21 November 2012

Gambia: Basic Education Shall Be Free, Compulsory and Available - Children Including Girls Are Out of School Because of School Fund


Children are turning up in their numbers to seek for financial assistance to continue their schooling. Pressure is on parents whose children are in grade 9 or grade 12. They have to pay exam fees and many are given up to the first week of December to meet their obligation or forfeit their places.

Two young men appeared in our office yesterday to report that since their plight was published no good Samarian came to their aid.

They are sitting without going to school. The sky is not the limit to their educational pursuits. Finance is the limit to their educational pursuits. On the same day another young man came. He has only been able to pay 1,500 dalasi to be enrolled. He has to pay another 1,500 dalasi to get books. That is not available. He has been sent to many places for assistance but nothing is forthcoming. He started late and is to take the exams in December without text books to read. His father is an elderly man who relies on charity to survive. The student's future is hanging on the balance of probability.

A mother also came to explain her dilemma. Her daughter was given a bill amounting to five hundred dalasi plus to be paid before the 3rd December to be able to take her grade 9 exams. She cannot even raise money to feed the children, not to mention making savings to be able to pay fees. Some weeks ago an orphan girl child who is given a bill of 1000 dalasi to purchase uniforms, exercise books and contribute to school fund came for assistance. We did refer her to a major institution for assistance but to no avail. She is to come back before the second school term begins to check whether there is any progress.

Section 30 paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the Constitution state that "All persons shall have the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities and with a view to achieving the full realisation of that right-

(a) basic education shall be free, compulsory and available to all;

(b) secondary education, including technical and vocational education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular, by the progressive introduction of free education;

(c) higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular, by progressive introduction of free education;

The Constitutional provision is still collecting dust as the cost of education continues to soar above the means of average parents.

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