The Crisis of Educated Gambians - Ebrima Jaiteh
The Gambia has plenty scholars, yet where are their solutions to our problems? Our beloved country is currently dominated by a generation of noise makers: a people who can talk almost all the time, but don’t act. It is very annoying to hear some “experts” giving speeches over the radio, while reserving the real action. The Gambia has many scholars with PhDs and Master’s degrees in agricultural science, political science, yet many of them will never set foot on the farm. Many of our scientists are probably very good at teaching, but never good at inventions and innovations. I have always wondered where our mechanical engineers have been hiding, as we continue to import motorbikes and even bicycles. The taxpayer is often told: “Plans are far-advanced for the implementation of this project”, the other project is “in the pipeline,” the implementation phase comes “in 4 years,” and so on.
Our scientific researchers, religious leaders, academicians, scholars and politicians can perfectly demonstrate exactly what ought to be done in any given circumstance, yet once in power, such ideas always remain either on paper or at best be held “in the pipeline.” Instead of taking action and making things happen in a swift and decisive manner for the benefit of our people, it is rather very sad that even those tasked with such responsibilities are good at making speeches, while pushing the actual action onto the future generations. So far, it appears a few of those in the built environment are physically making impact, while the majority of the other professions especially those in the manufacturing fields remain to be seen. The media, which ought to bring such topics for discussion, has always been focusing on politicians and their frustrations while ignoring the lack of action. Years back, there were only a few “scholars” in The Gambia. At that time, the majority of the people had not received “formal education” as we often call it. Many had neither been to engineering schools, polytechnics nor the university. There were only a few tens of people who had the benefit of receiving “formal education”. In spite of this, Gambia were producing soap, shoes, body cream, different kinds of cooking oil and their very effective and powerful local Gambian medicines. They cured almost every major disease by relying on their local medication and eating organic food, which was very rich in vitamins and nutrients. As a result, many of them lived long, averagely beyond the age of 90 years. It was common to see many of our parents living beyond the age of 100 years with good eyesight. Most importantly, many of our grandparents never wore glasses. Ironically, today we call ourselves “intellectuals”. We live in “hygienic environments,” eat “balanced diet” and use “modern medication”. Yet, many of us are dying below the age of 40 years! Today, lots of people are wearing glasses! As if that is not enough, several hundreds of incurable diseases are currently threatening our very survival. How many of our forefathers died of malaria? How many of our grandmothers were infertile? In fact, there are many reproductive health-related diseases in modern Gambia than there were in the pre-colonial era despite the so-called advancement in medical research. Isn’t it time we took a critical look at the quality of our food today? But of course, many will consider this to be some “conspiracy theory”. After all, once you successfully discredit legitimate concerns such as the above, it becomes easy to ignore the need to take action. Even though Gambia boasts of degree scholars and other professionals, one wonders the whereabouts of these experts as almost everything we use in The Gambia is imported from elsewhere. Forty years ago, Gambia was importing a sizeable amount of matches, sugar, cooking oil, roofing sheets, steel, cars, bicycles, shoes, wristwatches, typewriters and others. The Gambia did not have the expertise to mass-produce some of these items. Unfortunately, after 40 years, nothing has changed despite the fact that mother Gambia has lots of intellectuals who currently hold the relevant qualifications in various fields. After many years of importing mobile phones, computers, electric generators, sound systems, radio and television sets, fluorescent lamps, electric cables and many other electronic gadgets, there is no indication that this trend will change any time soon, though there are Gambian experts who have studied the production of these things. Elsewhere in the Middle East and Asia, ordinary students are sending satellites into space. University researchers are actively engaging with their students in the production of mobile phones, digital tablets, computers and cars. Their physical results can be seen everywhere. Unfortunately in The Gambia, our studies are characterised by reading theories, looking at diagrams and observing images with little or no practical demonstrations. The educational system, instead of teaching our people “how to think” and solve problems, is teaching young ones “what to think”. Today, one can write over a thousand pages of research, yet this research may not have a single practical input. One can perfectly describe how to move a car, but it takes continuous practice to be able to practically drive the car. Is it a wonder that many of our mechanical engineers therefore cannot even fix a car? Our university is overpopulated with political and social science courses. The technical schools and polytechnics are still reserved for students with poor academic backgrounds. Many of our electrical engineers, mechanics and technicians out there did not learn their profession from schools. Many of them were school drop-outs who learnt their profession as a “trade” and by the “road-side technicians”. When the scholar’s car suffers a mechanical breakdown, the individual will rather look for a road-side mechanic to fix the problem. Many of these local technicians do not have any academic qualifications at all, yet they’re better at solving real-life problems than many of our so-called professionals who have acquired a number of degrees. Isn’t this a shame? Our university is increasingly producing intellectuals who talk too much, but lack the skills to personally contribute to problem-solving. Many of our intellectuals only make noise, but push their real responsibilities to the man on the street. Such acts of negligence must stop if Gambia is determined to make any progress. The Gambian intellectuals must live up to their responsibilities. They must be part of the solution to our many challenges. It is time to be proactive. Real leadership is demonstrated, not lectured. We’re tired of talks, seminars and workshops, which have become the hallmark of our current batch of intellectuals who ought to bear the responsibility of taking the action. As long as our intellectuals continue to look up to the layman to take up their responsibilities, Gambia will never make any meaningful progress.
Views expressed herein are those of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of GunjurOnline.