3 January 2013

Gambia: 'STI Policy Must Be Anchored in the Revitalisation of Our Education Sector'

The vice chancellor of the University of The Gambia has stressed that the Gambia's Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy must be anchored in the revitalization of the country's education sector to ensure strengthening individual capacities in skills, knowledge, competencies, attitude and discipline, especially in the acquisition and delivery of mathematics, English language and the sciences.

Speaking recently at the maiden conference on the review of the draft National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi, Professor Muhamadou O. Kah, stressed that the STI Policy must guide concerted efforts, direction and commitment to help re-engineer their models of capacity development in the entire education life cycle, and put in place agile processes, systems and artifacts that will facilitate strengthening and enhancement of institutional capacity, facilitation of adoption and utilization of e-technologies and developing competencies ushering opportunities to develop relevant content and services that are consumable, or can be modernized for wealth creation by and for the youths and for development.

"Further, our STI policy is expected to guide and/or usher in abundant and diverse capacities; such as transformation capacity, implementation capacity, innovative capacity and research capacity," Kah, who is also the vice chairman of the National Committee on STI underscored.

Most African economies, according to VC Kah, are hugely challenged by these capacity gaps in which the Gambia is no exception. He posited that it is expected that the STI policy will guide increased investment in STI infrastructure development, noting that doing science, technology and innovation is not cheap and that it must be factored and committed to if they are to reap the benefits.

"Our policy is also expected to guide fostering of industries in the country and promoting tertiary, university - industry collaboration for technological development; develop human capacities to catalyze STI; promote development partnership to deepen the national STI agenda," he outlined.

In Professor Kah's view, the departure point of the country's STI policy must facilitate the integration of the STI into the national development strategies ensuring adequate capacity to achieve the medium term blueprint, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) aspirations for poverty reduction, competitiveness of Gambia's private sector, sustainable and industrial growth and efficient environment management. Thus, he elaborated, the STI policy must guide and help facilitate institutional strengthening and systems to enable substantive mastering of scientific, technological, research and innovation capabilities in the country.

"It is therefore expected that the STI policy will usher in an institutional framework that eases inter-sectoral and inter-ministerial efforts in developing STI with lesser duplication, but more synergy, alignment, collaboration and partnership. The policy is expected to ensure that STI drives all sectors of our economy. It is important to note that the draft document highlights adequately specific sectoral activities and programmes," he added.

Further with the STI expectations, the UTG VC said the STI policy will also usher in or guide institutionalization at national level. The policy he said should also depart from the principle of relevance, realistic, cost effective, synergistic, and collaborative partnerships.

Kah further told the gathering that the draft policy correctly identifies education as a key area, but was quick to point out that it cannot be stressed enough, however, that STI education policy is not just for university or PhD students. Science education, he stressed, should begin in early childhood development and primary school and be linked to issues and problems that are directly relevant to students' day-to-day experiences.

"Virtually, every social and economic development problem facing The Gambia has a multidisciplinary scientific component, so, conceptually, this should not be too difficult. But in practice, it means that education should become more interactive and problem-oriented and less associated with 'rote memorization' and the teaching approach and delivery must not nurture and encourage that. This will entail a major shift in pedagogy. Thus, the STI policy on education is expected to be a very clear driver of change to facilitate the revitalization of our entire education infrastructure and value chain," he stressed.

VC Kah concluded by thanking President Jammeh for his foresight to prioritize the development of STI in the country as reflected by his continuous development of the University of The Gambia, the inauguration of the UTG STI Park and declaration of the 2012 as the year for STI.

Similarly, he also commended the Ministry of Higher Education Research Science and Technology, the Inter-ministerial National Committee on STI, the UTG and other stakeholders that worked tirelessly behind the scenes resulting in the draft STI policy.

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