Delivering an inclusive education system where the rights of all children, particularly out-of-school children and children in need of special protection, are guaranteed
The Gambia Education Policy is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal 4, focusing on accessible, equitable, and inclusive quality education for all. The Constitution of The Gambia states that basic education is a right, and should be free, compulsory, and available to all.
The Gambia's education sector is expanding annually, and this poses a challenge to the government to meet the growing funding requirements to match this steady growth in terms of classrooms, learning materials and teachers. Low performance in learning outcomes is also a sector-wide challenge, which requires strategic partnerships and collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) to create the conducive environment for every child to realize his or her right to education. Beyond quality, many children are excluded from formal education due to factors relating to disability, access, family choice of education and social norms that drive child marriage.
Quality education: the education sector has significant bottlenecks that hinder equitable quality service-delivery. Pre-school education is not adequately developed, both in relation to programmes and capacity, to lay a solid foundation for life-long learning. Primary education is challenged, with most children not attaining the national competency targets set under the National Assessment Test (NAT). The secondary education system is constrained to deliver a service that prepares its graduates for further education and labour force. The quality of education as demonstrated in the learning outcomes in various national assessment and external examinations, create additional challenges such as performance-related dropout.
Inclusive education: children with disabilities have limited access to education, due to both social norms and structural limitations. At community and family levels, social norms and values set limits on the education of both boys and girls. Secondary education for girls is compromised largely due to the higher value placed on marriage over education and career development. The role of boys as future family breadwinners also results in some families pushing their teenage boys to embark on the dangerous journey to Europe in search of wealth to provide immediate support to their families.
UNICEF supports the Government of The Gambia, through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) to achieve the education policy goals. Our support is guided by the UNICEF Country Programme Document 2017-2021, with the aim of achieving an inclusive education system that is equipped to provide comprehensive early childhood education to all children, in conjunction with health, nutrition and protection interventions, and to ensure the rights of all children to appropriate quality education.
Our education programme seeks to ensure that all children aged 0 to 6 years benefit from formal and informal quality early learning opportunities for enhanced school readiness. This is done through supporting policies and strategies on preschool education, sufficient evidence-based data and budgetary support; review and revision of existing early childhood development programmes; training of preschool facilitators and caregivers; parenting education and family support programmes; and the integration of preschool with interventions, including stimulation practices in health, nutrition and protection at the community level.
The health and social workforces require training to effectively detect early signs of physical or cognitive delays through the correct information on stages of child development and using opportunities, including immunization and birth registration campaigns, to include information and practical examples on child development.
Our education programme also focuses on marginalized and excluded children who could not benefit from education services. The exclusion may be due to disabilities, gender, access or social norms and values of the families. Our focus is to ensure that children excluded from mainstream education, including those affected by humanitarian situations, enjoy their right to appropriate quality and inclusive learning.
Despite the many challenges, the education sector has registered significant achievements over the years, and UNICEF continues to play a critical role in this progress.
• Increase in ECD enrolment from 26 percent to 52 per cent
• Gender parity in enrolment attained at primary and junior secondary levels
• All tuition fees in public schools eliminated up to senior secondary level
• More than 95 per cent of primary school teachers attained initial teacher training
• Walking distance to schools reduced to 3 kilometers (primary) and 5 kilometers (secondary)
• Minimum standards for facilities and learning outcomes developed
• Increased community involvement and advocacy through School Management Committees and Mother’s Clubs
• Annual publication of the Education Management Information System (EMIS) report