The Gambian Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Prof. Pierre Gomez, has called for postgraduate scholarships in Nigerian universities for its students.
Gomez commended Nigerians for laying the foundation of university education in Gambia, stating that most of the principal officers, including the Vice Chancellor in the first university in the country were Nigerians.
He spoke in Abuja on Monday during a courtesy visit to the acting Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, NUC, Mr. Chris Maiyaki.
The minister said Gambians who had earlier undergone postgraduate programmes in Nigerian universities under the World Bank-sponsored African Centre of Excellence, ACE, are now playing strategic roles in the country.
He commended the quality of Nigerian universities, adding that Gambia is particularly interested in postgraduate scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, STEM, programmes.
“Because of the relationship we have between Banjul and Abuja, we are here to seek support for scholarships at postgraduate level in different areas, especially in STEM, and to know whether the TVET are under your purview, because this is something we want to see in getting support in that area, and also in capacity building.
“As you know education liberate the individual. We want to have functional education, one thing is to have your Masters and PhDs but then the other thing is for you to able to solve societal problems,” he said.
Gomez also called for support in the area of capacity building, said “we still have developmental issues and we strongly believe higher education can change the situation.”
Responding, the Acting Executive Secretary of NUC, Chris Maiyaki, who was joined by other directors in the commission, urged the Gambian minister to send a formal proposal on the specific programmes and universities of choice in order for NUC to process the request.
Maiyaki said NUC was also ready to encourage joint research between scholars in Nigeria and those in Gambia to address shared problems
He assured the minister of support, saying Nigeria would not relent in playing a big brother’s role despite having its own challenges.
“Even though we don’t have enough access; every year we have about 2 million Nigerian kids (students) applying to universities and we barely meet up to 50 percent.
“If you take electricity supply, Nigeria is not self-sufficient but we provide electricity to Niger Republic, that is our deliberate friendly stance from Independence” the NUC boss said.
Speaking further, Maiyaki said Nigeria has also opened up its higher education space to attract major players across the globe through the transactional education guidelines put in place by NUC.
“We have decided to open up Nigerian higher education space so that we can invite players, genuine players. We are open to very well-meaning interventions, foreign universities are at liberty to come,” he said.