The Never Again Network has explained to students of Mansa-Colley Bojang Upper and Senior Secondary School that the Network is above everything else, a civic education project. The explanation was given at the Network’s engagement with students of the Jalambang-based school during a lively and interactive event on Monday, 30th June 2023.
Elaborating on one teacher’s statement to the students that the engagement was important because it was relevant to the newly introduced civic education curriculum, the Network’s national coordinator explained that their primary function is to raise civic awareness, empower young people and Gambians, in general, to say no to dictatorship and human rights abuses, and to promote national unity and social cohesion based on mutual respect among all citizens.
Network team members also spoke to the students about the importance of mutual love and respect in human societies. They emphasized that peace and unity are built on mutual love and even if we cannot love others, we must respect them as human beings. In situations where people commit crimes that make them unworthy of respect, they must be given the minimum respect due to them by virtue of their humanity and the dictates of the rule of law. The team explained that the total disregard for the rule of law that existed under the Jammeh dictatorship created a situation in which people were illegally arrested, arbitrarily detained, raped, tortured, killed, or disappeared without the benefit of due process. Students were urged to say never again to such blatant disregard for human rights, human dignity, and the rule of law. The proper relationship between state and nation, government and people was discussed at some length.
Part of the Network’s conversation with the students concerned the work of the TRRC, how the never again campaign started during the TRRC process, and why the need to continue the conversation on how the dictatorship happened, why it happened, and what young people and Gambians, in general, can do to prevent recurrence in this country. Two of the key cultural enablers of the dictatorship, namely, the widely held belief that opposing the president is opposing God, and that the president is a king (the Mansa mentality) were also discussed with the students.
For their part, a number of students raised interesting questions and made insightful comments. Of particular note was a conversation started by a student around the fact that in some schools, health centers, and government offices, people are asked to indicate what tribe they belong to. Some students were of the view that this practice of asking people to identify by tribe fueled tribalism and need to be revisited. A female student gave a rousing closing statement in which she appreciated the work of the Never Again Network and recognized its potential to empower young people through imparting valuable knowledge of their recent history and their rights and responsibilities as young citizens of this country. The student said with guidance from organizations like the Never Again Network, the sky is the limit for young people in this country.
The visit to Mansa-Colley Bojang School was part of the Never Again Network’s ongoing Right to Know campaign. The campaign focuses on empowering Gambians, particularly young people through sharing knowledge of our recent history of dictatorship and human rights violations and promoting a culture of peaceful co-existence, mutual love, mutual respect, and mutual tolerance among Gambians.