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Gambia: One man’s investment in the future of a nation

EI national affiliate the Gambia Teachers’ Union (GTU) has welcomed the Gambia's Consul General to the Republic of Italy, His Excellency Francesco Cristina di Santannera, statement highlighting the importance of education, acknowledging that it is the foundation for any nation’s development. He asserted that without education, no country can develop properly, therefore justifying his support of The Gambia's education sector.

“GTU applauds the support given to schools by philanthropists,” commented GTU General Secretary Antoinette Corr-Jack. “However, it is important to note that it is a primary responsibility of the state to provide public quality education for all.”

On 14 March, the Italian-born veteran diplomat, who was granted Gambian citizenship in 2007, spoke at the Antonio Christina Nursery School, which he sponsors in the Sanyang village, Kombo South, in the country’s West Coast Region, where villagers warmly welcomed him.

Established in 2008, the school started with 24 students, and has now around 100 students enrolled. Some of the school’s students already graduated and were admitted to two of the village’s primary schools. Santannera pays all of the school’s expenses, from the staff's monthly salaries – five teachers and four auxiliary staff - to the pupils’ daily meals and the provision of essential educational materials.

Children are The Gambia’s future

“I was really impressed with the progress at the school,” he said. “The country’s development is unequivocally connected to the educational development of children, the future leaders. Without education, no country can develop properly, and the knowledge of each and every one of us is the strongest foundation for The Gambia’s future development. The children that we met are the future of this country’s development.”

Reiterating that investing in children is building the country’s future, the diplomat hailed the school leader, the education staff and the Sanyang’s villagers for their strong commitment to the school’s ongoing development.

Community support vital

School leader Sylvester Saine thanked Santannera for his contribution to the country’s development. While stressing that the school's performance has been excellent, Saine praised highly his staff for their strong dedication to the development of the students in general and the school in particular. He called for greater community participation in favour of the school’s sustainability, noting that the teachers and the benefactor cannot achieve it all by themselves.

The Basic and Secondary Education Ministry's local representative Omar Nyass noted that, despite the Government's strong commitment to education, it cannot succeed without help. He called on other Gambians, particularly wealthy people, to imitate Santannera’s example.

EI: Governments primarily responsible for education

“EI welcomes the fact that wealthy concerned individuals give money to fund their national education system,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Nevertheless, we reiterate that the prime responsibility for ensuring free public quality education for all on a sustainable basis lies in the hands of governments.”

EI urges public authorities to spend at least six per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on education.

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