansang, the largest settlement in the whole of CRR, barely had portable drinking water, and electricity supply was almost non-existent given its equally erratic nature. In effect, life there was kind of dwindling on a minute by minute basis, so to speak. Today, the Rural Electrification Project has kind of regenerated life in Bansang. The boom in business activities is evidence of this.
Kani Kayang operates a saw mill alongside her husband. This saw mill has been in existence since 1987, but it was not until the arrival of rural electrification that Kani and her husband started realising the full potential of their profession. Reliance on generator for power, which they had resigned to thanks to the irregularity of previous electricity supply, had rendered the couple mere amateurs. "For us, the benefits of the coming of this reliable electricity supply is enormous," she posited.
Apart from total emancipation from the burden of having to struggle for fuel for their generator, the couple is presently realising what they think is their rightful profit. "And the power of the voltage from the NAWEC-generated electricity makes a huge difference for us, given the nature of our work," Kani told the Observer crew. There are many workshops like Kani's now in Bansang. There is also a boom in the area of financial and economic activities, with the establishment of branches like Reliance Financial Services, Money Gram, Western Union, etc.
Bansang Hospital remains the second biggest hospital in the country, after the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul. The APRC government has not lost sight of the need to ensure that it retains its status, considering its role in the dispensation of medical services to the people in that part of the country. There has been tremendous development on the various units, both in terms of structure and service delivery. Bansang also remains the point for referral throughout that half part of the country. Through government-guided policy, the hospital has been able to retain its much needed staff by creating a number of incentives, among them provision of staff quarters. There is every indication that the coming of reliable electricity to Bansang has impacted greatly on the lives of the people. But especially crucial to this is the hospital's need for electricity supply.
Bansang also has a fire station, which was built in 2003. It covers the all the villages of Central River Region North and South and some parts of Upper River Region. Bansang actually hosts the power station built under the Rural Electrification Project Phase I, and it supplies other settlements such as Dobong Kunda, Sukurr Kunda, Janjang Bureh, Wassu, Kuntaur, Madina Sotokoto, Niani Sukuta. In its fifth year of operation, the station has three generators with 250 KV each, operating from 9:00am to 2:00pm and then from 6:00pm to 3:00am, daily.
On the outskirts of Bansang there is this newly built edifice of a senior secondary school. It is actually located in the village of Bantanto. This school now serves as an alternate choice for the people in that area, from Janjangbureh and beyond, to Bansang itself, Bantanto, and other satellite villages.
The school has 3 classroom blocks, 4 science labs, wood, metal, technical drawing and arts & craft workshops, a football field, a basketball lawn, among other facilities. Apart from its spaciousness, it provides some of the most peaceful of atmospheres, making it conducive for learning. Like many of the schools in rural Gambia, this school also has staff quarters. Ansu Sanyang, a mathematics teacher at the school, told the Daily Observer that the availability of the staff quarters is very important in that it contributes a great deal in reducing the burden of expenditure on teachers. "The enrolment figure in this school stands at 743 and more than 10 upper basic schools in Central River Region and Upper River Region are sending their students to this place every year," said Ba Sanna Kanyi, senior master at the school.
Another indication of the achievement of this government in the area of education is conspicuous in the Central River Region south, where the people are also enjoying a great deal from the educational master plan of the AFPRC government.
Brikama Baa Upper Basic School, which has now been upgraded to a senior secondary school, is among the string of schools that emerged en mass right at the dawn of the July 22nd Revolution. It was built in 1995, just months into the Revolution."The need aroused for CRR South to have another high school because Armitage was the only senior secondary school on the South Bank and it was filled to capacity," said Jali Morri Jobarteh, principal of Brikama Baa Senior Secondar School.
This school is equipped with a modern computer lab, among many other facilities. The computer lab is spacious enough to accommodate 20 students at a time, and it has made it possible for people in that area to gain skills in computer which have emerged as a necessity for survival in this day and age. Enrolment at Brikama Baa SSS presently stands at 768 students & 554 students at the upper basic school. With 25 classrooms, the school covers a catchment of 27 villages, among them Boiram, Njoben, Kerewan Samba Sireh, all in CRR south.
Gambians in places as far as in Dankunku in Niamina West, which is 7km off the road, had difficulties accessing health facilities. Imagine the distance for a place where catching sight of a vehicle is a rarity. But today, the people of Dankunku do not need to step out of their village to access basic health services. As part of the health ministry's expansion projects to attain quality health delivery service, the people of that village benefited from a minor health centre which was built in 2005. It has facilities such as antenatal, out patient, labour, immunization and admission wards.
A team also treks up to 6 villages in the area on a weekly basis, taking health services to the people of the area. The idea is to have basic health services available to every Gambian, a direct opposite of what prevailed in the past, when people had to trek unbearably long distances for services they were hardly guaranteed to have.
Dankunku Water Project
Availability of portable running water for the people of Dankunku is perhaps the best thing that might have happened to the women of this village, who suffered so much to access drinking water.
The Dankunku Water Project was established in 2008 by the Government of The Gambia, and its sole aim was to improve on the livelihood of individuals and residents of the community of Dankunku. Omar Barrow, a resident of the village, recalled the hellish life their women went through in the past. It was a common sight to see people, especially women, scrambling for water at places like the local forestry camp, which were opportuned enough to have running water.
In fact, the people had to pay for the services of horse or donkey cart owners to transport water in as manycontainers as they could lay hands on. In addition, you had to pay D1.00 for every 20litres of water fetched from the tap. It was a life full of ridicule. And that is why the people see President Jammeh and the July 22nd Revolution as blessings. Those who spoke to the Daily Observer vowed not to ever forget the commendable effort of the president in providing them with clean and safe drinking water.
The borehole in Dankunku has 14 standpipes, networked throughout the whole community. Similar water projects are in the villages of Piniai and Mamut Fana, on the outskirts of Dankunku. A village like Piniai is popular with herdsmen. One can imagine the struggle to meet the needs of one's cattle with the family aside. Alhaji Ceesay of Mamut Fana assured the Observer crew of his people's undivided loyalty to a government they said is evidently here for their interest and nothing else.
The Observer July 22nd Bus crew will take a second night's rest in Janjang Bureh. We shall be in the Upper River Region on Tuesday.
This publication is directed by
Pa Malick Faye
Kemo A.M Cham
Lamin M. Dibba
Ebou (Taaru) Njie
Musa Sano & Ebrima Sanneh
Author: Daily Observer