In today’s edition of Encounter, a weekly column that is dedicated to people who are considered important personalities in the society and who in one way or the other are contributing something positive towards the advancement of society, we bring you a chat with a Gambian dentist running a private clinic at Cape Point in Bakau to share his experiences and achievement. Dentist Baboucarr Njai holds a BSc degree from Gothenburg University in Sweden
So read on to find out who Dentist Njie is:
G-Now- Can you introduce yourself to our wonderful readers?
BN- My name is Baboucarr Njai. I was born in Banjul but now live in Bakau. I am a Dental Surgeon and studied in Sweden. Currently, I am in The Gambia operating a private clinic called Njie and Njai medical and dental services - I have another colleague who runs the medical clinic.
GN- Can you tell us about your educational background.
BN- I started schooling at the age of five at Muhammadan Primary School, and then progressed to Crab Island School. Going to high school was very though at the time because there weren’t many high schools like now. After leaving secondary school, I started working at the accounts unit of the Public Works Department for between seven to eight years and then left for Europe (Sweden). By then, it was not easy to leave the country - I personally sponsored my trip not by air because it was too expensive to travel by air, I travelled over land through Dakar to Paris and then to Stockholm.
I have always been interested in dentistry so before leaving for Sweden, I had an opportunity to go to the United States but then a very close friend of mine, Mr. Batch Faye convinced me to go to Sweden and he arranged a school for me where I was offered scholarship. I remember one night, conservation I had with Mr. Faye and Doctor Adama Sallah and they asked me what course I wanted to pursue and I said dentistry, they both looked at me and said do you know what you are saying? I replied yes, that is what I want to do and they said to me, you came from Crab Island School and you don’t know anything about physics, chemistry, biology and many other science subjects and I told them that these are subjects which I can learn like any other person can, so since I am not going to pay any tuition, I will learn because that is the biggest opportunity I have ever had.
Actually I was thinking by myself that this will never be possible but at the same time with devotion, determination I think I can make it. I started schooling from scratch because you have to learn the language first. After completing my secondary education, I went to Gothenburg University in Sweden where I obtained my BSc and DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery).
GN- When did you start this private business?
BN- I started in 2000. Although I am not working for government, I, from time to time offer community services - helping at the hospital whenever they need my services.
GN- Why the name Njie and Njai?
BN- well my colleague is called Malick Njie and I am Baboucarr Njai but the way we spell our surnames are different so we decided to use it as the name of the clinic. The Njie and Njai clinic is a joint business between the two of us - Malick is a medical doctor.
GN- What is the secret behind your success?
BN- Well determination and the will power to do something - one has to plan his or her life and if you are aiming for something positive, you must be determined. I will not say I am successful but the secret is just determination that has made me to be what I am today.
GN- What are some of the challenges you faced in your personal life and how did you overcome them?
BN- First of all was the educational part - I knew I was able to do certain things if given the opportunity. Another challenge was having limited resources because I came from a large family and resources are always a problem. I had the passion at a very young age to become a future dentist and I knew very well from the beginning that I have to do my best to fulfill that dream. I believed that being a dentist is not something that happens by probability; I really worked hard for it.
GN- What was your biggest achievement?
BN- Wow, when I became dentist in 1992; it took me a very long journey to reach that point because of my educational standard - I had to struggle hard with the science subjects which I had never studied before. However, I thank God that when I was in Sweden, I was able to take up a part time job as a teacher which was though for me.
GN- when was your happiest moment?
BN- My happiest moment? (Laughs) That was when I got married in 2005 - I was very happy because it has ever been my dream to get marry to a Gambian wife whenever I return. It is always a problem when you get married out of your country you want to come back home to settle and the wife doesn’t like it. I am blessed with one boy and two girls who are twins.
GN- When you were young, who was your mentor?
BN- I looked at my childhood friends who succeeded in achieving their goals and are all well established – I will not mention names but if any of them reads this article, they know exactly what I’m talking about. Even though a few of us did not have the opportunity to be like them, nonetheless, we were always together - helping each other and even some of us were helped to travel to Europe through the assistance of friends.
GN- How do you feel when young people regard you as their mentor?
BN- I feel well honored, happy and grateful. I know one Dr. Peter who used to come to the clinic and we had a chat about my career - what I have gone through – and he told me that people like you should write books because most people think that if you go to schools like Crab Island, it is practically impossible for you to be successful especially academically. You can be successful doing your own business and most probably you don’t need to obtain degree. However, there are certain professions like dentistry, whereby without obtaining good education, you cannot be a dentist.
GN- what advice do you have for young people who want to excel in life like you.
BN- I will tell them to keep on reading, study hard - to become a dentist one has to work for it now. It takes time to be a dentist, seven good years is not seven days. Let them be determined and learn more.
GN- Sir you did mention working in Sweden as a dentist but why are you back to The Gambia when you are paid more money in Sweden?
BN- Yes very interesting question - after my graduation in Sweden, one evening I received a call from Norway telling me that they want to offer me a job and they are interested in me. I replied to them that I never applied for a job but he said yes, we know but we got your contract number from another person who has recommending you. I told them that far north in Norway is cold and far but I’ll think whether I can only give you six months service. The caller replied okay and I went to work in Norway for six months and at the end of the six months, they asked me to extend for another six month which I did.
After that, I planned to return to Sweden but they said no and offered me the position of a clinic chief and that I can also use the clinic for my private practice even though it was government-owned although I had to promise not to compete with them, which I did. After some time, I decided to leave but another big offer came - they said I should head and take care of all the district state clinics which I accepted. In 1999, I came home for holidays to see my parents who were getting old. I decided that I don’t want to stay there any longer after spending nearly thirty years away, I would not want to be called and informed that something happened to either of my parents. So I said I have to return home and settle finally and setup my own private clinic. When I was leaving, I was given a document which stated that whenever I want to go back, I am free to do so and upon presenting the document I will be given the same grade were I was when I left or something higher.
GN- How do you feel working for your own country?
BN- I think one owes an obligation to his or her country; it those not matter what happens but every citizen has to contribute to his countries development.
GN- As a dentist, what advices do you have for the general public?
BN- It’s about time parents consider what their children eat and avoid sugar, especially sweets. We the dentists are having big problems and when parents come with their children they, will complain that their children like eating sweets but my question is, where is that child getting the money from to buy sweets - is it not from the parents? So it is left to the parents to train their children and not buy them sweets. Secondly oral hygiene, meaning clearing the teeth daily is very important.
GN- It was very interesting having interviewed you and thank you so much for your time, final words.
BN- It was my pleasure and my final words are let’s support each other and work hard because the country belong to all of us.