7 August 2018

Gambia: Future of Students in Limbo As Government Closes School

The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, MoBSE, has given directive to indefinitely close Sinchu Wurry Primary School by the end of July 2018. Sinchu Wurry village is in Kombo South District, close to Gunjur. The privately-owned School, at the time of closure, registered 709 students. The Ministry supplied the School with teachers and administrative staff. This reporter visited the village to investigate and ascertain the reason for the closure and sound the opinion of villageres about the decision of the MoBSE.

In the official letter sent to the authorities to close the School, MoBSE wrote:

"The community of Sinchu Wurry was informed about the agreement reached at the meeting and you were advised to provide land for the construction of a new School. However, an arrangement has been made to move the students to the nearby Schools of their choice, until a new School is constructed for the community." The letter was dated 27th June, 2017. This reporter was privy to a letter written by the School Headmaster, Karamo B. J. Jabang, which was earlier sent to MoBSE. In his letter, Jabang complained about certain abnormalities in the School and the project manager of the NGO that owned the School, who was interfering with his administration.

By the time this reporter visited the School, the Headmaster was unavailable for comments. The School has two early childhood development classes from grades 1 to 5. Villagers and parents of the students said they will withdraw their children from going to School because the closest School was far for them to walk.

Cherno A. Bah, a religious leader and member of the elders' committee, said they received news of the School's closure with shock and disappointment because it was the only opportunity for their children to acquire primary education. Isatou Camara said she has three of her children attending the primary School. She urged Government to reopen the School to enable her children access rpimary education.

She said the closest primary schools to the village are in Gunjur, Kunkujang and Nyofelleh; that the Schools are more than two kilometers away from the village, making it extremely difficult for her children to walk to School on daily basis.

"I have to let them stay at home without going to School because they cannot walk that long distance and secondly, it is not even safe for them walk through the bush, to go to other primary Schools," she decried.

Responding to claims made by the School Headmaster, the project manager of 'Children of the Sun', Musa I.A. Camara, denied the allegations of disturbing the smooth operation of the School; that they interfered by telling the School authority that 57 students were too much for a class and should be reduced for the benefit of quality education ; that he wrote the names of their sponsors on the wall as a sign of gratitude and has never interfered with the School curriculum and administration.

Camara said the NGO, as owner of the School, is always willing to work with the Ministry for the interest of the children who may be denied chance to education, if the School is not reopened. He said they had a memorandum of understanding with MoBSE on how they should collaborate to effectively run the School; that the agreement allows them to development infrasturcture for the School.

The MOU, which was shown to this reporter, confirmed that all buildings and structures of the School remains property of the owner and shall maintain the names of their sponsors and their ideals.

Camara thanked the community of Sinchu Wurry and surrounding villages for their efforts and prayers in ensuring that the School reopens, to enable their children attain basic education. He commended the sponsors of the School for their continuous assistance and hopes Government reopens the School soon.

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