24 September 2010


Gambia Young Journalist Association Celebrate 3rd Anniversary

The Young Journalist Association of The Gambia (YJAG) recently celebrated three years of existence, which the President, Assan Sallah described as a moment for reflection on the successes registered and the challenges that lay ahead.
He stated that the Organization under his stewardship has made tremendous success in improving the welfare of Young Journalists in the Country through constructve engagement with relevant stake holders.
He further revealed that the Executive members of the Organization recently had an audience with the Minister of Interior and NGO Affairs, Ousman Sonko, which culminated in fruitful discussion on the possible signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.
This agreement, if signed, will require the Ministry of Interior not to harass, intimidate or arrest any young Journalist without contacting the Organization to ensure their rights are not infringed upon.
"I hope this process will not take long because it is in the interest of nation building. We feel that vibrant Media is very important for our development as nation. I assure you that we shall do our best to promote the welfare of Young Journalists in The Gambia with unfailing consistency", he pledged.
Veteran Journalist and Editor-in-Chief of FOROYAA (Freedom) Newspaper, Sam Sarr, articulated that the leadership must learn to accept criticism and work harder for the realization of their goals. Their goals, he said, are achievable with hard work, persistence and determination and added that they should not allow themselves to be used by anybody for personal gains against the ethics of the profession.
"It takes character and commitment to be a Journalist because some Governments are hostile to the Media, although some are friendly. It is your job to inform the Public and that should be done with utmost truthfulness and impartiality" he stated.
The celebration also took the form of a March-past from the Africell Building along Kairaba Avenue to Traffic Light on Bertil Harding Highway.

Young People Need Protection from Illicit Drugs - Director Public prosecution

The protection of young people from hard drugs has been described as crucial to the sustainable development of any country. Making these remarks was The Gambia's Director of Public Prosecution, Richard Chenge, at the inauguration of board members of Youth Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (YAPSA) held at Seaview Hotel in Kololi.
He noted that there are different types of prohibited drugs which have the tendency of negatively influencing human behavior. The deceptive nature of hard drugs, he submitted, is that it gives sensational pleasure to those who take it whilst according them considerable sense of self-esteem and boldness. He added that hard drugs, in actuality, destroy their will power and are also detrimental to their Health and wellness.
The country's top prosecutor further asserted that the drug control Act has made possession and dealing of drugs an offence.
"Young people under 18 years of age are more prone to seek the deceitful illusion of pleasure given by drugs due mainly to Youthful exuberance and lack of experience. The protection of young people against drugs should be the primary priority of any democratic Government".
While a few drug dealers may live in wealth and affluence from the dirty trade, he continued, the capita income of the country becomes very low leading to poverty, disease and death.
Concluding, he suggested an amendment of the drug control act of The Gambia to hand severe punishment to those found guilty of engagement in trafficking of illicit drugs with young people as he urged for more sensitization campaigns to create more awareness about the negative effects of drugs.
The Director of YAPSA, Assan Jallow, revealed that the Organization was founded with the prime goal of creating awareness among the youth about the impacts of drugs.
"Drug tafficking is a growing problem in West Africa. United Nations officials believe that West Africa is being used as a transit point by Latin American drug cartels for smuggling cocaine to Europe".
Youths, he enunciated, are the future leaders of the country and it is essential they understand their role in that respect and stay away from drugs as well as other activities that can undermine the country's efforts in achieving her developmental goals.
"I therefore advise YAPSA members to spread our message to other young people and in supporting the fight aginst illicit drugs. We should also join our leaders in being always patriotic and honest in our efforts to achieve the Vision 2020 national development blue print and the Millenium Development Goals.
Also speaking, Beatrice Prom, representing The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that sound-minded youth is sine qua non for sustainable for the development and growth of the economy through entrepreneurship and skills acquisition.
She closed by assuring the Organization of her Office's continued support and collaboration, noting that they have a similar goal of developing the Country.
The Board members are Richard Chenge, the Director of Public Prosecution; Malick Jeng US Embassy Banjul; Beatrice Prom, Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Abbas Sandena, President's International Award; Momodou Jeng, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and Albert Cocks, Director of Gambia Food and Nutrition Agency.

17 September 2010


BBC Journalist shares Gunjur Experience

Anna Quarendon is a BBC Journalist who visited Gunjur Village in the Gambia.She is among hundreds of people from the United Kingdom to visit the Coastal Village which has had a long-standing link with Marlborough since 1982.Below is her account of the trip to the place known as the "Smiling coast of Africa".

Anna Quarendon in The Gambia
BBC Anna Quarendon and friends in The Gambia

Over the 11 years that I've worked as a programme producer for BBC Wiltshire, we have regularly reported the work of the Marlborough Brandt Group linking Marlborough with the Gambian village of Gunjur, since 1982.

As a result of this exchange programme, thousands of visitors have travelled between the two countries, we have welcomed Gambian visitors to our studios and found out more about life in The Gambia.

So it was enormously exciting when, in early January, I received an unexpected invitation to visit Gunjur myself.

The purpose of the visit was to honour two founder members of the Marlborough Brandt Group, MBG - Dr Nick Maurice who helped found it in 1981, and Anita Bew who became involved soon after.

Both were to receive honorary citizenship of a place which Dr Nick has visited more than 40 times, and where Anita has now made a second home.

This was my first visit, not just to The Gambia but to Africa and, as is customary on these exchange visits, I would spend the week living with a local family.

