UTG students protest against grading system, tuition fees increment

By Sailu Bah
Students of the University of the Gambia Yesterday 25 March 2015, heldBakary Minteh
a protest against the decisions made by the Administration on the Grading system as well as a 10 percent increment of tuition fees. The protest was held in the form of a march past from the law faculty campus in Kanifing towards the Higher Education Ministry at Bertil Harding High Way in Kotu.A large number of students from different faculties of the UTG around
4-4:30pm gathered at the law faculty campus and marched along Karaiba
avenue up to the Pipe line mosque where they were intercepted by the
Minister of Higher Education , Dr Abubacarr Senghore, who pleaded with
the students to go back to the Faculty and discuss the issue amicably,
which earned a positive response from the students.
The march was followed by chanting : “Return our grading system”.
After the students converged at the law faculty main hall, four
Ministers soon joined the dialogue. Amongst them were the Minister of
Basic and Secondary Education Fatou Lamin Faye, Minister of the
Interior Ousman Sonko, Minister of Energy Dr. Saja Sanneh, who  spoke
to the students.
Speaking on behalf of students Bakary Minteh aspiring candidate for
the President of the Students of the UTG, and the Current president of
the Law Students association said students are not happy with
the new grading system introduced as well as the increment of the
tuition fees by 10 percent. He revealed that the new grading system
is saying that if you score 80 you will not have A. One must score 90
to have A.  He also said that in their transcripts, the University administration will put two
grading systems which is very confusing to students.
“The Grading is going to affects us. If you have two grading systems,
you will spend four years studying at the University and get a degree
but it would take you a life time to defend it,” he lamented.
He added that there are inconsistencies in the grading system which he
said are not credible and students would be given their transcript with two
grading systems on it.
He also said that students are not totally against the standard and
the grading system, but the way they want to implement it.
“You cannot just come up with a policy and want to implement it on
people like that. It has to at least commence with students who are
about to enroll but not those who have started their admission and
even about to finish,” he opined.
He said this policy of increasing the tuition fees contradicts the
PAGE and the vision which states that the UTG students would benefit
from  policies aimed at reducing  University tuition fees  rather than
increasing them.
An Economics Student who is left with 49 days to complete her degree
programme bitterly complained about the new grading system, which she
suggested should not be implemented as at now. “A policy has to go
gradually, and has to start from somewhere and should  not interrupt
an ongoing process to create conditions which are not favorable to
us,” she asserted.
She urged the Administration to sit and reverse their decision.

The Minister of the Interior Ousman Sonko said that students should
not take this dimension of settling their problems, but should rather
talk to the administration and have a dialogue with them.
Minsiter Sonko cited some of the repercussions of the protest which
amongst them, he said could cause chaos, and blockage of traffic which
will result to economic loss to lots of people.
Minister Sonko also said that in order for students of the UTG to
embark on such an act, they should have consulted the police for
permission by writing to the Inspector General and  that they cannot go ahead
unless the permit is granted by the IGP.
“Gambia is known to be a peaceful country, and you as students the
future leadership should not be part of those who will jeopardise its
peace,” he advised.
Minister Lamin Faye(MoBSE) also told students not to do  things
personally but rather channel their concerns  to the authorities
responsible for consideration. At that juncture students interjected
to say that they have forwarded their concerns  to the UTG
administration but to no avail. Later Madam Faye told them that this
is not the best way to solve the problem .That they need to solve
problems as a family.
“The UTG  has `different layers. Therefore the problems should be
forwarded to the appropriate  Authorities  so that they can find ways
and means of addressing them,” she noted.
She also opined that UTG students should not joke with the opportunity
they have, noting that she got her degree in her 40s but that now
young people are accessing higher education in an early age; pointing
out that the young people are the future leaders who should
contribute in building the country.
The Minster of higher education Dr. Abubacarr Senghore on his part
urged students to take things easy in order to have their problems
solved.
Speaking to the students Professor Muhammad Kah, said that the new
grading system that is introduced doesn’t affect the old grading
system, adding that they are trying to improve the standard of the
University to equate it with world class universities.
Prof Kah said he will not negotiate the integrity of the University as
well as the improvement of standard in the University of the Gambia.
Prof Kah talking on the increment of the tuition fees, was quick to say
the UTG has never increased its tuition fees which evoked a response
from the students. He said that the quality of knowledge acquired is
five times above in value compared to the tuition fees students pay
for their admission.
Prof Kah also cited some of the reasons why they have increased the
tuition fees by 10 percent. According to him, the UTG incurs a lot of
expenses in buying equipment as well as learning materials. He also
cited the operational cost and took electricity as an example.
“Students owe the university more than 1 million dollars. A lot of
students were allowed to pay 40 percent of their tuition fees and
later pay the balance by installment, but many are not really
complying which results in arrears,” he disclosed
He also said that the prices of items are increasing almost every year
and the UTG needs to buy those items for its operation.
Professor Kah answered some of the questions raised by the students and after
the meeting the students dispersed.