At the beginning of this year, the University of The Gambia held its ninth convocation with hundreds of students graduating with honours in various areas of specilisation. Today The Gambia can boast of hundreds of home-grown lawyers and doctors, and in the next two years, the UTG would graduate its first batch of locally-trained professional journalists.
Every Gambian that attained a university degree before 1999 was trained outside the shores of the country. However this changed 17 years ago when the UTG, through the University Extension Programme (UEP), graduated the first batch of locally-trained academics, leading to the establishment of the University of The Gambia.
Home-trained university professionals and academics are contributing immensely to the socio-economic development of the country.
However, it is important to mention that when the President Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa proposed to set up a university in The Gambia, there were lots of skeptics; to some, it was impossible due to many reasons but mainly issues of affordability and sustainability.
The champion of the July 22nd Revolution has proven time and again over the 22 years of his leadership, the word impossible doesn’t exist in his dictionary. Thus, almost seventeen years down the line, the country’s highest learning intuition is thriving well.
It is sad to note that prior to the establishment of the University of The Gambia, many Gambians were not privileged to attain university education not because they didn’t meet the requirements but because their families couldn’t afford the cost involved in overseas university training.
Today Gambians can brag of home trained university professionals like Yankuba Darboe, the Commissioner General of The Gambia Revenue Authority; Hassoum Ceesay, historian and author; Nani Juwara, the Deputy Managing Director of the National Water and Electricity Company; Lamin Quin Jammeh, the Governor of the North Bank Region, and Momodou Sabally, the Gambia’s former Presidential Affairs Minister, who is now the Director General of The Gambia Radio and Television Services, and doubling as the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the Observer Company. The aforementioned and the thousands of others who graduated from the UTG are now occupying key positions in the public and the private sector.
Those who were skeptical about the sustainability of the University of The Gambia have today unanimously agreed that yes it’s possible to have a university in the country.
Furthermore, thanks to the University of The Gambia, Gambia’s dependence on foreign experts has dropped significantly because what others can do Gambians can do it even better.
The University of The Gambia has encouraged many Gambians to aim high and go in for higher education right here at home, regardless of one’s background.
by Omar Wally