Gov’t of The Gambia should prioritize funding the public University of The Gambia rather than providing loans to parliamentarians and private media businesses. Part 1

The government of The Gambia should have prioritized funding the public University of The Gambia rather than providing loans to parliamentarians and private media businesses. This would have enabled poor students who cannot afford tuition increases to benefit.

Investing in higher education is more than a financial decision; it’s a strategic move that can greatly boost a country’s competitiveness on the global stage. Prioritizing funds for public schools and the sole public university in The Gambia not only sustains a high quality of life and a competent workforce but also forges a path to a more prosperous future. While private media outlets influence public opinion, it’s crucial to balance funding priorities. Allocating 40 million Dalasi to private media for branding, marketing, and propaganda is misguided when the University of The Gambia struggles with finances and considers raising tuition for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Affordable education enriches society by fostering economic development and social welfare, and by nurturing hope and optimism among our people.

It is with a heavy heart that I depict the Gambia as a dark realm, akin to a world of vampires, where the Governing Council of the University of The Gambia (UTG) has proposed an increase in tuition fees to the authorities. Conversely, the Gambia government has sanctioned the allocation of millions of Dalasi for the personal and official use of National Assembly members, and more recently, 40 million Dalasi to private media houses and independent journalists, purportedly for propaganda purposes. This represents a stark misallocation of funds, which could have been more judiciously utilized for public services such as education or healthcare. The government has proposed this; our prudent president has sanctioned this wastefulness. The National Assembly has ratified it: a few months prior, the National Assembly sanctioned the allocation of personal vehicles to each National Assembly member, incurring a substantial financial cost in millions of Dalasi. This, too, is a misallocation, as these funds could have been directed towards infrastructure development or poverty reduction, igniting our outrage and spurring us to call for change.

It has become clear that those in distress have fled from fraudsters to charlatans in search of salvation. Whom should I trust now? Furthermore, I recall Price Warung’s ‘Tales of the Early Days,’ which portrays the underworld as a place where the ‘good’ man is the infamous criminal, and the ‘bad’ man is he who strives to act with honesty and integrity. Our nation resembles that underworld, a realm where the correct and incorrect exercise of power and privilege coexist, akin to the monk and the hood..

Robert Louis Stevenson penned numerous thrilling novels and essays, including “Treasure Island,” a captivating tale of pirates, rum, and bloodshed. I shall refrain from likening that narrative to our National Assembly and their handling of mandates. Not just yet. Stevenson himself did not equate legislators to pirates. However, he remarked in another work, “We all know what the National Assembly is, and we are all ashamed of it.” What could he have perceived, understood, or sensed to feel such shame towards the National Assembly of his time? Surely, it could not rival the disgrace we witness here. The cost for the government to provide scholarships to deserving students at the University of The Gambia? Questions ceased long ago, for we are a subdued people, and captives seldom question their captors. Should we muster the courage to inquire, we would likely be met with silence, for as Stevenson said, “the cruelest lies are often told in silence.”

The underworld’s accounting may be unscrupulous yet precise. It’s clear how 40 million Dalasi allocated for propaganda to independent media could benefit the University of Gambia’s education. Adding the Capital Territory balances the accounts. It appears the powerful are exploiting Gambia’s resources with avarice. The people believe divine justice will prevail.

The government’s ‘borrow-borrow’ policy has approved vehicles for National Assembly members for both personal and official use, along with 40 million Dalasis for media propaganda. This represents a vote for 58 notable individuals. The government claims fairness in approving vehicles and propaganda funds for millions of Gambians. Defending this as politics is untenable. The regime’s management of resources is marked by reckless extravagance, or ‘profligacy,’ which is hardly commendable for any leadership. ‘Profligacy’ also implies licentiousness; there is no distinction between the two. One inevitably leads to the other; wastefulness begets dissolution.

When unchecked, poor behavior grows bold and daring. It’s surprising that our legislators and their superiors failed to inquire about the tortoise’s shell, a symbol of consequence for overstepping boundaries. This fable mirrors our leaders who, by borrowing and misusing funds, risk leading the nation into a deep debt, potentially marring its future. This isn’t a curse; it’s a cautionary tale.

The legislature shouldn’t resemble a gathering of witches engaging in wild revelry, yet this National Assembly seems to exist beyond any moral restraint. It appears that previous legislators’ misdeeds were merely timid compared to the audacity of directly draining public funds. Formerly, the timid hid behind poorly executed projects, but today’s lawmakers are brazen, insisting on directly allocating millions to a select few. This blend of subtle and overt economic attacks has been swirling around the nation for some time.

A famous quip often attributed to Albert Einstein states, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It has become clear over the years that governments have been too irresponsible, indifferent to the future of our youth, and unconcerned about public education to adequately fund UTG, a public university, and to compensate its teachers as UTG demands—and as basic standards necessitate. Nevertheless, there is hope on the horizon. The answer does not lie in more debilitating, counterproductive, and paralyzing strikes. Instead, it involves rethinking the funding model for public universities, a model that can guarantee their sustainability and the caliber of education they offer. Such a reimagined model can inspire us and offer hope for a brighter future where our youth can flourish, and our nation can thrive.

The necessity for change is clear. Finding an alternative to the government’s full funding of UTG, a public university, has become essential. We cannot simply watch a public university falter because the government, which is constitutionally obligated to support it, repeatedly fails to do so. The critical nature of this issue cannot be emphasized enough.

We must confront the reality that students will have to pay tuition fees at the University in the future. This is a significant challenge that the incoming government must address. I understand UTG’s resistance; I shared it once, driven by guilt for having received a subsidized university education. If my father, a humble primary school teacher, had been required to pay tuition fees in the early to mid-1990s, I would not have had the opportunity for higher education.

It would seem hypocritical and insensitive to propose tuition fees for students when I benefited from a highly subsidized public university education. Yet, my concerns were alleviated by a compelling article from a Gambian professor, whose name escapes me now. He argued that providing free or subsidized public university education to the initial generations of Gambian university students was sensible, given the manageable numbers and the general inability to afford it at the time.

However, he noted that the generations of Gambians who enjoyed free or subsidized public university education are now mature and should be capable of funding their children’s education, thereby sustaining the system that once educated them. He observed that many who received free or subsidized education now spend significantly more on private schooling for their children than what public universities charge. If they can afford private education, why then resist tuition fees at public universities?

Numerous Gambian scholars have penned objective, cogent articles on implementing tuition at public universities considerately for those who cannot afford it. They suggest that students from affluent backgrounds, indicated by attendance at private schools, should incur higher tuition fees than their counterparts from public schools. Additionally, they advocate for funds specifically allocated to support academically gifted but financially disadvantaged students. The University of The Gambia, being the inaugural state-run university, serves a significant student population. It is argued that the government’s allocation of 40 million Dalasi for private media contracts could have been better utilized for the university’s benefit. Those who lag in innovation and progress, termed as laggards, often desire excellence but lack the initiative to achieve it. It is commonly understood that quality comes at a cost.

The president and his administration are questioned for their decision to allocate 40 million Dalasi and vehicle loans to National Assembly members, which could have potentially supported the 40 operational public universities and their numerous students. Wasteful spending, chronic borrowing, and the mismanagement of funds, whether acquired rightfully or not, can lead to self-destruction among the affluent. Similarly, when a government disregards fiscal responsibility, it risks the nation’s stability. Currently, there seems to be an endorsement of such destructive policies, a disregard for professional accountability, and a tolerance for practices that undermine genuine patriotism.

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