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I would start by first giving a disclaimer to this blog. All the content in this blog is based on my experiences, observations and discussions that I have had with individuals both within and outside The Gambia. I don’t intend to be offensive towards anyone who reads this blog and no negative statement is directed at any individual.
Gambians, in recent times, have displayed a high level of intelligence on both social media and in the local community. It is amazing how the average Gambian can name the different parts of the constitution, list the articles of it and further quote sections within these articles. Well, that is awesome. But are we doing justice to other important sectors in the country? Does it mean that POLITICS is more of a priority for Gambians? What happens to the HEALTH and EDUCATION sectors?
As a Public Health nurse in The Gambia, I was fortunate enough to meet individuals from different ethnicities and social backgrounds. A large number of them needed extensive education on basic health practices that should be adhered to in order to stay healthy. Handwashing, for instance, is not given any importance. A lot of individuals use the toilet and don’t wash their hands afterwards. Handshaking is practiced by almost every Gambian. Imagine someone using the toilet without washing their hands and then shaking your hands. Food vendors are all over the community and a lot of them do not follow the correct procedure for hand washing before handling food.
If we can master the constitution without flaw, we can as well make effort to learn about good health practices and teach others on them. There are a lot of WhatsApp groups spreading information about politics and even unimportant gossip on social media. Why not health and academic information? When a new group is created that is dedicated to politics, large number of people join in and spread the word. Talk about healthcare or education system and little to no interest is shown. Expecting mothers are not well sensitized on antenatal care and end up having complications during delivery and in the postpartum period. People get chronic illnesses without picking up on the signs and symptoms in the early stages. Is this statement familiar; “I was with Lamin last night and he was healthy and strong. It’s morning now and he’s dead”. We call it sudden death. But is it really? Were they fighting a silent battle with an illness without being aware of it. Do we have primary healthcare providers who see us routinely to ensure that we know our health status?
Do we respect healthcare providers in The Gambia? Are we paying them enough to make them provide the best care? I hear a lot of complaints about nurses not giving enough care to their patients in hospitals and clinics. I hear stories about healthcare personnel watching TV at work and not attending to their patients. I’m not justifying their actions, but have you taken time to analyze the situation? For instance, there are no hospital equipment available for basic healthcare. Healthcare providers are not paid enough salaries. A patient in a critical condition comes to a doctor, crying and begging to get care. But guess what? The patient has no money to even pay for the services. Let’s be realistic people. Before we make judgement, let’s think critically. We have a lot of rich politicians in The Gambia, but a lot of poor healthcare providers.
Let’s delve into the education sector. I am sure that I’m not the only one who observed this. How well are Gambians performing academically? What grades do we attain in the WAEC and WASSCE examinations? What efforts are we doing on WhatsApp groups to improve our academic standing? How are we using Facebook to positively help our youngsters perform better? Are we compensating teachers well enough to make them show dedication to teaching? Are the funds from government evenly distributed to ensure that education is given priority?
Then comes the poor approach of my fellow Gambians. When a concerned Gambian makes observations and recommendations about creating a better system, he/she is attacked personally with hateful comments. This statement is a broken record; “If you’re so concerned, why not give financial support?” Let’s wake up from the slumber! Funds are coming into the country. I mean enough funds to help improve all sectors in our beloved country. There is room for change. I mean POSITIVE change. This change requires input from all citizens, both in The Gambia and abroad. Financial support is not the only input. Small-scale sensitizations in local communities help a lot. Where do we go from here?
By Oumie Jatta.