Education is regarded by many as a perquisite for positive change.
The state of the education sector of The Gambia has invited heated debate over the years from concerned Gambians due to what many described as poor performance of students in grade 12 exams. Equally, there is growing concern over the proliferation of schools across the country which are devoid of quality in terms of adequate qualified teachers, learning materials, etc. For some Gambians, the country's education system is a failure. To others, the system just needs some adjustment.
Kemo Bojang studied history and political science at the University of The Gambia (UTG). Photo Credit: Taken from Bojang's Facebook timeline.
"New System and Investment"
Kemo Bojang, a graduate of the University of The Gambia (UTG) said since Independence, The Gambia has not been able to build up an education system that reflects the daily lives of people which has affected the country's productivity.
"Our education system does not answer the problem that we face today and does not solve the problem that we have in this country. It does not reflect our reality," he says.
Bojang, who studied history and political science at UTG, Bojang says it is necessary for the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education to tour the country to look at the needs of the people in order to build a robust educational system and curriculum that would define the realities of the country.
He remarked: "You go to Gambia College where our teachers are trained, you realize that their conditions are very terrible; from the classes to the accommodation to the salary of the staff pay. Because it is just simple logic when you invest in something, you get a lot in return. It's the same thing, when you don't invest a lot, you will not get a lot."
For Bojang, three things need to be done. First, overhaul the education system, change the curriculum, and invest in the education system. The youth leader said there is need to build an education system that would train children into being survivors and not just people that would be employed, noting everybody in the country live from hand to mouth. The teachers should be well paid so that they can deliver quality to the students. There is need for investment in the sector, he added.
Alagie Drammeh, founder and manager of Drammez Mentorship and Leadership Academy.
Skill is the Only Way
Alagie Drammeh, who recently completed his course at the Gambia College, said the education system is not bad saying the number of Gambians attending schools is overwhelming compared to before. However, he said the existing curriculum is not responding to the needs of all and sundry.
"Our education system in The Gambia is not something that has a great solution to our societal problems," he said.
But contrary to what Bojang says, Drammeh said overhauling the education system is not the solution. To him, it needs some adjustment.
The former President of the Gambia College Press Club said there are people who have gone through the country's education system and are doing well in various sectors across the country.
For Drammeh, skill is the only way to be self-employed or create employment for others in the current dynamics of the 21 century.
When people live in the society and they are not employed, Drammeh went on, they must have means to survive and this may be either in the negative or positive.
"So in the event that students are graduating from schools or universities and they are not having the requisite skills, you will realize that the trend of lack of unemployment is going to increase," he says.
Drammeh, who is the founder and manager of the Drammez Mentorship and Leadership Academy, said entrepreneurship, vocational and technical skills should be included in the curriculum that would ensure that before students graduate from schools, they would be able to get some skills to solve problems in their societies and help themselves.
To him, life skills should be introduced at the grassroots, starting from the primary up to the tertiary or higher level.
Drammeh also suggests the introduction of digital literacy in the school system plus equipping teachers with critical thinking and problem solving skills which would help them significantly in executing their duties.
Issue Of Overcrowding
Buba Sowe, a second year student at the Gambia College, said the education system across the board needs lot of improvement.
Speaking from experience, Mr. Sowe said he taught a class of 81 students and some of the students do not have seats while four students share a table meant for two students.
In essence, he said, overcrowding students in a class has negative effects on the country's education system.
Speaking further, Sowe said: "The Ministry should also implement a system where by learners will specialize on the subjects they can do best and the subjects should also be divided into sub-subjects e.g. Agriculture you can do crop science as a subject, animal science as a subject, horticulture as a subject etc."
Mr. Sowe says if the above mentioned is put in place, it would bring lot of improvement in the education system.
Inventing in The Future
We must dare to invent in the future, says Musa Bah, a teacher at Nusrat High school in a post he made in 2018 on his Facebook timeline titled "What's with the falling grades." His comments came after the outcome of the grade 12 external exam results which many Gambians described as poor. Bah, who is the vice president of the Writers Association of The Gambia (WAG), says the education system should be changed to ensure there is progress.
The 44-year-old author says the education system shouldn't be based on repeated learning without understanding what is being taught, saying if this trend continues, solving unemployment problems wouldn't be possible.
"The education system needs not be rote learning alone. We need a system which piques the minds into critical thinking; a system that produces job creators rather than job seekers," said Bah, who also hosts The Education Hour on Teranga FM.
Writing further, Bah urges the government to conduct in-depth research into the type of education that suits the needs of the people. The social commentator says no individual is stupid and not everybody can excel academically.
"If we can sieve out the young people, we can start nudging them to the right direction."