The Honourable Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Professor Pierre Gomez, together with his Permanent Secretary, Dr Yusupha Touray and a team of technicians from the Ministry, University of Science Engineering and Technology (USET) and The Gambia College recently led a three-day up-country visit of institutions under the Ministry’s purview. The team visited Gambia College Basse Campus, Julangel and Mansakonko Skills Centres, respectively.
Gambia College Basse Campus
At the Gambia College Basse Campus, the Principal gave a background leading to the starting of programmes on the Campus, noting that the location is conducive for teaching and learning. He thanked the staff for their determination and endurance in keeping the College in excellent form.
Madame Henrietta Sonko of MRC Holland, whose organisation sponsored the establishment of the Campus, reported that the 239 teachers who graduated last week are ready to serve that part of the country and thanked the President of the Republic of The Gambia for supporting this laudable initiative. According to her, the team on the ground has been working effectively and efficiently in maintaining a conducive environment for teaching and learning.
The Governor of the Upper River Region was pleased to see the Honourable Minister and team in URR. He reported that the teacher shortage would soon be addressed by the advent of the Gambia College Basse Campus. “The Basse college is a litmus test, and its success can determine if another can be built in other regions of the country to address access,” he said. Notwithstanding, he identified access to adequate water supply from NAWEC as a key challenge for the Campus.
The Hon. Minister, Prof. Gomez expressed delight at the warm welcome and hospitality. He stated that luckily the Governor of Basse is from academia, which also means the Campus has a chance of being supported at the regional level. Hon. Prof. Gomez thanked Madame Henrietta Sonko of MRC Holland for a good job and used the occasion to extend the appreciation of His Excellency Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia, to her Foundation.
The Hon. Minister related that the President’s vision is to “bring development to the doorsteps of Gambians, and this is what we are doing”. He stressed that MRC Holland has successfully become the biggest contributor to national development, especially in the Education Sector.
The Minister went on to dilate on the policy direction of transforming The Gambia College into a Teacher Education University. He mentioned that the plan is to integrate other schools of the Gambia College into the University of The Gambia, except for the school of education, which will become a stand-alone Teacher Education University. According to the Hon. Minister, the Teacher Education University will focus on training teachers for all levels of the education system (from pre-school to university), and this will be clearly articulated in the master plan.
Currently, there are twenty (20) academic staff, of which twelve (12) are full-time, eight (8) are part-time, and thirteen (13) are support staff. The Campus graduated 109 in 2021 and 239 in 2022 at the Diploma level in Education, including programmes such as Islamic studies and ECD. According to the Coordinator, this was made possible due to the determination of the staff and students. He highlighted that MRC Holland Foundation is their main sponsor, and that they provide scholarships with stipends and laptops to all enrolled students with credits in English at WASSCE.
JULANGEL SKILLS TRAINING CENTRE:
From Gambia College Basse Campus, the team led by the Hon. Minister Professor Pierre Gomez proceeded to Julangel Skills Training Centre.
The Centre Manager reported that they have been running courses in horticulture, carpentry, refrigeration and air-conditioning and metal work for 6 months. These programmes are supported by partners such as YEP, IMBV, GIZ, and MRC Holland. He noted that 400 students have been trained and graduated. Currently, they are on a 120-student enrolment. He outlined some of the challenges facing the Centre, which include accommodation, inadequate water supply for the farm, and lack of transportation and storage facilities for proceeds of the farm.
He reported that the construction of dormitories for 80 students is in progress and expected to finish in September 2022. However, the staff quarters being built alongside will not be able to accommodate all the current staff. Some will continue to rent in the neighbourhood.
For the Honourable Minster, USET staff need to be trained as per the transformation agenda. He tasked the USET management to develop a training plan based on the skills gaps and share it with MoHERST.
Minister Prof. Gomez tasked the USET team to do landscaping and beautification of the Centre. He stressed that a technical assessment of all the equipment and learning needs of USET and its annexes should be submitted to MoHERST for possible redress.
MANSAKONKO SKILLS CENTRE
During the Minister of Higher Education and team’s visit to Mansakonko Skill Centre, students demonstrated a solar streetlight they developed, among other things.
The trip was rated successful; however, based on the realities on the ground, the Hon Minister requested regular Monitoring and Evaluation of the sector. This, he said, will help address challenges on time.