Saturday, May 31, 2014

State vs Individual responsibility: Time for some straight talk

Gambians enjoy bashing Yaya Jammeh a great deal.  Even those who support him publicly, bash him privately to their hearts content. We know because we are one of them.  We can also see it in the data Google collects for the

Titles that include the words Yaya Jammeh tend to attract more pageviews than bland tittles like 'agriculture purchasing season' which, I wish, attracts as much pageviews if not more because it is more important to dislodging Jammeh than his human rights record.  We do not hesitate to blame him and others for our troubles than ourselves. We always like to put the blame on someone else and not ourselves.

To illustrate the point, we will revert to the past several weeks, and particularly to last week that saw, yet again, some outlandish claims driven more by politics of spite than anything else.  Some of us are guilty of rearranging the facts so that they validate and prop up our talking points.  Interestingly, the culprit is always the government : it is because of Jawara that we find ourselves  in such miserable condition, the scholarships were awarded to this group of students in preference to other equally or more deserving group of students.  Nothing about you and me. 

Those who were following the challenge we put to readers last week can attest to the fact that not a single name was produced to back up the claims. While we have no intention of prolonging the contest, we must say it revealed the existence of a wide gap between what the opposition parties during the PPP era cooked up as facts (when they were more about politics of distortion) that ended up being nothing more than the figment of the opposition's imagination.  

It was these false allegations that Jammeh used to justify his coup d'etat such as Jawara built one high school, conveniently leaving out Farafenni High School. Armitage High School doesn't count because it was build during the colonial era to use the logic of the Jawara era opposition but which came into prominence during the AFPRC/APRC regimes. 

To pretend that Jammeh and the anti-Jawara forces lack the rational fortitude to know that claims were designed to score political points rather than laying out the facts is to be both naive and irrational.  By engaging the populace in what was both frivolous and spurious, they succeeded in deflecting attention away from the real and substantive facts because the claims ignored the significant and tremendous strides Jawara achieved in government partnership with the private/religious groups that converted schools like Nusrat, Nasir Ahmad, Muslim High Schools into grant-in-aid with heavy government subvention without which they would have folded under their own weight.  

By the logic of the opposition during the Jawara era, these High Schools do not count because they were not built by Jawara but by religious or private organizations.  What they same folks fail to tell their supporters was that it was Jawara's government footing most of the bills that kept those insolvent schools from closing their doors permanently. 

The biggest expenditure items of these schools were teachers salaries which were met by government through annual government subvention to these schools, sometimes constituting 90% of the entire school's budget.  

We  have come to learn the hard way that educational success is not necessarily measured by the number of school buildings erected by government but by the qualified teachers in front of pupils with adequate school supplies, teaching and reading materials. 

We love blaming government for all of our personal failings as much as we hate owning up to them.  How many times have we seen and/or heard folks blaming government for lack of provision of adequate educational facilities for their failings or lack of success in life when a good part of those failings are more attributable to us than to government.  

How many of us come from the same ill-equipped schools, but yet managed to outcome the odds by that extra personal effort of putting in more time on our books and less on playing hooky (skipping in excess of a day of school).  At what point do we to say to ourselves that the blame should be on me and my family and less on the government. Folks like me, prefer to put my destiny squarely in my hands than in the hands of a government, any government.  

How many times have we seen kids thrown out of school for non-payment of school fees when the mother, or sister or aunty is covered from head to toe with gold ornaments worth a year or two at Harvard University.  The dad?  Who knows. 

These are truisms, yet we prefer to look the other way.  We prefer to look the other way because it is a more politically portent narrative to blame Jawara than to apportion blame to include our mums and dads and ourselves.  

So next time we point fingers at government, let us ask ourselves what did we do, as individuals, as families, to have contributed to our own human failings.   Before we put all the blame on Jawara and Jammeh, let us try to be an equal opportunity finger-pointers for once by pointing fingers at ourselves too.  Is that too much to ask?