BY Nelson Manneh
The Catholic Development Office (Caritas Gambia) has on Thursday, 20th May 2021, donated over two hundred and ninety bicycles to students in the Lower River Region of the Gambia.
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.
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 a 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.
Dr Sophie Ndowu Vice Chairperson of the Caritas Board of Directors said CARITAS The Gambia is charged with the responsibility of coordinating social and relief activities that aim at attaining a more humane and just society, irrespective of creed, color, race or ideology in response to CARITAS International’s development to recognizing the world as constituting one human family, which share one common home.
Dr. Ndowu said many Gambian students around the country still have dire transport needs. Children in particular struggle with mobility constraints in their quest to access education, health, and recreation facilities, he said. He added across the country on a daily basis, for thousands of Gambian students and pupils, the only mode of transportation are walking. For these citizens, seemingly ordinary and simple tasks may become difficult and sometimes impossible due to the challenge of distance, he said.
He added: “Meeting every day needs a constant struggle against time and fatigue due mainly to the long distances they trek. In providing these bicycles, the Catholic Diocese through Caritas is contributing to empowering young people with the opportunity to make choices. These bicycles have the potential to enrich the lives of children, households, and entire communities in the end.”
The bicycles were handed over to Region four Regional Education Directorate.