By Nelson Manneh
The Catholic Development Office (Caritas Gambia) has on Wednesday 24th February 2021, distributed bicycles to Gambian students.
The bicycles were donated by Rotary Ireland. Rotary Ireland has since 2018 mobilized over 1,370 bicycles to enable Gambian students, especially girls, to access education.
The Catholic Development Office (Caritas Gambia), was established on January 1st 2001 as the development unit of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul and registered with the Ministry of Justice as a charitable, non-profit organization with Reg. No. 469/2001.
The institution is mandated to coordinate the economic, social and development work of the Diocese aimed at attaining a more humane and just society, irrespective of creed, colour, race or ideology.
Its vision is to “Attaining the Fullness of Life (Jn10:10) of the Human Person and Elimination of Poverty in All its Forms among People in The Gambia”.
Mr. Francis Dominick Mendy, the Director of Caritas Gambia, said the Catholic Diocese is historically credited for providing sustainable education to a cross-section of the Gambian people irrespective of race, creed or social standing.
“Children are the future of every nation and the provision of bicycles to needy but deserving students contributes to making a difference. When children are educated, they live healthier lives that are more productive. Sustainable Development Goal 4 is about quality education and is among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in September 2015. Empowering Gambian students with mobility to access quality education is critical in our national drive to achieve this goal,” he said.
The Caritas boss said in The Gambia, the Catholic Diocese has championed the right to education for all for generations. He said an educated child is more likely to become an adult with higher skills, have better paid job, and is more secured of being employed.
“Educated children have a greater chance of reaching their potential, breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty, and helping their community prosper,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said children are often denied their basic right to education by factors beyond their control, such as poverty, gender, disability and geography.
“The biggest barrier to education for those students living in rural areas may be the distance to get to school. With a bicycle, students’ attendance increases and children’s commute time can be reduced by up to 75%. This translates into an increase in academic performance. In the short term, bicycles help children attend school regularly and arrive better rested,” he said.
In the long term, Mendy said bicycles help children complete their education, prepare them for better jobs and reduce the likelihood of extreme poverty. He said on average, each additional year of education a child receives; it increases her or his adult earnings by 10%.
“Moreover, for each additional year of schooling completed by young adults, the country’s poverty rate falls by a significant percentage. Some of the highest returns of all are associated with educating girls,” he said.
On social cohesion for peace building
Mr. Mendy said following the handing over ceremony, the Catholic Development Office continued with providing training on promoting peace through rolling out of the Catholic Relief Service 3Bs/4Ds Social Cohesion Methodology for teachers. He said the training will provide tools and skills for the participants to renew interpersonal and intergroup relationships.
“It will offer participants a way to view human relationships differently, finding the best in others and forging new partnerships. These partnerships built on the right relationships, as the foundation of all development hold the key to a mental shift and positive approaches to conflicts. The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal 16 highlight the promotion of just, peaceful, and inclusive societies. The inclusion of all segments of society is premised on “Leaving no one behind” which is an underlying principle of the SDGs,” he said.