JDRS 2019 - Statement by UNICEF Representation


Statement by UNICEF Representative

Ms. Sandra Lattouf

Occasion: Joint Donor Review and Support Mission

Venue: Regional Education Directorate, Kanifing

Date: Friday, 6 th December 2019


Hon. Minister of Basic and Secondary Education
Hon. Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology
Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs
Task Team Leaders of the World Bank,
Country Lead, Global Partnership for Education
UN Colleagues
Permanent Secretaries
Senior Government Officers
The Media
Distinguished Guests
All protocols observed

Good Morning,
Firstly, thank you for your interest and your presence in this important meeting. I feel very honoured to take the floor on behalf of my colleagues from the Local Education Group.
The Local Education Group attaches significant importance to the Joint Donor Review and Supervision Mission, its opportunity to take stock of progress, learn from the experiences and chart a way forward for every child in The Gambia to realise his or her rights to education.
This conference is significant because 2019 marks the 30 th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC). It also marks the mid-point of the National Development Plan (NDP 2018-2021); and the Education Sector Support Programme (2018-2021). Lessons learnt from these mid-term reviews and reflections will facilitate our acceleration and scaling up of interventions to deliver quality education for every child.
I would like today to also bring forward the voice of the children. In 2019 Ministries, Departments, Agencies and institutions with mandate to deliver on the rights of children worked with children of The Gambia to listen to their voices. The nation-wide multi-level engagement of children culminated into the second session of the Children National Assembly of The Gambia (CNAG), where the children addressed several issues affecting their life, and put a firm accent on the right to Education. Similarly, the Children of The Gambia, in a U-Report survey, valued all their rights but considered education as an urgent right that cannot wait.
They want Education to be totally free, compulsory, qualitative, accessible and available to all children.
They want standard science and IT laboratories to be established in all schools in The Gambia. This should be complemented with adequate school bus services in all the regions of The Gambia. They want recreational facilities and spaces for children in fulfilment of their rights to play and development. They want safe schools and clean facilities including the access to gender sensitive toilet facilities and clean water.
Children are concerned about several factors affecting their abilities to learn in schools. Education, they say, must be cross sectoral if we want to have a chance to enrol and retain children in schools, as well as providing the high quality of education they deserve.
They demand adequate and effective enforcement and implementation of all the laws which protect children from all forms of abuse, violence, exploitation, hazardous labour and trafficking. To this end children of The Gambia want the enforcement of the Children’s (Amendment) Act 2016 which prohibits child marriage and the Women (Amendment) Act 2015 which prohibits Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and other harmful cultural and traditional practices. They urge the public to break the culture of silence surrounding child sexual abuse and exploitation through open national and community dialogue using all available channels.
Children of The Gambia have spoken on behalf of their peers who are living with disabilities. They are requesting the promotion and fulfilment of the rights of children with disabilities. They urge all to join in the fight against discrimination and stigmatisation; collaboratively working with children with disabilities to ensure they have access to all forms of services and public buildings, including schools.
They are expecting us as duty bearers to embrace our responsibilities for the respect of their rights to Education, and to all the rights enshrined in the CRC.
Chairperson, distinguish ladies and gentlemen
The children’s requests are corroborated by several surveys and administrative data. There have remarkable improvement is enrolment at all levels and gender parity reached several years ago. However, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2018) reported that the proportion of Primary school-aged children out-of-school was 18.4 per cent. Quality of learning is another concern. MICS shows that only 8.6 percent of children among 7-14 years have foundational numeracy skills, and 12.4 percent with foundational leading skills. In terms of access to basic sanitation and water at schools, 84percent of primary schools have water and 80 percent have sanitation facilities meeting national standards.
19 percent of children 0-59 months are stunted; and stunting is more prevalent in rural areas (22.0 percent) than urban areas (17.0 percent). It is a worrying concern that only 58 percent of births under 5 years old are registered. In terms of actual possession of birth certificate, less than 50 per cent under 5 years old have actual birth certificate. Without a birth certificate, right-age school enrolment will not be achieved and children will be at risk to trafficking, child labour, child marriage and other vulnerabilities.
It would be noted that since the previous Joint Donor Review Mission the partnership between the Education Ministries and the Local education Group (LEG) was considerably stronger. The LEG supported in providing the much-needed technical support; the LEG was proactive in mobilizing resources for the rehabilitation of classrooms and toilets that were damaged by rain and wind storm in July this year; and the explored new funding sources through the MRC Holland Foundation to qualify for the GPE Multiplier Grant. Honorable Minister, please be assured that LEG is resolute in its support to the sector.
Chairperson, distinguished colleagues,
Inclusion, after 30 years of the CRC, it is now time to renew our commitments to children. If we are to build ‘The Gambia we want’, investing in children is the game changer. Investing in education will not only guarantee the right to education but will also enhance the attainment of other rights.
It’s time to act and act now.
I wish to extend my gratitude to my colleagues in the Local Education Group for their continued support to the education sector. Similarly, I wish to recognise the strong leadership provided by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in driving the national education agenda. I wish you all a very fruitful conference.
May this august assembly take into consideration the request from children to the fulfilment of their rights.
Thank you


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