We are happy to share the story of Mr. Samba Bah, a brilliant alumnus of the UTG, who has touched the lives of many young academicians in The Gambia and beyond.
Mr. Bah bagged a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Masters degree in African History from the University of The Gambia. He served as a lecturer at the UTG before pursuing a Masters in International Development at Ohio University in the United States.
At the moment, Mr. Bah is enrolled in Ohio University’s doctoral programme (PhD.) in Higher Education Leadership and Administration. Enjoy his story on the link below.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
To be honest, the decision to come to the UTG was not totally mine at the initial stage. After I sat to my WASSCE, I went around and did my little enquiry on the options available for post-secondary education. I looked at the options at both the UTG and Gambia college and even studying abroad. On the day I received my results, I just got home and a brother told me they have gotten me a UTG admission form already. So, at that point all the options were practically reduced to one, the UTG. I am so thankful for that because going to the UTG at that time helped me a lot. I am sure I could have had a great journey whichever way I had taken but I will not change this one for anything. I am thankful.
I enrolled in the BA in Development Studies program because at the time I was told studying development studies will prepare me for a career in international development. I switched to Political Science after meeting Dr. Saja Taal. Political science was much more ‘fun’ for me. It took a lot of effort to convince my sister that the switch made sense but at that age and point in my journey, I just wanted to do what I loved, and I have no regrets.
MY FOUR YEARS AT THE UTG
My four years at the UTG was an adventure. A period of self-discovery. I lived the complete student experience at the UTG. From the lecture room, to the football field, student government, field trips and friendships formed. I had a rich experience. I came to the UTG in 2006, this was a transition period at the UTG. This was the time when enrollment of fresh high school graduates was increasing. So, that had an influence on life on campus too. We had a perfect mix of youth and experience in all activities because the folks that passed through the Gambia College and other tertiary institutions formed a good percentage of the student population too. It was good!
This was when clubs like the UTG cultural club were formed; they made life on campus and around the UTG fun. We also formed the University of The Gambia Students Service-Learning Association (UTGSSLA), which changed my life. It started in the Politics and Development class with the late Dr. Saja Taal, a father figure to all.
As part of the Politics and Development class, Dr. Taal took us on a field trip around the KM and Banjul to talk to officials about the real-life realities of the practice of politics and development. I can remember we visited the KMC, the office of the Ombudsman and the Banjul City Council. It was a great experience. Dr. Taal was just good. After every visit, on the bus ride to the next destination he will give a detailed analysis of what the institution shared and connect it to both the theories we discussed in class and the laws and policies that were in existence at the time. I just sat on my spot in the bus and took everything in. What a scholar he was, super smart and humble.
After the trip, I approached him and told him of how I thought that was too good to stop within Kombo. We should have something similar that will take us across the country. He thought it was a good idea and told me to draft a letter seeking sponsorship for the trip. I drafted one and made many copies and met him at Jimpex. Dr. Taal went with me to Trust Bank and Africell. They both provided some support and we then put up a notice for students who wanted to join this trip. Students paid D300 each and we were the first students to organize a countrywide study tour. Dr. Taal gave us the “Basse Before Babylon ” slogan. On the last day of our trip, in Mansakonko we formed the UTGSSLA.
The UTGSSLA went on to shape my life and that of many during our time at the UTG. We organized country wide tours, tree planting summer camps and many other service-learning projects. I also served in other capacities like being Sports Director (minister) for the students’ union but nothing compares to the UTGSSLA for me.
I WAS PREPARED
The UTG prepared me very well for my journey. The environment provided me with a lot of social capital for my growth and realization of my potentials. One can easily look at the library we had at the time and the small computer labs and think it’s not possible to realize your full potential here. What you are overlooking is the strong social capital that is very critical for thriving. We had lecturers who saw the UTG as an opportunity to serve their people. I think we still have that. Many that choose to teach at the UTG are not only making a simple career choice; they are doing it because they are committed to building the country’s future. Having such lecturers teaching you takes the relationship beyond the content of the courses. They are committed to building the person in you. I had the privilege of having lecturers who wanted to see me grow into a man who will excel wherever he goes.
My time at the UTG prepared me for working with people from diverse backgrounds. It gave me a degree of cultural competence that helps me adapt to any professional environment I find myself in. I must say the exposure I had within the student organizations and networks prepared me for professional life in many ways.
ADVICE TO CURRENT STUDENTS
To the students at the UTG, you can have many degrees in the future but you only get one chance to spend those four years at the UTG. Spend them wisely. Those four years go by so fast. Very fast! Make them count in all aspects of your life.
Explore all meaningful opportunities to have the full student experience on campus. Be part of organizations, commit to serve and learn, don’t just do it for the CV. Make sure you are genuinely committed to any cause you are giving your time. Life is too short for you to be spending time on causes just for other people’s recognition. Ask yourself what really matters to you in life, see what organization works on it, get involved and serve, you will learn lessons that you would have not learned from a lecture or class.
Read, Read, Read! It’s your easiest way of travelling the world and enriching your life. Use the summer and Christmas breaks to read outside of your field. Make good use of YouTube, it’s a free university. Take advantage of google, you can read about anything you want. Don’t just use your internet for WhatsApp, Facebook and TikTok. You spend money on data, make sure whatever you do with it adds value to your life. Listen to podcasts on topics that interest you in life and sometimes outside of your interest areas, explore life. Remember, “You don’t even know what you don’t know” so exploring unfamiliar terrains will only help you.
As you go through the journey at the UTG, try to grow within your family and community. Be in touch with your people and what they do, you have a lot to learn from them. Do not make the Jola or Serer mistake of thinking making it to the UTG means you are the smart one and so you have escaped. Making it to the UTG is something to be proud of but it does not make you any better than the apprentice at the carpentry workshop in the neighborhood. What you make out of your time at the UTG is what matters. Stay humble and learn. Work hard and dream as much as you can, just make sure you work towards those dreams. There is no limit to what you can achieve.