Anna Quarendon in The Gambia
Fishing is one of the key industries in Gunjur

After a six-hour flight across the vast sandscape of the Sahara, we landed in the capital, Banjul, where we were welcomed and taken back to Gunjur to meet our Muslim hosts.

And welcomed is what we were.

As I was dropped at my 'compound', I was surrounded by women and children, singing, smiling and clapping as they led me to the room which was to be my home.

Others had moved out to make it mine and would sleep many to a bed during my stay.

Their hospitality was spontaneous, warm and generous and extended to giving me the household's only oil lamp to ease my introduction to a world without electricity. Or running water.

My water was drawn from a nearby well by young girls who balanced on their heads huge quantities in bright plastic buckets to provide enough for keeping clean and for doing the weekly wash.

All these chores, like the daily sweeping of the sandy ground, were undertaken by the women, and girls as young as seven who start work early each morning before heading off to school, if their families can afford to send them.

The girls in my family were able to go to school thanks to the industry of 'Mama' who worked in the vegetable garden funded and supported by MBG, and her eldest daughter.

Anna Quarendon in The Gambia
Water is carried from a well on women's heads in a bucket

Thirty-year-old Mbanding not only washed, cooked and looked after her parents, brothers, sisters and twin daughters, but also ran a small shop, worked in the local bank and helped run adult literacy classes for the village elders.

Her father was a local driver. Other men worked in the fishing port or repaired some of the village's many rickety bicycles or sat on benches and passed the time of day.

Mbanding's 20-year-old brother, Suleyman, is bright and ambitious. He wants to be an accountant but has had to drop out of school because his family don't have the money for the fees. He needs £40 for the year.

To help raise the money, the women work. And through working not only help to support their families, but also gain in confidence thanks to some of the projects supported by MBG which empower them to earn a livelihood.

In spite of all the hard work there is time for laughter and leisure. The girls need little excuse to put on their best clothes to celebrate anything from a baby-naming ceremony, a Cora Band or, my mother's 80th birthday.

With life expectancy around 65, age is reverenced, elders greatly respected and, as an adopted member of the family, my mother was their mother. The day was marked with special food and a fruit drink to toast her health.

We drank from a yellow plastic dustbin brimming with a concoction of vanilla sugar, condensed milk, bananas and apples, while mysteriously out of the darkness, plastic chairs appeared from nowhere, along with a borrowed ghetto blaster, balloons, and a neighbour, brought in to make a speech. It was fantastic.

But the biggest party of all was the reason for our being in Gunjur; the honouring of 'Dr Nick' and Anita.

It began early on the Sunday with the arrival of a group of women, flamboyant in their colourful costumes and led by their elected elder, the Nansimba.

They were there to make sure that all of the 'Toubabs' (white people) were properly decked out in the African clothes which local tailors had made for the occasion.

Then, like children following the Pied Piper, we were led in procession along the sandy streets, joined by increasing numbers of women banging drums, singing, dancing and wearing the different costumes of the town's eight kafos, or clans.

A thousand women, two thousand. Speeches were made, songs sung, tears shed - mine amongst them.

And again, a week later, when it was time to say goodbye.

They say that Africa gets to you. I think 'they' could be right.

16 September 2010


UTG Poised to Produce next Generation of Gambian Leaders

The Vice Chancellor of the University of the Gambia, Professor Muhammed Kah, has restated that the institution is poised to be the core of the Gambian rapid transformation in development through the impartment of knowledge and skills among its pupils, who represent the next generation of people to take the country forward.
He made these remarks at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of The Gambia and York St John University in the United Kingdom, which was held at the Brikama Campus.
He added that the partnership established with the signing of the memorandum will enhance possibilities for twinning between the two universities and sabbaticals, sports, joint degrees, research as well as staff and student exchanges.
“The University of The Gambia is very important to the development of this country. The next generation of leaders in the country will emerge from this University and we have many degree programmes in different areas. In short, we are a comprehensive University and many of our graduates are pursuing Masters and PhD degrees in great Universities around the world”.
Mr. Kah maintained that Staff and students of York St John University are warmly welcome to The Gambia and his gates shall always be wide open for them. They shall, he enunciated, meet in the University of The Gambia friendly students and staff willing to make reality their mutual aspirations and ambitions through substantive collaboration.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor of York St John University, Professor David Maughan Brown, stated that it was a great pleasure and privilege for them to come to The Gambia whilst noting that they are very appreciative of the warmth of the welcome accorded them.
He further ploughed on that the presence of heads of different faculties for the meeting with them was so great that he doubted any other University in the World can do it. He also disclosed that the two institutions have a common focus and have to embrace the challenge of graduating students into a globalizing world which demands equipping them with skills to entertain the difficulties and adjust to different cultures, religion and ways of doing things.
The proposed student exchange programme, he said, will give the participants an international experience and enable them to think about other people’s histories, which is critically important in light of what happened on September 11 as he challenged Universities in the developed world to help student acquire this experience.
Professor Brown further capitulated that the developed world has a great deal to learn from anywhere else in the world by opening doors to education and interactive research, which he described as very beneficial.
He also revealed that their University was founded by the Church of England way back in 1841, with the chief aim of widening access to education for the whole society, and it was not until four years ago when they became a fully fledged University.
For his part, the University Secretary Jenung Manneh said that they are constantly committed to the amelioration of learning conditions for young people. He commended the University staff for their sterling and admirable performances with great moral turpitude over time for the realization of their common goals.
He concluded that they shall continue improving upon this trend without fatigue in the great enterprise to give good education to the suitably qualified people attending the University so that they can produce knowledgeable graduants.