Friday, June 10, 2011

ON THE HOME FRONT......


  1.  Governments must make the well-being and rights of children ‘an integral part’ of their development agenda
  2. National laws and policies checked against cultural rights…
  3. Gambia committed to the rights and welfare of children
  4. GTTI holds ECOWAS course in building trade curriculum
  5. Prison Fellowship launch rehabilitation project    
  6. NDMA recognises the crucial role non-State Actors can play in disaster risk-reduction
  7. Forestry Director links a healthy economy to a healthy forest cover  
  8. Nasir Senior Secondary School graduates 95

Governments must make the well-being and rights of children ‘an integral part’ of their development agenda
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Banjul, The Gambia this month launched the “State of the World’s Children Report 2011”.
The report “Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity” highlights among other things, the need to invest in adolescents (aged between 10 and 19 years); to accelerate the fight against poverty; make their wellbeing and rights an integral part of the agenda; with a firm call for their recognition, protection and care, essential commodities and services, and opportunities and support. 
On June 1, a one-day “Intergenerational Dialogue on Adolescent Issues” organised by UNICEF in cooperation with The Gambia Government to mark the state of world’s children report, brought together Government Officials, UNICEF Staff, and students from across the schools in the country.
The forum was intended towards addressing issue affecting young people in The Gambia; draw a strategic plan that will guide young people to become productive citizens in life; and putting in place recommendations on the way forward for young people.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Jenieri Sagnia, UNICEF educational specialist, noted as we enter into the second international year of youth, now is the precise moment to reflect on the gains that we have made for young people in the past years, and reinforce our efforts to ensure that the gaps are bridged, and the UNICEF state of the world children 2011.
“The report draws attention to the great investment and gains that have been made in the areas of health, education, and protection to children under the age of 10,” he said.
He adds that the report highlights an increased enrolment of girls in primary education, 33 percent reduction in under-five mortality, access to routine vaccinations, and birth registration.   
He classified adolescence as vulnerable and a critical stage in the development process of young people, during which they must adapt to intense physical, emotional, sexual and social changes that establishes their identity to themselves, their families and their communities.
Coupled with these challenges, they are also faced with external influences and challenges, some of which often lead to risk taking, and abuse of harmful substances.
“Similarly they face a unique set of collective global challenges, including the economic crisis, high unemployment rate of young people, climate change, rapid urbanization, human disasters and conflicts,” he admitted.
“Greater attention must be given to care, empowerment, and protection of adolescent girls. Poor girls are subject to numerous forms of disadvantages and social discrimination and are often marginalized and miss out on school.”
Mr Saikou Touray, permanent secretary Ministry Health and Social Welfare hailed the theme for the report, stating that it has been a key issue which the government and the ministry have been engaged.
He said giving opportunities to young people continue to serve as an engine of growth and prosperity for The Gambia. “It is inline with government policy” he said, noting that it is all geared towards ensuring sustainable development and a viable future.

National laws and policies checked against cultural rights…
The Gambia National Commission for UNESCO in collaboration with the National Center for Arts and Culture yesterday held a one-day validation workshop on a “Case study on cultural rights” in Banjul.
The objectives of the workshop is to look at the level at which national laws and policies have addressed issues of cultural rights in terms of minority, child, women and youth rights, language, heritage and intellectual property rights in relation to international accords and binding treaties such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The process is also aimed at assessing all national legal provisions on the promotion and limitation of cultural rights in the country, and also to suggest strategies of maximizing the exercise of cultural rights in The Gambia and to make their application more inclusive.
It is also intended to assess the rights of minorities to take part in cultural life, and to conserve and promote their cultural.
Speaking earlier, Mr. Yayha Al-Matarr Jobe, principal program officer for NATCOM-UNESCO noted that the Declaration of the Principle of International Cultural Cooperation, one of UNESCO’s special documents devoted to cultural interaction states that “ignorance of the way of life and customs of people still present an obstacle to friendship among the nations, to peaceful cooperation and to the progress of mankind”.
He defines “cultural rights” as the right of a human being to labour and education, to a free and all-round development of his or her personality, to an active participation in creating material and spiritual values as well as using them for further progress of modern civilization.
“These values also include natural science, social and human science, medical values which are integral part of culture,” he outlined.
He noted that the international experts invited by UNESCO-BREDA, with the carefully selected national stakeholders have the task to look at the document once again and improve it to highlight their true reflections, to add an international dimension to it in order to enrich it for reference purpose for their counterparts in the sub region.
This, he notes might be a daunting task but they are convinced that the national and international experts who represented different groups will make critical suggestions for a standard document out of the validation process. 
Declaring the programme open, Hon. Fatou Mass Jobe Njie, Minister of Tourism and Culture argues that “very little rights and privileges were given to minority groups, children and women as well as cultural stakeholders during the colonial period and the first republic”.
In contrary, she said within the last 16 years, the government promoted and encouraged these rights and privileges to all without any exception. University education was a rare privilege only available to very few Gambians.
She said: “Since the establishment of the University of The Gambia, more than 2500 Gambian students have graduated with their first degrees and more than 40 percent of these students were fully sponsored by the government irrespectively of their backgrounds, tribes, social class and political affiliation.”
The proliferation of cultural groups has highlighted the rich cultural diversity in the Gambia and has also given the minority groups the needed confidence and visibility, she said.


