The children

The Children


Primary School Years

© UNICEF Gambia

The formal system of education in The Gambia consists of six years of primary (lower basic) and three years of upper basic education. These two levels together constitute 9 years of uninterrupted basic education. Children start school at age 7 and complete basic education at age 16 at which point they are ready to enter Senior Secondary Schools or other Vocational Training provisions depending on their performance in the terminal examination offered at grade 9.

Overall the Gross Enrolment Rates (GER) now stands at 92 per cent (2007), including the “Madarasah” (Arabic language, Muslim schools). The Gambia ranks considerably high, surpassing the sub-Saharan average of 69 per cent. However regional disparities exist. Whereas the urban areas are registering nearly universal access to lower basic education, the rural areas are only registering between 55 per cent and 65 per cent GER. Major challenges still remain in improving quality, relevance, retention, and above all improving school infrastructure to realize the Education For All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015.

Gender parity in primary school enrolment has been reached, but sustainability is the challenge. The ratio of boys to girls attending primary school is 103 girls for every 100 boys; however the completion rate is about 74 girls for every 100 boys.


Community participation

At the community level, Mothers clubs are formed to promote girls’ education. UNICEF supports community-led advocacy for girls’ education through these Mothers Clubs. The clubs provide a platform for women at the grass roots level to raise funds and moral support for children’s education, especially girls. Through fundraising and well strategized investments, mothers help pay for hidden school costs and increase advocacy for girls’ education, mitigating such odds as early marriage and teenage pregnancy. With support from UNICEF milling machines are also provided to relieve their daughters from the burden of time consuming chores that rob them of their education. Since the inception of the UNICEF programme women have establish a total of 100 Mothers Clubs through out the country. The programme has shown a visible impact on the enrolment rates and the performance of girls, generally in the rural areas.


WASH in school

Safety and hygiene is an important factor to ensure girls enrolment and to keep girls in school. A child that is well nourished, clean, has access to safe drinking water and feels protected is more likely to learn and attend school.

The UNICEF sponsored Water Sanitation and Hygiene project provides hand pumps and separate blocks of ventilated improved pit latrines for boys and girls. These latrines are also equipped with hand washing facilities - children are taught the importance of hygiene. The program is integrated with the Mothers Clubs activities in efforts for schools to become self sufficient when providing food for students.


Life skills

UNICEF as a member of the Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) on HIV/AIDS prevention through schools works very closely with the Department of Sate for Basic and Secondary Education to improve curriculum integrating Life-Skills program targeting children within the ages of 10-12 years the so called 'window of hope'. In terms of the goals set for the HIV/AIDS prevention focus is being made to influence the attitudes of the very young children positively.

Source: Education Monitoring and Information System(EMIS)- Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education.








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