Africa Centres of Excellence Project:
The Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) Project, sponsored by the World Bank seeks to produce a critical mass of intellectually talented and skilled professionals that will help in meeting the human capital needs for The Gambia’s socio-economic development. The Project’s main focus is on building capacities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Health and Agriculture.
The ACE project promises solutions to development challenges stemming from the inadequacies specific to these personnel needs. However, the project is a medium-term initiative, and to ensure that the preliminary gains do not die down with its closure, it is deemed prudent to plan ahead for its sustainability.
Building the capacity of the training institutions is fundamental to ensure the sustainability and assure the provision of quality in Capacity Building in The Gambia. Going by His Excellency the President’s commitment to see that all Gambians get through to University Education for free in the very near future, it is judged indispensable to have the University staff and potential staff given the opportunity to get their PhDs and continue to publish to get their Professorial status. Thus, PhD candidates can register at the University and also ensure that research is given its due place of pride. The University can easily be qualified as a Centre of Excellence.
Intervention Areas for The Gambia
The project has a number of intervention areas, and after careful consultations, the following have been identified for implementation during the period:
Faculty Development – Academic staff at beneficiary training institutions will be exposed to short-term and long-term trainings for Certificate, Masters and PhD, in areas related to STEM, agriculture and health in the ACEs. The short-term certificate programmes will focus on modern approaches to the teaching of STEM.
Administration Training and Curriculum Development – This proposes training of staff of beneficiary ministries and research institutions on management of STEM, soil, water and agribusiness, as well as training of staff on curriculum development in areas specific to STEM, health, and agriculture.
Short Term Civil Servant Training – Again, staff of beneficiary ministries, as well as training institutions will be trained on research methodology and its application to policies. Other short-term training programmes under this intervention area include: a) management training on technology and innovation, and b) professional training on utilization, marketing and nutritional aspects of crops, preservation and cultivation of herbal medicines and mushrooms, traditional medicines and pharmacovigilance.
Supervised Lab-Time and Equipment Training – As the national policies promote the design, building and equipping of high quality laboratory facilities for the physical and natural sciences, it is important that the staff of beneficiary institutions, including the public referral hospitals, undergo short-term training on use of advanced laboratory equipment, which will enable them to use similar equipment and conduct cutting-edge research in related fields. The areas identified are physical, chemical, biological, engineering and agricultural sciences, as well as medical laboratory sciences.
Scholarship Awards – Scholarships will be awarded to Gambians to study in the ACEs at master and PhD levels in STEM, agriculture and health disciplines. Programmes specific to physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, laboratory studies, nursing and midwifery, agriculture and engineering have been identified for the awards. Nominees for these programmes will be selected from respective beneficiary institutions, including the private sector, will be a main beneficiary to quickly develop and strengthen its capacity and uplift its status to an ACE.
Consultancies and Applied Research – The Gambia has been training science teachers for the basic and secondary education system and it is prudent that an assessment is carried out on its impact to inform the proposed curricular reforms. A research activity will be conducted along this line. Also, climate change has raised concerns about appropriate crop varieties and animal species. A research activity is therefore identified to explore the introduction of new crop varieties and livestock species that will withstand the hazards of climate change. Kanilai Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) will as well require a viable curriculum, hence a consultancy from one of the ACEs on the development of STEM curriculum for the institute. Noticeably, food self-sufficiency is a high priority in The Gambia, and a consultancy from one of the ACEs has been proposed. There is also consultancy identified for use of traditional medicines in The Gambia.