Gambia committed to the rights and welfare of children 
The 2011 UNICEF Report on the State of World’s Children was officially launched on June 2, 2011 by The Gambia’s First Lady, who said the Government continues to be committed to the rights and welfare of children and young people.
Admitting that the future of a country lies in the quality of human capital, Madam Zainab Yahya Jammeh said the government’s commitment in promoting and protecting the rights of children and young people is well known in the sub-region.
This, she said has been demonstrated by the signing and ratifying of many international instruments, including the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNCRC; the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW and as well the passage the passage of the Children’s Act 2005 and National Youth Policy.
This year’s State of World’s Children Report is released under the theme “Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity”, and the 1st Lady said it is fitting as “we enter the second International Year of Youth.  
The annual report serve as a card for every country to assess gains made and challenges encountered in their commitments towards promoting and protecting the rights and needs of children over a year. The United Nations defines adolescence as young people between the ages of 10 to 19.
Madam Jammeh noted that the free reproductive and child health services offered by the Government have contributed to an increase in coverage of antenatal care (which stands at 97.8 percent against the 100 percent of the MDG target); it also increased the proportion of 1-year old children immunized against measles estimated at 96 percent.
Dr. Meritxell RelanĂ², UNICEF’s Deputy Representative and Officer-in-Charge said the new report notes that in 2009, there were an estimated 1.2 billion adolescents living around the world, constituting 18 percent of the global population.
“About 88 percent of adolescents live in developing countries while an estimated 16 percent live in the least developed countries. Based on current trends, sub-Saharan African is expected to hold more adolescents than any other region in the world, surpassing the regions in Asia which currently holds a record for having more adolescents,” she said.
“This year’s theme is timely as it places the necessary emphasis on some of the most pertinent issues affecting this age group. Over the past 20 years, much gain has been made for children under the age of 10, and those under-five years resulting in a 33 percent global decrease in under-five years’ mortality, increased access to vaccination, medicines, and safe drinking water, and significant improvement in girls’ enrolment and retention in basic school.”
She noted that 40 percent of Gambia’s population is under-15 years of age; and 20 percent between 15 and 24 years according to the 2003 census. Enrolment into secondary school is low (36.5 percent Multi-Index Cluster Survey, MICS 2005).
“We will ask ourselves the critical question of how we turn the challenges as contained in the report into opportunities and the opportunities we have into successes,” Hon. Sheriff Gomez, Minister of Youth and Sport said.
“It is mostly the responsibility of governments to provide the essential structures, tools, facilities and means for people; including the young to thrive, however, what is usually challenging is how much these are put into good use.”

