I went to Primary School in Banjul just after independence, and could vividly remember how things where at my primary school. I could also remember how our capital Banjul looks like. After independence, most schools continue to run under colonial rules and regulations. Resources were avaliable and both pupils and teachers enjoyed the school atmosphere. Right after independence, education was free which included free desk, chair, text books, exercise books, pencils and other school materials. It was then fun to go to school because the school enviroment or atmosphere was conducive to learning. The only thing parents were responsible for is providing their children with uniforms. Those who remember their school days right after independence will attest to this fact. Milk and decent food were served every day, with children queuing patiently to get their daily portion of very vital milk intake. The milk used to come as pulverized milk and then diluted in water before being served. With the school food, learning becomes fun and children get more energy to perform well. This was the atmosphere in many schools after independence.
Our capital Banjul was an oasis of diverse people, peace and stability. The streets of Banjul after independence were asphalt road and BCC was effective in providing quality sanitation. Banjulians had mobile toilets then which were taken care of properly by BCC employees. A weekly spray of the gutters or sewage was conducted to minimize the spread of diseases or avoid health risks in the capital. Royal Victoria Hospital was a first class hospital by then, performing almost all kinds of treatments and operations. Patients were well taken care of and that hospital beds were provided to all patients. All these were happening immediately after independence. All the structures and institutions were intact and corruption was barely unheard of.
Banjul had 24 hours electricity which could have been provided to many parts of the country had the power station been managed properly. The State House then was an open area and access was never questioned or denied. Marina Parade was a pedestrian street and security was never in the minds of anyone. This way of living gave birth to Thd Gambia as the Smiling Coast of Africa. The people of The Gambia by nature are not violent which made crime a none issue during and immediately after independence. The main source of employment was Public Works Department (PWD) which provided employment for thousands of Gambians. Public Works Department was a nation wide institution with a history of very high level of effectiveness and efficiency.
Many of the wokers at PWD who commute every day were provided transportation, a clear indication of the institution’s effectiveness and efficiency.
Apart from the PWD, The Gambia at the time had were the Gambia Produce Marketing Board, NTC, CFAO, Gambia Commercial Bank. Argricultural Bank, Balfour Betty, GAPTC later GPTC. These were viable state parastatals generating well needed revenue for the state.
Somehow just to summarise, things began falling apart in the mid 70s and 80s mainly as a result of the 1981 coup d’etat led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang. For the sake of history, I would like to point out to those who were born under Yaya Jammeh’s 22 years of dictatorship that there was a Gambia on the right direction to prosperity. That Gambia lost sense of direction in mid 1970s and late 1970s. Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara then introduced a severe austerity measures called locally (TESITO) with the consent of MPs to improve the economy. In a nutshell, The Gambia could have been a middle class country right after independence and a full developed country by now. The reason to our failure as a nation, and not able to reach to our destination as a developed nation is simply due to wanton corruption, bad leaders, bad leadership and the lack of achievable vision and commitment.
It seems obvious that our forefathers were not completely ready for self determination in February of 1965. If they were, then something very, very terrible occured in the 1970s that brought nothing but destitude and backwardness.
If we do not know our history, then how can we then avoid the mistakes of the past? And again it seems we Gambia can do better if Gambians think about their nation first instead of individual interests first. Thishas always been the case in the Gambian politics.
Thank you all.