US embassy, Comium partner to build library in support for Gambia’s educational sector

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The United States Embassy in Banjul has partnered with Comium Gambia Ltd to boost the education sector in The Gambia through the establishment of a library called the American Corner. The library will provide students and the general public with books as well as internet access and educative movie shows. The library is located at the Comium building along Kairaba Avenue.    
                                                                                                                                                                      
Speaking at the inauguration of the American Corner, Mr. Barry L Wells, the US ambassador to The Gambia said there are currently 77 American corners in Sub Saharan Africa and 400 throughout the world. He said American Corners are partnerships between the public diplomacy sections of US embassies and host institutions.

According to him, the American Corners provide access to current and reliable information and access to educational material. “In short, a typical American Corner serves as a small public library. The multi-media section, book and periodical collections are open to all. With our partner Comium, we will offer programs, events, and other activities such as author readings, films, speakers, workshops, meetings, and exhibits. Within a short time you will see this corner become a community center for all those interested in learning,” he said

He commended Comium, specifically Mr. Amer Atwi, the managing director of the mobile telecommunications company, for his positive response when the American Embassy sought to collaborate with the company on the community project. He said they had approached several other businesses last December and January but it was only Comium which responded favorably to the idea of an open-access educational center.

He noted that Mr. Atwi supported the idea because it will match his corporate goals of giving back to the people, adding that the gift Comium is giving back to the people is access to education. He suggested the Comium example of community support should serve as a model for other businesses in The Gambia.
He mentioned that the U.S. Embassy supports education in The Gambia through scholarships, books and now the American Corner, noting that together with Comium, they will expand minds and foster a love for education.

Mr. Amer Atwi, managing director of Comium, said it was the convergence of ideas that resulted in the American Corner project. He noted that since the introduction of Comium into the Gambian market, they have been toying with the idea of complementing the education sector directly or indirectly.  He further said the space given to the US Embassy to open the American Corner will serve as a resource center to help cater for students in terms of educational materials that will assist them with their home work and research papers.

According to him, Comium prides itself on helping foster a market place of ideas, adding that for this to happen they need a knowledge bank and this prompted them to partner with the Embassy of the United States in this noble venture. The Comium boss said the synergy created by the partnership will have a significant impact on the community and youths of the country. “Since one can never have too much knowledge, learning is a continuous process throughout life and libraries provide the tools to enlighten the mind. The ideal library caters to all ages and varieties of patrons, from those who are just making a quick stop to check out materials to those spending hours utilizing all that a library has to offer,” he said.

He also said Comium in discharging its corporate, social responsibility will continue to make inroads into areas that will complement governments efforts of transforming The Gambia into a middle income country and this can only happen through education and an enlightened citizenry. “On behalf of the board, management, staff and our esteemed subscribers, we are happy to contribute this space as a token of our appreciation to the Gambian populace for allowing us to serve their telecom needs over the past years. I hope this magnificent edifice will be fully utilized as a public good that will add value to its patrons,” he concluded.

Musa I Touray, principal higher education officer at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research Science and Technology, who deputized for the Minister said their ministry values the educational opportunities opened up to the general public, especially to Gambian youths either by the public or the private sector. He also said the opening of a new library through the efforts of the US Embassy in Banjul and Comium is indeed worthy of emulation. He recognized that the laudable move is also in line with the government national education policy 2004-2015, noting that the library is unique in the sense that it provides not only books but also educative movie shows, internet access and lectures among many other educative issues.

According to him, the library will be of immense value to students in the country’s higher education institutions where training is offered to prepare students to contribute more meaningfully to the realization of the nation’s socio-economic development. He thanked the US Embassy and Comium for providing such educational facilities to the general public, noting this will contribute to the country’s educational development efforts.

 The American Corner will be open Mondays through to and in addition to a library and internet for research and studies, an education adviser will be available every Tuesday from 9am – 4pm to assist students in their college applications and school search. Movies will be shown on Monday nights from 6:30pm – 8:30pm and guest speakers will lecture on a variety of topics on Thursday evenings. The release further stated that the first lectures will hold on April 8 at 6:30pm and the lecturer will be Lamin Manga, a Gambian media specialist, who will speak about his recent study trip to the US to learn about video development. The first movie (April 12) will be Tsotsi, the winner of the 2007 Best Foreign Film Oscar, a film about a young South African boy.