Peace Corps in the Gambia

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By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, July 03, 2001 - 9:10 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps in the Gambia

Peace Corps in the Gambia

Development in The Gambia is constrained by inherent social, economic, and environmental conditions, as well as seriously limited governmental resources. Seventy-five percent of the population depends on the agricultural and natural resource sectors for its livelihood, but over the past two decades, production of cash and food crops has steadily declined. This decline is directly attributable to environmental degradation.

Peace Corps Volunteers work closely with Gambians to alleviate the most pressing problems. In the words of the Gambian President at the Peace Corps' 30th anniversary celebration, "Their [Volunteers'] unique experiences and fraternal interactions at the grass-roots level of Gambian society can only add to greater understanding and good relations between the two peoples, and we urge them to continue their roles as American Ambassadors of peace, understanding, partnership, and progress."

Large numbers of Gambian children, especially school-age girls, are not enrolled in classes. For those children who do attend school, the majority of teachers who instruct them are not fully qualified to teach in primary and middle school. Volunteers teach in the classroom, conduct teacher training, promote girls' education, and establish resource centers and libraries at schools. In 2000, Volunteers trained over 100 teachers in math, science, girls' education activities, and environmental education.

Due to the efforts of the Volunteers, the Gambian public is becoming more interested in math and science education, and many more students, both male and female, are pursuing these subjects. The President of The Gambia has taken note, and is especially interested in sponsoring female students who pursue math and science even at the university level.

Volunteers are also making an impact by introducing computer education in The Gambia. In addition to continuing to train teachers in basic computer literacy, in 2000, a new emphasis was placed on computer education curriculum development and training in computer trouble-shooting. A total of six Computer Education Training Manuals and curriculum designs were completed, to be used nationwide. Volunteers have helped establish computer labs in six schools, two of which are now self-sustaining through fees collected for night classes.

In 2000, three Volunteers conducted a countrywide survey of all high schools, health offices and education offices to determine the current amount and state of computer equipment used by these entities, their access to technology advances, and what their technological needs are. The results of this survey, the first of its kind in The Gambia to date, have been distributed to schools, government offices and non-governmental organizations in an attempt to foster collaboration and aid the Gambian government in its efforts to infuse computers into the school curriculum.

Environmental degradation and decreased agricultural production are serious issues in The Gambia, and conservation of natural resources is a high priority for the government. Dense forest and woodland covered 80 percent of the country during the 1940s, but account for only eight percent of total land today. Uncontrolled burning is prevalent, fallow periods have been shortened or eliminated, and deforestation for fuel wood is indiscriminate. Climatic changes since the 1970s have caused rainfall to become erratic and have created further problems for the nation's agricultural base. Volunteers work with schools and community groups on a variety of environmental education projects. Some Volunteers work with community groups and individuals to establish village nurseries, plant orchards, and construct windbreaks and live fences. Others work extensively with women on community garden projects.

In 2000, a third-year Volunteer designed, implemented and analyzed an important nationwide Women In Agroforestry survey, monitored agroforestry species trials, set up computer databases and edited a quarterly agroforestry newsletter.

In The Gambia, the infant mortality rate is 92 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 150 per 100,000 live births. In both cases, the contributing causes include insufficient access to health services, lack of awareness oncerning pediatric health, and poor nutrition and sanitation practices. In rural areas, 50 percent of the population does not have access to safe drinking water. It is estimated that 75 percent of the population falls below the food poverty line during the rainy season. Volunteers work to counteract these trends by forming youth clubs for village clean-ups, organizing peer education groups to address HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and conducting a wide range of other health education activities. In 2000, Volunteers and their Gambian counterparts trained more than 850 Gambians in 17 communities in disease prevention.

In 2001, a Volunteer worked with a puppet-making group at her school to mount a play about disease prevention that was written by a sixth grade boy. The play is being presented on national radio and television.

Volunteers in 2001 also began assisting local Divisional Health Offices in the creation of databases to track various health issues, with the eventual goal of nationalizing and expanding this database.

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Story Source: Peace Corps

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - The Gambia



By Tony Cisse ( - on Saturday, December 18, 2004 - 9:14 pm: Edit Post

Its good to see interest in Baaba Sillah's book "When the Monkey Talks". It's publication is in itself a triumph. Many people in Baaba's position, a leading intellectual, who suffer the total loss of vision, would become victims, living off others sympathy and generosity.