GTTI holds training course in building trade curriculum
The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) is holding a four-day training of trainers on the adaptation of the building trade curriculum and teaching and learning materials for sharing among ECOWAS Member States in Banjul.
The course, which spans from June 6-10, is organised in collaboration with UNESCO-BREDA.
In his statement, the Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Dr. Mariama Sarr Ceesay said technical education as entrenched in the National Higher Education Policy is concerned with qualitative technological human resources development directed towards achieving a pool of skilled and self-reliant craftsmen, technicians and technologists in technical/vocational fields.
She said the training of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) teachers and representatives of various TVET institutions in the ECOWAS sub-region could not have come at a better time.
She note that since education is considered the key to effective development strategies, TVET must be the master key that can alleviate poverty, promote peace, conserve the environment, improve the quality of life for all and help achieve sustainable development.
“The Government of The Gambia is concerned that one of the major challenges facing education in general and TVET in particular, is the need to keep pace with the changing needs of the economy and the labour market, especially with regard to competencies, and skills,” she said.
“The curriculum, which defines these competencies, needs to be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure its relevance to the current and projected needs of the economy.”
She adds: “I am confident that the content of this international meeting will be responsive enough to our national situations and will contribute to addressing the perplexing challenges that confront us.”
According to her, strides in the revitalization of TVET in the ECOWAS region remains a noble venture with the Abuja process still alive; Kaduna-computer science 2010; Gambia building trades 2011; and the upcoming Ghana Electrical/Electronics Trades; and Liberia Mechanical Engineering Trades.
Minister Sarr said the partnerships at all the levels must be strengthened between UNESCO-BREDA and the Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT). It is also encouraged that through this regional program, participants from ECOWAS member countries will be able to understand and appreciate the concepts of sustainable development and social equity and be able to devise mechanisms on how to achieve sustainable development and social equity through TVET in their own respective countries.
Mrs Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, director of UNESCO-BREDA said TVET is generally recognised as a vehicle for socio-economic growth and development. It provides employment and livelihoods for people, especially young people thereby reducing hopelessness and some risky behaviour we have witnessed recently and continue to witness.
“It can effectively address youth unemployment, a major challenge in our continent, generate hope rather than frustration and engender peace instead of strive,” she said.
“The existence of quality TVET programmes can form the basis for a more sophisticated and specialized skills required as countries develop. These benefits notwithstanding, TVET has to be made attractive to the young. Links have to be seen between training and securing employment.”

 
Prison Fellowship launch rehabilitation project      
The Prison Fellowship International, The Gambia has launch the “Sattal SA Dekah” (clean your nation) project under the prison Fellowship Street Cleaning/Garbage Collection Project on Saturday June 4, 2011.
The launch, held at Latrikunda German, is meant to provide an employment opportunity for ex-prisoners in form of garbage collection in order to raise funds for their rehabilitation and their families as well.
It is also aimed at helping in the reduction or prevention of crime, with a clean environment and a contribution to the nation’s poverty alleviation initiative, according to the organisers.   
“We seek to engage the ex-prisoners, their families, their victims and interested members of the community in this project,” explains Dr. Abee Abraham, executive director of Prison Fellowship International, The Gambia.
“We believed that such a venture will not only make them and their families become self-reliant, but will also give them a sense of well-being, help in the reduction of crime, a clean environment and will ultimately contribute to the nation’s poverty alleviation drive.”
According to him, the initiative is also an income generation project for ex-prisoners and their families, who will be engaged in productive work. We started with this project because the capital and the level of skills required are minimal.
He revealed that they also have a plan to establish a farm for ex-prisoners who have no readily source of livelihood to be engaged in the production of crops like cassava which could serve as an alternative food and an income generation product.
“Ex-prisoners should not be condemned, they should be seen as fellow countrymen who can also contribute to national development with help and love they will see themselves as a part of the society,” he said. Called on Gambians to patronize the project by cooperating with the workers, the reason for cleaning the Kairaba Avenue for free is to teach its members of given back to the community.
The Deputy Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council Mr Yuspha Sanyang described the project as “very important” while citing workload that his institution is faced with.
He said waste or garbage collection is a big problem for the Council, however, he adds that the Prison Fellowship will go a long way in reducing the workload of the Council in garbage collection.
He also used the occasion to exhort tax payers to pay their taxes on time to make the Council’s work easier.

