“Education is Our Priority” Says Side by Side National Coordinator

By Madiba Singhateh

In this edition of Future Generation, we spoke with the National Coordinator Hatab Faderaof Side By Side, Mr. Hatab Fadera. Side By Side is a youth organisation whose objective is to sensitise and raise the awareness of young people in the country on issues that affect lives.

Question: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Answer: My name is Hatab Fadera. I am a media professional and have been working in the field for the past eight years. I am now the deputy editor in chief of the Daily Observer newspaper. I guess this interview has to do with my other aspects of youth work. I am a journalist and at the same time a youth activist. I pioneered the formation of a vibrant youth organisation which I co-founded with others in March 4th 2004 when I was in Grade 11 at St. Augustine’s Senior Secondary School. It was then called the United Youth Association until in 2011when we decided to change the name as it has grown bigger. We decided to give it a modest branding and make it more vibrant because, at the time, it has grown to a level that was really amazing. So, in 2010, we decided to change the name to Side By Side organization. In a nutshell, I am now serving as the National Coordinator of this youth organisation which is operating in four administrative regions of the Gambia and with a membership of more than 300 youth.

Question: What is Side By Side all about?

Answer: The Side By Side organisation is a registered national youth organisation which works closely with the ministry of youth through the national youth council on youth related matters. The organisation’s vision is to create opportunities for young people to make sure that they are empowered in the communities they live. We intervene in three key areas that are really critical to young people and these are education, environment and reproductive health. Education is one of our priorities given that we started the organization when we were students going to school. All the founding members were students in school at the time. We came together to create an organisation which will provide us the venue to create opportunities and explore avenues that will ensure that young people are given the right opportunities and education. We said we need to come together and see how best we can create opportunities for young people, especially in the area of education.

Since we have given education priority, we were fortunate to develop a partnership with a United State based charity called Services for Peace. We were introduced to a very dynamic and compassionate woman who has sacrificed a lot in the service of humanity and continue to teach the spirit of living for the sake of others. During our first meeting with this woman, we intimated to her that our priority is education and that we want to help ourselves as students and our colleagues, the young people, especially the under privilege among us such as those who find it difficult to go to school. We believe that education is a fundamental human right that every human being must have access to. Without education, one’s potential is limited. Honestly speaking your capacity, your potential of contributing to development would be limited; without education you cannot contribute much to national development. So this is why we told her that education is our priority and that we were looking at ways of sponsoring some of our members who are under privilege. In that very year, a dozen of our students were sponsored.

So education is a priority for our organisation and we still continue with the advocacy in all our programs and activities. When we are engaged with community outreach, we sensitize people on the importance of sending their children to school and the importance for them to join organisations like Side By Side.

If you look at our programme, we have many educational programmes, such as capacity building, etc. These are all educational initiatives including the extramural classes we conduct for students with our partners during the summer activities.

We also worked on the environment which is another key intervention area of our organization. The environment is very important, as everybody knows that we need it for survival and protection. If our environment is degraded, if it is not conducive, it becomes very difficult for us to live a healthy life. It will be very difficult for us to ever attain the education we want. You can see that things are interrelated, that is why we also prioritise the environment. We are mostly engaged in activities that protect our forest cover and has been depleted and as young people we feel we also have the responsibility to enhance reforestation by planting more trees. This is why every year, this organisation embarks on a massive tree planting exercise in various parts of the country, especially in areas that are affected by desertification, like the North Bank Region.

To be continued