In a unity of purpose, Gambian youths gathered once again for the biennial National Youth Conference and festival, NaYCONF, for the tenth time.
Truth be told, however, concerns of the seven administrative regions are diverse, perhaps reflecting the differences in their socio-economic conditions.
The NaYCONF Daily yesterday went out and about to sound their views on what matters to them most here.
NBR cautions referees
Of great concern to the provincial North Bank Region's youth and sports coordinator is the need for referees to observe neutrality in all sporting activities. Lamin K. Saidy challenged the referees to officiate games fairly, in order to avoid conflict between regions.
"I am cautioning all referees to exercise neutrality in the competitions, and I expect that games will be fairly played," he said.
Saidy did not lose sight of the need for athletes to be focused and to exercise a high sense of discipline and respect, in accordance with the rules and regulations of NaYCONF games.
"As for the NBR, we are not just here for the sake of participating. We are here to win and leave for home with trophies, because we have endeavoured to fulfil the requirements for participation."
On the issue of accommodation, he said their expectations were not met, as most of their delegates slept on the classroom floor due to non-availability of mattresses. But this, he said, was not peculiar to them.
"The NBR delegates shared the same challenges with other regions. As you can see, the whole environment is being polluted by the wind. This exposes delegates to health risks."
The NBR youth and sports coordinator further urged the committees to wisely utilise the resources given to them.
KMC: Health Care is Our Major Constraint
Speaking exclusively to the NaYCONF Daily, the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) head of health and accommodation expressed concern over lack of access to healthcare facilities on the grounds.
"Good health is everyone's business. As far as the NaYCONF is concerned, I have not seen any provision made to address our health concerns, especially if an unexpected happens. We were told not to bring our health personnel; that it will be provided for, but to our surprise we have not seen any," declared Lamin Marong.
On their level of preparation, he said, they are always associated with victory, as the Farafenni event trophy is still with them. "We are here again for our cup, because we trained hard prior to the event", he added.
LRR: authorities should listen to youths
As the regions voiced out their delights and disappointments, the Lower River Region is not without its own. The provincial region, through the head of delegation, wants the government authorities to listen to the country's youths and take action towards addressing their concerns.
Muhammed Fatty, leading a delegation of 175 young people, said the conference is the highest level of youth gathering. Thus, he firmly believes, concerns raised by youths should be addressed by the state authorities.
"Definitely, some of the problems we are crying for, like illegal migration; increase in the rate of youth unemployment, could be something of the past, if the authorities had listened to us. Provided that the local councils and government listen and address what young people want, NaYCONF is very important event."
URR: CRR should prove itself
In an effort to bring to the fore what the regions have to say, the NaYCONF Daily caught up with the head of the delegation of the Upper River Region.
Alhagi Muya Baldeh, the regional youth chairperson, challenged the host region, Central River Region, to prove to the people that it is capable of hosting the NaYCONF.
"We are expecting a lot from CRR since this is their first time of hosting such a big gathering of youths (the event, then known as Youth Week, was actually held here in 1992).
"The environment is fine, but the space allocated to the regions is small, considering the number of delegates each region came with.
"CRR should prove to the people that they are capable of hosting the NaYCONF, so that they can be given the opportunity to host it again, in the future."
His region, he said, is fully prepared and will participate in all the events. "Whatever the case may be, we will participate fully and win the trophy," he said.
WCR: NaYCONF not for dancing
Speaking to the NaYCONF Daily, Omar M. B. Beyai, head of delegation for the West Coast Region said, "this event is not meant for only dancing and playing, but to bring out the concerns of to the government to take action, and to further learn and interact from each other's culture and backgrounds.
"Through NaYCONF, one can develop him or herself in many ways - socially, physically, and mentally - if one knows its value.
"We are appealing to the National Organising Committee to address the accommodation and toilet facilities here," he added.