Significant Investment in Higher Education is needed, the Youth need to be motivated – Hon. Minister Prof Gomez

The Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST) Professor Pierre Gomez has stressed the need for the Government, partners and stakeholders to invest heavily in higher education as it is the engine of national development. This statement was made during a Donor Conference organized by MoHERST on Monday, 30th January, 2023 at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre in Bijilo.

“The youth need to be motivated. Irregular migration is prevalent in the country. What is our response from the higher education fraternity? It is Higher Education that should give the youth skills to take charge of their destiny and build their nation,” Hon. Prof Gomez stated.

Currently, the tertiary and higher education sector in The Gambia is going through some transformation which requires human and institutional capacity development. At the policy level, the Ministry has finalized a Strategic Plan (2021 – 2025) that focuses on access and equity, quality and relevance, scientific research and technological development, and sector management as programmatic areas of intervention.

Alongside this policy document and in line with the decentralization drive, the National TVET Policy has been developed to provide opportunities for skills acquisition and training for all works of life in all administrative regions of the country. In enhancing the attainment of these policies, a higher Education Financing Strategy titled; Sustainable Financing of Higher Education in The Gambia has been developed to help address the financing challenges of the sector.

According to the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Hon. Seedy Keita, higher education is one of the key pillars to developing the country’s human capital. He informed that Government is already supporting the sector’s initiatives and will continue to do so, but reiterated that all partners need to come forward for this noble task. “Given the centrality of financing higher education, this cannot be left to the public sector alone, that is why we should work together on how we can finance higher education,” said Hon. Seedy Keita.

The Strategic document on the financing of higher education in The Gambia, which received the blessings of Cabinet, has been widely circulated among the stakeholders of the sector. In order to broaden the scope of engagement, the Ministry organized this significant donor conference which brought together relevant stakeholders and the society at large to engage in the discourse on the way forward for the financing of higher education.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) country rep, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) all expressed their support of the sector and commended the leadership of MoHERST for the laudable initiative.

In his remarks, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Chinese Embassy in The Gambia reaffirmed China’s commitment to supporting The Gambia Government’s Higher Education agenda. He also informed that the COVID-19 situation has improved and students under the Chinese Government Scholarship will be returning to China to complete their studies.

Madame Henrietta Sonko, the CEO of MRC Holland Foundation, assured that her foundation will continue to support MoHERST to ensure the strategic document is implemented.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr Yusupha Touray gave a presentation on the MoHERST Sector Strategy and Financing Model, as well as an overview of the document on the Sustainable Financing of Higher Education in The Gambia.

Part of the recommendations identified in the Sustainable Financing of Higher Education Strategy include; the need for Government to take care of the basic salaries of staff in public higher education institutions and the establishment of a trust fund. Also recommended is a mixed funding approach to finance student costs, using scholarships and student loans and the need for Government to mobilize more funding for research and technology development, through the establishment of a Research and Innovation Fund, among others.