The Role of Education in Strengthening social fabric and enhancing social Cohesion: A Call for Reform in The Gambia

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Karamo Ceesay

By Karamo Ceesay, MA Education, Universitas Islam International Indonesia(UIII)

In a society where political party affiliations and tribal divisions sow seeds of discord and hatred among its people, it is essential to examine the education system as a potential catalyst for change. The Gambia, a nation struggling with deep-seated animosities rooted in political and tribal identities, must confront the question: Are its citizens receiving the education they need to transcend these divisive lines and prioritize national unity?

To answer this question, it is important to consider some of the most significant definitions of education by some of the greatest thinkers. Aristotle, one of the most notable Greek philosophers, defined education as the creation of a sound mind in a sound body. Confucius believed that education is the process of teaching virtue and character development to individuals. Meanwhile, John Dewey defined education as the preparation for life, believing that education is life itself. From these definitions, one could conclude that the Gambia is not providing adequate education to its children.

Moreover, The current climate of hostility and disunity in The Gambia raises concerns about the role of the education system in perpetuating social divisions. The pervasive existence of political and tribal animosity suggests a failure to instil in citizens a sense of unity and national interest that transcends partisan loyalties. It is now apparent that even intellectuals, who are expected to be the leading lights of our society, are often driven by allegiance to their tribe or political party. This raises the question of whether we are cultivating generations of Gambians equipped with the critical thinking skills, empathy, and civic responsibility needed to bridge these divides and create a harmonious national identity. It is a question that every responsible Gambian should consider.

The comparison of our situation with Indonesia, a country with a population of around 280 million, showcases their remarkable culture of unity, despite their political differences. This comparison makes us reflect on our own situation and calls for action. Indonesia’s ability to nurture social harmony amongst its diverse people is a testament to the influence of education on shaping a society’s values and attitudes towards each other. Bradley A. U. Levinson, in his book “School, the Symbolic Animal,” asserts that education and society are interdependent and cannot be separated from each other. He believes that education can be utilized to reform society, but it is the society that should decide the type of education they require.

In furtherance, it is without ambiguity that the education our people are currently receiving falls short of instilling the values of tolerance, respect, and civic duty that are essential for fostering social cohesion. The incessant cycle of political polarization and tribal animosities underscores the urgent need for educational reforms that prioritize the development of well-rounded citizens who prioritize national interest above all else. Paulo Freire, a renowned reformist in education posited that a nation that fails to tailor its curriculum based on the needs and aspirations of its people, will be breeding a lost generation. To salvage The Gambia from breeding a lost generation is now and change is imminent.

As we ponder on the state of our beloved nation, it becomes our moral obligation to recognize the pivotal role of education in shaping our society. We must advocate for an educational system that not only disseminates knowledge but also fosters moral values, empathy, critical thinking, and a sense of collective responsibility towards our fellow citizens. Only by collectively working to reform our education system can we hope to cultivate a generation of Gambians who will rise above political and tribal differences, embodying the spirit of unity and national pride that our country desperately needs. By achieving this, we can create a Gambia where young people will not despise one another because of differing ideologies, where politicians will unite to develop our nation for the greater good, and where politicians will not dare to express tribal prejudices in public spaces and walk away unpunished.

In conclusion, we must learn from the developed countries and work towards an educational system that empowers our people to rise above divisive politics and tribal loyalties. This will create a united Gambian identity based on mutual respect, love, understanding, and solidarity. The need for change is immediate, and education must lead the way towards a future where social cohesion is the norm, and the national interest is our guiding principle. Let us work towards building a better Gambia, our homeland!

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