Today, Friday 5th February, hundreds of young Gambians are officially graduating from the University of The Gambia (UTG). Many of them had finish earlier but have to wait for 2/3 years to wear that gown. Unfortunately after fulfilling all the graduation requirements, they are being asked to pay 750 for a mere gown. Yet many of them will remain virtually unemployed for years to come. This can be attested by those who have graduated earlier. The graduate finds himself in a real dilemma. He has paid tuition fees for four years which increased yearly despite stagnating income. He has been told by deans and faculty officers that “if he thinks that education is expensive; let him try ignorance”. He was made to believe that education is an investment and once he graduated, the profit comes. Unfortunately this rarely happens and when it does, under circumstances he doesn’t desire. The graduate who has been well educated or educated himself well which often happens does not want to work for the tyrant. This is the guy who had made him pay high tuition fees, the guy who never showed him what sacrifice and patriotism meant; he is the enemy of education. He also knows that the jobs do not offer well and tenure of office is not secured. Even those who would have accepted offers from the oppressor will find out that there are no jobs. The offices are occupied with the old faces. They can’t retire because there are no pension benefits that are apt for life after work.
But the private sector is also full with no places for him yet he should and must be the breadwinner of the family. This isn’t USA or Germany, family means not one’s wife and children alone or mum and dad alone. My family is my dad and all his relatives and grannies and their relatives likewise my mum’s too. It is even complicated if I am married whereby my wife’s relatives and mine are absorbed in one. The family includes anyone who can claim and prove distant relationship. The rule of expectations obliges me to answer to their needs. It is more complicated if ones education is funded from family donation. In that case, the rule of expectation gives way to reciprocity. Then it becomes a sacred duty to give back to them. In the closely knitted society of ours, there is the law of generosity and expectations also governing one to help neighbours.
Here the graduate will have to knock on the private sector to earn a little that can let him buy kola nuts for relatives and neighbors and cater for the immediate family. However the limited jobs had been filled long before his arrival; and the waiting list is still full. He wished he had not been to school, at least no one would have claimed to give him lunch once. But the family farm had been ceased by the oppressor; so he would not have been a farmer. The bait of the oppressor is no option for him but his dad will constantly argue that the state is everyone’s and not the oppressor’s. Moreover his mother too seems to suffer from maniac sometimes as whenever there is reshuffle by the tyrant, she will talk against working with the tyrant in high offices. Yet sometimes she accuses him of not being emphatic to her plight and so is the elegant, bold and beauty, a Senegambian “jongoma” in the making whose marriage hormones had been activated; she seems to be waiting for him.
If he is lucky to get a job in the private sector, NGOs in particular, he may live a semi-good life but the NGO strips him of politics as the long hand of the government requires it to be neutral. The NGO does everything to make sure that they are not drawn in a fight with the oppressor since that will result in its closure which means keeping its employees off politics. Now that he has find money to be independent of the oppressor and challenge him, the NGO is making him to subtly support the regime.
When he explains his principles of not aligning with the oppressor to subjugate the masses, he is ridiculed. He is asked what benefits opposing brought to Halifa Sallah and Sedia Jatta, Darboe and co for decades. Then he realizes that people are not fighting for concepts but things that matter in their life, food, shelter, etc. But once the veiled between the oppressor and the waiters’ plight is torn apart, naked injustice and accumulation that led to the impoverishment of the masses is exposed; an understanding for the benefit of resisting the temptation is reached. And so the people will agree on the need for no cooptation. It is our role to crush this web in which the young graduate finds himself.
May I remind you that our loyalty is due to no one but The Gambia and that the UTG is not the benevolent project of anyone but a national institution run with taxpayers’ money. I know that it is difficult to earn a job without being a supporter of the regime but nothing is worth selling your dignity. You have seen UTG graduates promoted to higher positions but stripped naked within months. The poverty in the country must be eradicated but that is only possible with a new socio-economic set-up and your role cannot be overemphasized in such a task. The choice is yours but remember that history shall judge you. I congratulate you all on your achievements. Fulfilling graduation requirements is not an easy task especially in a university without a library. This is clear to those of us still struggling to finish. Congrats to those who have always argued against the status quo and I urge you to continue the activism outside the classroom!
Written By A Concerned Gambian