opinionBy Culled From Banjul AU Summit Magazine
The Department of State for Education conspicuously stands out as a vibrant arm of government that has undergone unprecedented developments from 1994 to date. The reason is obvious; given that Vision 2020 cannot be achieved in the absence of a sound education system, that is responsive to the needs of the country, education continues to be accorded high preference on the nation's development agenda.
The Government, under President Yahya Jammeh, embarked on a massive capital investment program to provide education to all children, at least nine years of uninterrupted basic education. This marked the beginning of an unparallel expansion of the school system, resulting in not only a major increase in the number of schools, but also the transformation of the entire education system.
Gradution Ceremony of UTOG Students
Provision of School Facilities
Within the framework of government's development of educational infrastructure, 2000 classrooms have been constructed from 1994 to 2000 from 1994 to date.
The number of senior secondary schools has increased from 49 in 2005, so that about 60% of primary school pupils now transit to senior secondary schools as opposed to only 20% in 1993. The number of lower basic schools has also increased, from 250 in 1993 to 340. Similarly, there are now 81 upper basic schools, instead of 22 previously. And the introduction of basic cycle schools in 2000 has resulted in the establishment of 43 such schools.
Taking Education to Every Child's Doorstep
In the continuing quest for universal primary education, government also collaborates closely with international partners and stakeholders to reduce the educational cost burden on parents. Thus, tuition is free for all pupils from grade 1 to 6. Scholarships and sponsorship schemes, particularly for girls, have been expanded significantly. For instance, the President Jammeh Foundation, the Girls Education scholarship Scheme and the Angels Trust Fund have made education relatively "free" for all girls in the country from basic education level to senior secondary school level. To offset undesirable imbalances, the Angels Trust Fund equally supports boys in disadvantaged areas. Importantly, the Jammeh foundation generously extends sponsorship to students at tertiary and university level, and the indications are that such initiatives will be pursued and sustained to ensure that quality education is taken to the doorstep of every Gambian child unhindered.
CLASS OF 2006
The conventional wisdom in The Gambia, can even after the coming of the Second republic, was that the country could not afford to set up its own university. The myth was broken when the government decided to take the bull by the horns and founded the University of The Gambia. It is heartening to note that, barely ten years later, the University has graduated 312 students in diverse fields of specialization, thus contributing to the much needed, trained resource base. And only last month, nine out of the first batch of twelve medical students graduated from the School of Medicine and Allied Sciences. This is a magnificent achievement, and the university continues to grow and develop.
In light of the rate of progress in the education sector, and the qualitative improvements being realized, despite the constraints common to all developing countries, it is reasonable to believe that The Gambia has the capacity to develop her human resource base adequately enough to precipitate sustained development, marked by an acceptable quality of life for its citizenry. Thus the popular statement by President Jammeh that "the sky is the limit for education" is certainly not mere rhetoric but well-conceived, development slogan that is judiciously being translated into action.