Friday, 7 January 2011

The Gambia, An Open University

By Suntou Touray
The metaphors of our times are manifested in lurid sketchy details imprinted all over the interactive cyber phenomenon. Heroes, genius and villains are all identified with Hollywood precision plots. Having watched a lecture delivered by an American convert, Shuwaib Webb some years ago. He dramatically engaged the audience with the question “how do they think they will be remembered after their death”? The video link of the lecture:
This is serious stuff considering the evidences that, most of us deceive ourselves with youth and would rather not contemplated death let alone how we will be remembered in the final analysis. Examining our respective legacies hardly cross the thought processes.
How will you be remembered by your wife, husband, children and close contacts? Think about that for a minute.
The Gambia lies in a state of helplessness and little hope. The propensity for a Gambian to become a bedding partner with Yahya Jammeh is so odds on favourite that, ambitious individualist would go wobbly before the big man make a wink at them. To be or not to be is actually a nagging of a few harden individuals.
What is the way out of our self deprivation and endless misrepresentation of each other’s views? The story here is my personal observation. I know it is bias just like yours is, however, it is only fair that, I state mine.
In our delicate political climate where heroes are quick to dug and hide for cover, the utilisation of pen names, anonymous real names wet our appetite for heated exchanges. Lang Minteh, Musa Saw, Hassan Babou etc can all be an identifiable Gambian names. Yet who are these people emerging, faceless trying hard to be taken for granted with their serious political solutions? Try speculating who Musa Bitaye is, before you know, one percentage of Bakau will become a suspect. The fact is, this is what dictatorship breed: Fear to be known and eventually identified.
The disheartening outcome of anonymity or facelessness in exchanging serious views contributes to unearthing bitterness within our community. Issues easily becomes polarised, sadistic inert facts of nature emerge misleading even the intelligent observers.
It is a good thing to see regular constellation of ideas, however when those very same ideas are catalogue for vendettas and the promotion of miniscule elites, justifiable views get wind tight. It’s undisputable that, the Gambia today is so different; no one can claim ownership over scholarship and deep thinking. Symposium use to consume the minds of impressionable youths to the extent that, decades of aftershocks kept resurfacing.
Politics is a game of blood and sweat, few friends with lots of callous misleading tricks. The purported saint is in fact the biggest devil. Watch and see the lessons from great crowd movers, they end up getting away with mass murder with little or no public reactions. Take Bill Clinton for instance. His role in the 500, 000 Iraqi children death through sanctions of the country which blocks medicine and vital vitamins. Who blames Clinton today?
In our case as a matter of focus; few individuals have dominated the thought processes of some few fellow countrymen/women. This influence has lead to serious infatuations with everything uttered by those few. Whether they say the truth or otherwise are still the same to these individuals. Hardly any Gambian matters in distilling political jargons. What this few men say is gospel. To some they are the musketeers that are embellished by idiots and bigots.
Hang on a minute, but the last time evidence proofs, these men are in fact politicians. The strange phenomenon of a dictatorship is that, since the atmosphere of fear is wide spread, strategic alliances in ending the big evil becomes a major battle ground. The art of distortions and inaccuracies peddled by an ideological under current mixed with dogmatic propaganda is the major stumbling block in unifying fragile hearts.
Academic political discourse took roots in the Gambia since the 1980s. Impressionable minds were eager to mimic and imitate the good words of their scholars. Mastering the statistics of the country’s revenues and problems are core ingredients in this dynamic new politics. Fascination and complete loyalty to the propellers of the game replace religion to some. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially with the cult personality, delay matrimonies, simple attires, modest living germinating into unthinkable reasons for objecting to these respected figures. Only ignoramuses will object to their lectures.
The Gambia’s acquiring an unofficial Open University status was besmirched without any formal protocol. A news paper and frequent visitations to schools was all that is needed. Five yearly party political campaigns also contribute to the disseminations of the academic political message.
Farmers are bombarded with the prices of their harvest, low level economic analytical methods are utilised to reasonably put forward the way our fishing industry can have a multiplier effect on the rest of economy. Polemic signature writing dominates their ultimate engagement. And the effect it has on those hungry for intelligent conversation is immeasurable. The whole epoch became a thing of who has the best ideas and a dramatic vocal cord.
Everything around us is politicised, whilst some serious scholar inadvertently opined that “...true knowledge is fundamentally non-political and that conversely, political knowledge is not true knowledge” since political banter obscure reality toward self-promotion and cockiness. The academicians lament that, the reason our politics is where it is today is to do with elitism, patronage, tribe and illiteracy are the obstacle to genuine democracy and real freedom. To end this epoch, a plan for the emancipation of hearts and mind became sacrosanct.
The Open University targets every single citizen of the Gambia and it is free. The lectures are in many faced: subliminal, direct bombardment in media, lectures, high school visitations and the writing of academic papers. The reality is Gambians didn’t realise that, there is a lecture taking place let alone them being enrol in a University without their knowledge. Hence, the proof of the lecturing bearing fruition is not through exams, but votes. The proof have been disappointing for the lecturers, the students weren’t paying attention. They still dance to the ‘bukarabo’, ‘sewruba’, ‘tama’ or ‘junjun’. They still follow the flamboyance of showmanship and stylish lavish candidates. In fact, the lecturers hardly matters to the people.
Culture according to Edward Said “ the best that is thought and known and everyone sees themselves, their people, society and tradition in the best light.” “...Culture blocks other narratives from forming and emerging...”. Hence the Open University lecturers misjudge the reaction of their ignorant masses. No one wants to be dictated to or presume ignorant, especially with silent sound bites.
Today is an age where perception is all and usually transcended my words. The fans and keen followers of the lecturers bitterly comment loudly: Their sacrifices had wrought them anything from this self-hating citizens.
Is it an utmost Gambian hallmark to be embittered by their saviours? Why are the lecturers who demand nothing not embraced with open arms? That is for you think about. However, what has emerged thought against us who commence the critic of the Open University formula and its lecturers are that, they became angered by the deep penetrating scrutiny.
I guess, it just downed on them that, maintaining Candour and a cool composure is hard to even simpleton down to earthers. Lecturing a whole country is a noble task, but how should this be conducted? A role reverse is necessary once in a while. It is the expert habit of the lecturers to scrutinise others very often.
Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other, according to (Oscar Ameringer).
However, what if one is dealing/acting in African politics, where the mass populace lack the basic necessities of life? Can you stand on the outside and teach those who only respect power? You will have to perform miracles to catch their attention. This is why, it is imperative, weaker political parties join those with more strength to work together in slowly changing the status quo. Lecturing alone will do nothing.
We cannot get noticed by being the same, therefore, let the Open University lecturers do certain things they wouldn’t approve of in normal circumstances, this way, their standing and reputation will precede them all over the place.
The dangers of lingering in the game for long are creating a state of, ‘we have heard it all before’, and the rise of new challengers to the intellectual throne. The dithering and puritanical approach will embitter the ordinary observer even more. My camp is not claiming any ownership to academic politics, or relevance to the deep hearts of Africans, but we surely belief that, together we can make things better for the suffering masses. The Open University will have more strength and focus should the lecturers get the higher mantle hold... let us change the Gambia together.

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