By Awa B. Bah

 The Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Mr. Badara Joof, has disclosed to Deputies at the National Assembly (NA), that the number of government scholarships, depends entirely on budget allocations which is approved by them.

Joof made this remark at the NA complex in Banjul during the questions and answers session of the first ordinary Session of the 2018 Legislative year.

Sidia S. Jatta, the Member for Wuli West asked the Minister the number of Gambians currently on scholarship at the University of the Gambia [UTG] and how many of them are female students.

In his response ,Mr. Joof said the number of Gambians currently on scholarship at the University of the Gambia [UTG], is 1,840 students of whom, 579 are female students; that the gap between male and female admission at the UTG is due to many variables because the University admits students on merit; that with this, he has no doubt on the performance of girls. This he said also depends on the transition cycle from basic to higher education; that the enrollment of girls is very low at the secondary level.

On whether there is any particular programme for upgrading those lecturers at the UTG, who are aspiring to do their terminal degrees, the Minister responded that there is a programme for upgrading UTG lecturers aspiring to do their terminal degrees; that from 2016 to date, 109 have been sent for training and 66 of them are on their Masters programmes whilst 43 are on their PHD.

Deputies took turns to ask supplementary questions of relevance to the Minister.

Joof declined to comment on the number of statistics of males and females at the university because he said he was not in a position to them; that one must have five credits including mathematics and English which are compulsory with the subject area one wishes to specialize, as the yardstick for selection at the university.  Joof said priority is always given to those in the sciences but that there is priority within priorities as to what the countries development needs are. To those students that were given scholarships and refused to serve Government, Joof said his Ministry did not do a study to index those students; that it is not every student on scholarship at the university, who is sponsored by Government.

It was alleged that students going for French, are not covered by Government scholarships. The Minister responded that they give scholarships to French students but that the emphasis is on the stem areas; that the UTG does not offer Masters in French but that in the context of Senegalese scholarships, Masters in French is considered.  On the motivation of girls to improve their performance rates for scholarships, Joof said the incentive they have is when they screen them in terms of criteria and found them on the same preference with boys; that the priority goes to girls.

Mr. Joof said the current scholarship programme is a full package covering up to the end of a programme. 

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