He acknowledged the contribution of Mr. Badara Joof, World Bank liaison officer and the Honorable Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Mariama Ceesay for being part of the team that initiated the current education policy.
Representing the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) Country Director, Madam Ginja, Madam Isatou Cham WFP registered her sincere thanks to MoBSE for the opportunity accorded to them to deliver a statement. In her address she emphasized among others the importance of the revision of the policy, government commitment matching with donor support to the sector, MoBSE commitment in improving teacher quality and training.
She assured the gathering of WFP’s commitment in supporting MoBSE endeavors for the attainment of the millennium development goals, the implementation of a home grown school feeding program, efficient use of resources for greater access and quality of education. She also called on all donors to support the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education on the implementation of the education policy.
Representative of the World Bank Country Office, Mr. Badara Joof, in his presentation contextualized the theme of the conference.” Rethinking Education for accelerated growth and employment” matching the current trends in the access and use of information technology. He further stated that any education policy that does not speak to the world of technology is irrelevant.
He also emphasized that an Education policy should be able address issues of quality and relevance for poverty reduction and employment growth. He noted that the policy must be able to challenge higher education institutions and teacher unions in addressing teacher quality with emphasis on professional ethics.
He urged government to challenge all development partners to come up with adequate funding with no conditionality, assuring the meeting of World Bank’s commitment to supporting MoBSE and the Government of The Gambia in the drive to achieve their objectives.
The Minister of Basic and Secondary Education Honorable Fatou Lamin-Faye in her keynote address indicated that the theme of the conference is aimed at responding to the challenging needs and circumstances, guided by perspectives and experiences derived from the national and international context.
She highlighted that the conference is a culmination of an intensive consultation process in which a broad spectrum of the Gambian community participated with meticulous scrutiny which produced the draft policy preambles, statements, and key strategies premised on three thematic areas (Access and equity, quality of teaching and learning, Sector management).
According to her, MoBSE undertook a comprehensive education country status study, that revealed interesting outcomes, such as the increase in enrolment at various levels showing an encouraging annual growth rate, e.g. at the ECD level, an increase of l 9% between 2006 and 2009, at lower basic, an increase of 2%, upper basic and Senior Secondary, 3%, and Madrassa 13% increase was realized. GER also increased considerably.
She noted that The Gambia remains among the most advanced sub-Saharan countries in terms of enrolment and completion indicators at all levels with a Primary completion rate of 75%. However, there still remain many children out of school that are hard to reach. She challenged the conference to build consensus on the best approaches of reaching this category of children.
She revealed that quality education still remains a challenge with low levels of learning achievements at all levels. However, the 2010/2011 NAT results reveal encouraging learning outcomes. The analysis revealed that grade three shows an improvement in English Language from 20% to 35.5%, while Mathematics showed an increase from 28.9%to 36.9%. Similarly, English Language and Mathematics in Grade five increased from 31.5% to 49.9%, and 21.1% to 33.8% respectively. Similar encouraging performance has been registered in early grade literacy skills, GABECE, and WASSCE results.
The Hon. Minister recognized the need to consolidate the gains registered thus far, the inherent weaknesses in both policy and practice must be addressed to core. She challenged all delegates to validate the draft ensuring that the precepts are linked to our country’s launched Program for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), Vision 2020 as well as relevant internationally acceptable principles and practices which will render the document realistic, apt and amendable. She finally declared the conference open
The group conclusions of the conference highlights proposed policy statements and strategies, observations made and proposed corrections generated from the group discussions and the plenary. These will have to be agreed upon for inclusion in the drafting of the policy.
The topics that were discussed include Access and thematic areas, special needs education, non-formal education, school feeding and agriculture, curriculum, access and examination, national languages, school sports and sector management, donor coordination amongst others.
During the various presentations, some concerns were raised and they include the dress code of female students and teachers, phasing of ICT, mass promotion of students, incidents of female students collapsing in schools need to be investigated, absence of certification in literacy and skills program, absence of a variety of games in schools and total ban of studies in schools.
The conference recommended among others the need to gradually equip schools with ICT facilities for effective and efficient collection and management of data, need for data collection on a timely basis, develop a strategy on promotion and staff management, include the provision of ICT infrastructure in the strategies, challenge the area and municipal councils to contribute to the education of girls and needy students.
The closing ceremony was chaired by Mr. Momodou Sanneh, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Programs, MoBSE. Prayers were led by the Mudir of Tallinding Islamic Institute and Mr. Jonathan Goode of the Methodist Mission.
Mr. Sanneh took the opportunity to thank all those who participated in the conference from the coordinators, the secretariat and the participants. He said that the conference was organized in December due to a commitment made at the last donor review meeting. The permanent secretary in his closing remarks thanked all participants and coordinators for honoring the invitation to the conference during a very busy period.
He indicated that the magnitude of local knowledge tapped during the conference, referring to the different stakeholders’ participation, was very high. He noted that the conference has been able to link up with, the past by bringing in retired but seasoned educationist, linked up with the present bringing in young educationalists, linked up with the future by bringing in students to tell them what they want for the future.
He assured that MoBSE has been listening to the concerns, suggestions and recommendations made by participants, adding that MoBSE reviewed policy could be linked to MoHERST policy. He said both ministries will use the opportunity to ensure that there is a smooth transition for both policies.
The permanent secretary concluded by saying in all languages that: during the four days workshop, the delegates have spoken and the ministry has been listening and will surely take actions.