 NDMA recognises the crucial role non-State Actors can play in disaster risk-reduction
The executive director of national disaster management agency (NDMA) Mr. Essa Khan has noted that the role of non-state actors’ is very curial in achieving their drive on disaster risk-reduction (DRR) in the country.
Mr. Khan was speaking on Monday during the opening of a two-day sensitization workshop for non-States Actor’s in Banjul, The Gambia. The event is organized by the NDMA.
He said the workshop is intended to create awareness and train non-States Actors (Civil Society) in the areas of disaster risk management. Disaster management is everybody’s business, he said.  
He noted that during last year’s floods in the country, the non-State Actors and their international partners played a key role in complementing government’s effort in responding to the plight of those affected.
According to him, the fight against disasters has now expanded not only to the responsive approach of providing relieve materials, but also mitigating and the preparedness to prevent hazards.
He stressed the need for non-state actors to known the importance of disaster respond so as to evaluate their effects of response during disasters adding that proper coordination in their respond to disaster is a critical step in addressing the challenges face by government.
He said the government has taken DRR as a priority in mitigating the impact and hazard of disaster, addressing poverty and important to implement the AU Strategy on DRR at the national level.
For his part, the executive director of the association non-governmental organizations in The Gambia (TANGO) Mr. Ousman Yabo said the event is meant to give non-state actors the information, the ideas, and to update them on the issue of DRR in the country.
After the massive floods last year, he said the government has started investing by contracting local contractors to constructed drainage systems in other to avoid floods.
He admitted that this are potential areas were NGOs have to come in and complement government’s efforts. “NDMA is doing a lot to make so the necessary support is available in addressing DRR in the country,” he said.
  
Forestry Director links a healthy economy to a healthy forest cover
World Environmental Day has been marked by the National Environmental Agency, NEA in Banjul on June 6, 2011 under the themeForest: Nature at Your Service”.
Speaking on the Day, Mr Abdoulie Sanneh, director the forestry department attributed “a healthy economy to a healthy forest cover”.
Thus, stating that Gambia’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture, and hence, the importance of a healthy forest cover cannot be over emphasized.
He noted that the forest induces rainfall, prevents the rapid run-off of water and reducing environmental degradation, which may affect farm harvest and as well derailed the objective of attaining food self-sufficiency.
“Every society and economy needs a healthy forest cover,” he said. “This is because the society depends on the forest for its day-to-day needs.”
According to him, does not only provide oxygen for humans but also serve as carbon sink, and to a certain degree stabilizing the challenges of global warming. To address the issue of the environment, he said great emphasis should be put on forestry.
He suggests a massive annual tree planting exercise to safeguarding the existing forest.
NEA’s Executive Director Momodou B. Sarr said World Environment Day, spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme, began in 1972 and has grown to become the main vehicle through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.
This year’s celebrations comes at a time when the UN declared the International Year of the Forest, focused on highlighting the critical links between forests and the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient green economy.
He said a healthy and well manage forest is very essential to the survival of societies and it’s a home to millions of species of plants, animals and insects.
“The Forest covers 31% of the total land area while at the same time supporting 80% of terrestrial biodiversity that live in them. Many of the world’s most threatened and endangered animals live in these forests, making them crucial to sustaining ecosystems,” he said.
“Forests provide many important natural resources, such as food, timber, fuel, rubber, paper and medicinal plants and also protect soils, watershed and regulating water for many of the world’s rivers.”
Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), he said is an endeavour to create an incentive for developing countries with forests to protect, better manage and wisely used forest resources, and contributing to the global fight against climate change.
In the longer-term, he said large payments from abroad for verified greenhouse emissions reduction and removal through the UN REDD Programme, would provide a large source of revenues, and an incentive for REDD+ countries to further invest in low-carbon development and a healthier and greener future.   

Nasir Senior Secondary School graduates 95
Nasir Ahmadiyya Senior Secondary School in Basse, Upper River Region of The Gambia recently held a graduation ceremony for 95 students.
Its Principal Mr. Mamadi Ceesay described the day as “joyous” in the sense that the outgoing students have completed a 12-year struggle in Basic Education and are set to enter into “the wider-world”.
Commending the students for their hard work, commitment, and focus for the past three years, Mr. Ceesay challenged them to be good ambassadors of the school anywhere they find themselves in the world.
“Be honest, respectful and obedient in whatever you do and grab any good prospect that comes your way,” he advised. “Even though you will be faced with many challenges, you should try to further your education in higher institutions.”
For the outgoing councilors of the school, praised them as hardworking students who have rendered a wonderful service to the school, reducing the workload on teachers and the school administration.
Momodou G. Jallow, the principal education officer for Region Six reminded the students of the hurdles ahead, saying that Grade 12 is just the beginning.
While reiterating the principal Ceesay’s stance for the graduates to pursue higher education, he urges them to remain steadfast in their pursuit of their live-long dreams and as well take part in national development.

  • From The Voice Newspaper

   

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