“Our priority is education,” Says Side by Side National Coordinator

With Rohey Jadama
In this edition of Future Generation, we continue with the interview Foroyaa had with Mr. Hatab Fadera, the National Coordinator of Side By Side.

Answer: When you look at our strategic plan, a lot of things have been implemented in our strategic plan, and we thank God a lot of things have been implemented. If you look at some of the work we do, they have to be funded by agencies and institutions to make sure that our goals are realized, but sadly the funds have not been forthcoming and that is a hindrance to our work. So what we do as an organization is that we are trying to engage in a lot of fund raising activities on our own, because we cannot just sit and fold our arms and say “donors are not knocking on our doors; they are not helping us, so therefore we must also fold arms.” This is not the spirit of our organization. We want it to be a sustainable youth organization that continues to be making impact on the lives of young people not only in the Gambia but beyond the shores of this country. This is the spirit and we are committed to this cause, people ask us how we managed to implement them. “Where are you getting your funding from?” We don’t have any funding or specific organization that funds us. Of course, I must say that we have been partnering with Service for Peace in USA, but this organisation intervenes only in one major area and that is education. Our partnership with them has helped us to fulfill our objective of creating opportunities for young people by giving them access to education and we have sponsored well over six hundred young people from 2005 to date thanks to Service for Peace. Our partnership with them has been running for 9 years now. They support us especially in the area of administrative expenses. Other than this, you know, we engage in fundraising activities to support our programmes. We have been engaging in fund-raising and have even engaged the Kora player Jaliba Kuyateh and we intend to embark on this initiative again. So this is how we raise funds. We also get funds through membership contributions as well as donations from individuals because a lot of people in the country appreciate the work we are doing as we work with young people below the age of 28 years.
Question: How do you work to realizing your objectives?
Answer: I think we have been realizing our objectives, because like I told you, if you look it now we have sponsored a lot of young people. Although, we have not been sponsoring people at the level of tertiary institutions because it is very expressive for a young organization like ours, but all those things are in the pipe line. That is why I’m saying that if we have the resources, we will be doing amazing things. We have once made an attempt to sponsor people at the tertiary education level but have realized that there is no point doing this with few people. There are many people one can support in the basic and secondary schools from the sponsorship of one student at the tertiary level.
Question: Do you work with other organisations?
Answer: Yes, we have been working with lot of youth organisations in the country. First of all, we are working with CAID, UGYD, Service for Peace – Sukuta and Youth Ambassador for Peace and many others and we have been inviting one another to our programs. We work with Child Protection Alliance (CPA) since our formation as well as Gamcotrap, Gambia Family Planning Association. We also work with the National Youth Council and National Environmental Agency as well as others outside the Gambia.
Question: Being a youth activist and youth worker, how do you see the claim that young people in The Gambia are lazy and do not want to contribute to national development?
Answer, I think this is a debatable issue. To say that young people are lazy, well people are free to express their opinion, but I think young people of the Gambia are trying hard and striving; they are working very hard to realise their potentials. But I also want to challenge them that we must define the goals that we work for ourselves in life and we cannot do that by only sitting and doing nothing and keep blaming the system and fold our arms. The greatest opportunity that the government has created is development in the area of education. If young people go to school and acquire knowledge, they would never become liability to the society, they will always be productive and would be at the fore front of national development. So, I think we should seize the opportunities that are placed at our deposal. There are a lot of schools in the Gambia where young people can go and learn; lot of tertiary institutions, skills centre. I think we should not wait to be spoon fed by government. The government ofcourse has responsibility towards young people, that is, by creating opportunities that would make them employable, but it has to start with people about what they actually want in life. Do you want to be productive citizens and to be successful? If yes, then what are we going to do when we want to be successful? If yes, how are we going to do that?
For one to say that young people are lazy and they are not doing anything, I don’t think that is correct. They might have some faults or maybe they are disoriented about their priorities in life, which I think is important, but I want to say that most of them are making impact. They are truly role models among young people