Professor Bill Roberts, an anthropologist at the St Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) has reaffirmed his commitment to promoting quality education at the UTG . He said they would continue to do their best in providing the much needed human resources that will help students, UTG and the country to achieve their development aspirations. Speaking in an interview with the Daily Observer, Prof Roberts who also doubles as the director of the PEACE Programme in the Gambia explained that the programme is geared towards promoting collaboration and understanding through educational and cultural exchange between St Mary's College of Maryland and the University of The Gambia. Since 2004, he said , the PEACE programme has been offering scholarships to UTG students to study at SMCM. "To date, 18 UTG students have benefitted from study abroad at SMCM and another 11 UTG students studied at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in an exchange programme between the three universities," he added. The director of the PEACE Programme told the Daily Observer that SMCM is the first US institution of higher education to establish a memorandum of understanding with the University of The Gambia (UTG). In 2003, he said, the first cohort of SMCM students studied at the UTG.
He added that this year, they are expecting ten students from the United States who will take classes at the UTG during the second term. He noted that during their stay; the students will take classes at the UTG, study one of the local languages and work with their counterparts at a Gambian organization that matches their academic or professional interests.
Prof Roberts said many Gambians are involved in their programme, providing lectures in their areas of expertise. "In May 2014, I plan to return with another group of students and faculty for our summer Field Study programme. Basically, we will be doing research together with Gambian students and faculty at a number of sites in the Greater Banjul Area, including two Senior Secondary Schools," the director of the PEACE Programme revealed. Their work in the schools, he pointed out, is part of an ongoing Gambia Social and Health Assessment Project (G-SAHA), which is a collaborative project with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. We have already conducted the first round of data collection in six Senior Secondary schools in the Gambia and we are currently planning to recruit students from UTG to work with all phases of the project in the future.
Prof Roberts also spoke at length about the Banjul Heritage Project, led by archaeologist Liza Gijanto in collaboration with the National Centre for Arts and Culture. The partnership, he said, began in 1996. That project he said, was established in 2006 by partners in Maryland in collaboration with the NCAC and that the first round of intensive research was carried out in 2008. This year, he noted, they plan to collect information from archaeological, archival and oral history research that could be useful to the upcoming bicentennial celebrations for Banjul. Professor Roberts stated that the exchange of students, lecturers and collaborative research could make great impact on both the UTG and SMCM communities. Earlier this year, UTG student Ndey Fatou Kinneh Ndow a major in mathematics, studied at SMCM and earned 'As' in every course. The overall idea, according to Prof Roberts, is to devise collaborative activities such as exchange and research that would help to strengthen both institutions and encourages mutual understanding in both communities. Professor Bill maintained that the Gambian exchange students, who are selected on a competitive basis by a UTG scholarship committee, have been doing well since the inception of the link despite the different culture and traditions within the US.
The UTG, he noted is a young institution that is growing and improving each year. By focusing on generating mutual benefits for both institutions, the programme has received great support over the past years.
Prof Roberts affirmed that the UTG students have been a constant source of inspiration for him because with all the constraints they face, they are committed to doing the best in serving their families, communities and nation at large.