What Baaba has done here is overcome that major burden with a work that makes the word 'disability' irrelevant. Not only to write, but also to self-publish in the face of publishers who saw the book buying Gambian public as too small to bother with.

But the book is not just a novel but a view of Gambian history that goes way beyond 'Tales of the Gambia' by Florence Mahoney (for those who remeber school days).

Who remembers Pa Edward Small, and the historic role he
Who knows the orign of the word 'brukus'for the variety of ground-
nut...(see bottom of e-mail for answer)
Who knows the real reasons behind the cattle and hut taxes, Who can recount the scheming of the Colonial governors and their cohorts
Who can recall the attack on mile 2 prison by legions of kankurang?

This book brings these to life, not in a dry textbook way but as part of an exciting read.

All this makes it not just of personal benefit to the reader who wants to buy (see order details), but also allow it to penetrate those institutions in which we work and study ...through their libraries...let Gambian's feel
proud to have the heroic side of the history and struggle against colonialism known by other nations...more to the country than the 'smiling coast' of tourist posters.

How to buy go to:

or e-mail

Prices = £10 pounds sterling plus postage and packing UK £2.50, EU £3.00, rest of world £5.50 (all prices in UK pounds)

(the answer to the origin of the word 'brukus' to describe the variety of ground nut, is that it is a Mandinka mis-prononciation of 'Brooks'- Major Brooks who introduced it into the Gambia as part of the colonial plan for monoculture)

A Profile of Baaba Sillah the author

Baaba Sillah is a Gambian, resident of Norway, educated in part in Britain in the fields of psychology, education and management. He has worked as a consultant in various fields, especially in Training and in development work. He is a born teacher and has taught all his life, in Gambia, in Britain, and most recently in Norway where his teaching has taken the form of mentoring and support for individual students – both formally and informally. Teaching is basically his life
For many years, writing has been an alternative expression for Baaba’s need to communicate his ideas and to reach out and share them with a larger audience. After losing his sight some years ago and thus some of his occupational mobility and flexibility, writing has been a way for Baaba to do his part as a citizen of the world.

Being a creature of several worlds has given him the multiple perspectives of distance and local insight and knowledge. Not an accident in history, sometimes Baaba argues, "we have to move out to know ourselves, move out of Africa to know Africa" and yet, Baaba bears with him the insight of the African and the pride in and respect for what the African has been, is and can be!

Introduction to "When the Monkey Talks"

A novel by Baaba Sillah

This is a novel of social, political and economic history seen through the eyes of a young boy, Samba, growing up in colonial West Africa. His story is the story of the impact of economic changes that have taken place in Africa ever since she had contact with Merchants and seafarers; Slavers, Explorers, Colonialists and others of a mixed hew. More specifically, the book examines the effect of the imposition of a monoculture on the lives, culture and traditions of the peoples living under indirect rule. It is a novel that spans the seventy-year period of colonial rule, between 1880 and 1950. It is the story of a son and his mother, a boy and his friends, a young man falling in love and a young adult becoming politically aware of the dynamics of colonialism and his own society. It touches on issues of love, life, custom and continuity-the narrative is long and follows the fortunes of ordinary everyday people and it embraces all aspects of life in Africa under Colonial rule and its effects up to the present!

In the words of Joakin, the palm wine tapper, the book attempts to restore the dignity and splendour of the past. This gives us pride in who we are, based on who we have been. In this way the book contributes to the formation of who we may become. It is never too late to become. The prerequisite is the acquisition of the knowledge of and pride in history and tradition and to uphold a sense of equity and fair play and the readiness to take responsibility for our actions.

Inspite of the novel being based on life in West Africa, the issues that are raise are Pan African and even common to developing countries which have been under the influence of colonial powers at some time in their history. Perhaps one even daresay, that any people desiring to focus on, maintain and carry on their traditions in the face of the rapid pace of modernisation- and yet can at the same time challenge these very traditions if they stand in the way of progress and human advance.

The book presents several challenges to the reader, salient among which, are in something so basic as in the spelling of African names. Up until now they have been spelt based on Anglo-Saxon phonology whereas a spelling standard has been chosen based on local orthography which is closer to how Africans speak and hear themselves.

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