The Gambia's consular general to the Republic of Italy, His Excellency Francesco Cristina di Santannera, has underscored the importance of education, saying it is the foundation for the development of any nation. He asserted that without education, no country can develop properly, thus justifying his support to The Gambia's education sector.
The Italian-born veteran diplomat, who wasgranted Gambian citizenship since 2007, was speaking to the Daily Observer Thursday morning at his sponsored Antonio Christina Nursery School in Sanyang village, Kombo South, West Coast Region (WCR) where he was treated to a rousing welcome by the villagers.
Established in 2008, the school that started with 24 students, according to officials, has now an enrollment of close to 100 pupils, with some of them already graduated and admitted in two of the primary schools in the village.Consular Cristina takes care of all the expenses of the school, from imbursement of staff's monthly salaries, the daily feeding of the pupils to the provision of essential educational materials.
"I was really impressed with the progress at the school. The development of the country is absolutely connected to the educational development of the children who serve as future leaders. Without education, no country can develop properly because the knowledge of each one of us is the stronger foundation for the future development of the country. These children that we met are the future of the development of this country," Consular General Santannera told the Daily Observer on the sidelines of the visit.
Reiterating that investing in children is building the future of the country, the diplomat said his move to sponsor the school for five years is part of his efforts to share with the people what God has given him.
"My parents have done whatever they could for me. I grew up and went to school up to the university and eventually started my career many decades ago. So I can say I am lucky and I thank God for being with me. I thought it's important for me to share with others what the Almighty has given me. And because I am a Gambian - naturalised since 2006, I didn't think of any country where I can do something like that except my country, The Gambia. So this is the reason for sponsoring this school," he stated.
Hehailed the headmaster, staff and the villagers of Sanyang for their strong commitment to the continued development of the school. He however enjoined the villagers to continue their support to the school, more especially to be closer to the pupils. "We started five years ago with 24 students, and now we have about 100 pupils. But this has now challenged us to expand the school to cater for more students," he added.
Commending the villagers and school management for the warmwelcome accorded him, Santannera concluded by conveying greetings from his mother in Italy.
The headmaster of the school, Sylvester Saine, disclosed during the meeting that the school has five teachers, and four auxiliary staff including two cooks. He added that the salaries of all these people are paid by the benefactor.
He expressed gratitude to the benefactor for what he called this great contribution to the development of the country. While stressing that the school's performance has been excellent, the head teacher applauded his staff for their dedicationto the development of the pupils and the school in particular. Hecalled forgreater community participation for the sustainability of the school, noting that the teachers and the benefactor alone cannot do it all.
The Basic and Secondary Education Ministry's cluster monitor in the area, Omar Nyass, also applauded the benefactor for hisassistance to the education sector. He noted that despite government's strong commitment to the sector, it cannot do it alone. Thus, he called on others, particularly well-off Gambians to emulate Francisco Santannera.
Other speakers at the occasion including the Imam of the village, Ebrima Manku, and the women representative, Safiatou Saidy all commended the benefactor for what they called a worthwhile geture that has brought early childhood education closer to the doorstep of their children. They prayed for his continued long life and good health.