By Mustapha Ceesay
22-year major in English Language and Social and Environmental Studies (SES) Advanced Diploma in Education (Secondary) student of the Gambia College School of Education aspires to complete her programme and contribute her quota to national development.
By that, she hopes to add her bits to the advancement of the country through the education sector by teaching English Language and Social and Environmental Studies to Gambian and non-Gambian students at secondary school.
The major in English language and Social and Environmental Studies (SES) wants to be a teacher and a businessperson to support her family’s wellbeing, upon completion of her programme.
However, this vision of the girl becomes highly uncertain as she risks dropping out of the college due to the two years tuition fees arrears she owes the institute.
She was enrolled in 2019 for the 3-year programme, formerly called the Higher Teachers’ Certificate (HTC) ending in October this year (2022).
With the 2 years tuition arrears the young-lady owes her educator (the Gambia College), she would not be allowed to either take her end of course examinations, or be issued the necessary documents after the exams as evidence of her completion of the programme.
Only the payment of the D24, 000 arrears she owes the college, would certainly avert the highlighted consequences for the young, ambitious and bright lady belonging to the youth folk of The Gambia referred to as the ‘cream’ of the society.
For the 3-year Advanced Diploma in Education (Secondary) programme, students pay D12, 000 annually as the tuition fee, giving a total of D36, 000 for the entire programme. Nevertheless, the 22-year through a partial scholarship paid the first year, and now owes the institute a two-year tuition fee – D24, 000.
Upon completion of her programme, the shy and soft-spoken girl explained how she aims to make savings from her teaching salary to start a business to maximise her income generation for the sustenance of her family.
“I want to be a teacher and a business lady as well. My plan is when I complete college and start work as a teacher; I will endeavour to save some money to start a business. This, I believe will upgrade my financial status in a way that I will be able to cater for my family,” she said.
The final-year student fears dropping out of the college due to tuition fee arrears would be a “great setback” for her and further jeopardize her future.
“Completing my college education will help to make my dreams come true. [But] if I do not complete college, it will truly jeopardize my plans for the future and it will be a great setback for me. So completing college is very important to my family and I, for I am the first born of my parents,” the needy added.
The arrears brought a nightmare for her owing to the weak financial muscles of her family; and if it results in her withdrawal from the programme, would shatter the expectations of her family, among others, which she lamented.
The Advanced Diploma in Education (Secondary) student of the Gambia College School of Education lamented: “The non-completion of college will first give me a psychological trauma considering my family’s weak financial status and I being the first born of my parents, not being able to provide for them. This already disturbs my mind. My family on the other hand fully expects their situation to be better when I start work, so their expectations will be very much defeated if I drop out of college. This I believe will increase the stress in my father and will also make me a liability in the society.”
The young girl recalled sending applications to various institutions in the past without fruition. Thus, she echoed her appeal for sponsorship to clear the D24, 000 arrears she owes the Gambia College that has been lenient with her for allowing her attend lectures without payment.
“I wrote many sponsorship applications to various sectors but non-yield positive results yet. I am therefore appealing for your utmost support and consideration. Your support in helping me pay my arrears will truly put a smile to my face and that of my family. Therefore, I am counting on you,” she stated.
Suwaibou Sey, Advanced Diploma in Education (Secondary) programme graduate and a secondary school Literature-in-English teacher is familiar with the story of the final year college student.
He confirmed her situation and justified supporting her as “apt” and a positive contribution towards national development.
“The 22-year-old is a vulnerable young girl whose education has raised fears in her. Since I knew her, pessimism as to whether she would complete her course at the college like her mates is what occupies her mind. The circumstances that she found herself in, is beyond her control and therefore, supporting her will be apt. This will accord her the chance to positively contribute to educating our younger generation; thereby taking part in national development,” Mr. Sey said.
Giving a background of tuition fee payment at the college, Demba S.M. Yarboe, Registrar, Gambia College said the College governing council instituted in 2015 suggested to Jammeh government the introduction of tuition fee at the college to make it “operational” financially; as the government subvention wasn’t enough.
He explained that the suggestion was later considered by the then President Yahya Jammeh in a cabinet paper in 2016 that was supposed to take effect in January 2017 which fell under Barrow administration, but the implementation was due to the political impasse.
“Actually, we are a bit flexible with people (students) when it comes to tuition fee payment because rarely we ask people not to attend class for not paying their tuition fees. We allow them to attend and sit exams but at the end of the day, if the tuition fee is not paid, you will not get your documents (attestation and certificate). Though, we do not encourage people not to pay their tuition fees because that is going to keep us moving. But people who find it difficult to pay, we would allow them (to the end of their programme) … and withhold their documents, unless someone makes an undertaking to pay, then we release the documents,” he explained the tuition fee policy of the Gambia College.
The registrar was quick to say that his institution currently has a digital registration system that makes it impossible for students owing arrears to register.
“Now if you don’t pay, there’s what we call terminal registration. You have to register online, But if you don’t pay your tuition fee, you cannot register and if you don’t register, you cannot access your portal. You cannot see your grades. You cannot receive lecture notes because of the terminal registration, you do it online and you can only be cleared by accounts to register and if you don’t pay you are not cleared by the accounts. So you can see all those flexibility we were doing, we cannot do it now because the (online terminal registration) system would not allow it,” he said.
Yarboe finally urged students with financial constraints to inform his office for a way forward.
Born in an extended family to a father without a fixed source of income who makes a living through unskilled work such as block moulding and other wage work, the only hope of the 22-year major in English language and Social and Environmental Studies (SES) Advanced Diploma in Education (Secondary) student lies in this sponsorship appeal to keep her in the college.
Note: Due to fear of stigma, the needy student appealed for total concealment of her identity in this story. Nonetheless, she can be reached for assistance through this medium.