EYEAFRICA TV: Basse, The Gambia: The inauguration of a new learning campus to decongest the Gambia’s only teacher training college was presided over by the president together with partners in the education sector at a ceremony in the Upper River Regional commercial centre, Basse on Monday.
Recruitment of teachers has since in the 50s been concentrated in what was known as the Yundum College which was later on relocated to Brikama and renamed as The Gambia College in the West Coast Region.
In his inauguration note, President of the Republic of The Gambia, Adama Barrow defined the college extension project as a move to cut down rural-urban migration that goes further to safe young knowledge seekers from the challenges in relocating from their hometowns.
“This is a laudable contribution that will remain in memories forever”, he said, urging communities in the Upper River, and Central River Regions to take advantage of tertiary institution in order to realise the essence of decentralisation.
As the demand for higher education increased, the college administration was compelled to bear pressure in shortage in space, furniture and sanitary facilities.
“We have been grappling with problem in space”, says Principal of The Gambia College, Abubacarr Jallow, a reason for which his administration looked into partnership with the MRC-Holland Foundation.
The Gambia College story goes through the pain of structural adjustment in the teaching and learning programmes at the expense of cost and eventually on quality of education. The situation was “forcing us to use the Armitage extension”, a holidays teaching programme to cater for students who wouldn’t fit in the college space during the regular time.
To control the syndrome of over congestion in the Brikama Campus, the college governing council initiated what was described as a “fast track” of about a month-long intensive training for mainly teacher-trainees for the lower basic schools before their deployment to various schools across the country.
Mr Jallow described this initiative as costly, as lecturers from the college were expected to carry on regular and thorough field works in monitoring these trainees on the job in all the schools.
Addressing Teacher Shortage
In partnership with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, MRC-Holland Foundation extends its intervention to make sure that learning resources are efficient to improve opportunities of education for children.
The Gambia has an average of 55 students per classroom in government schools with the number of students increasing yearly by 6% due to population growth.
This also translates to a growing challenge in the supply of teachers to handle each of the classrooms in every school.
Data from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education shows that while there is 89 percent of qualified teacher in government schools, the case in Private Schools is at 74 percent and 71 percent for Grand-Aided Schools. The level of trained professionals for the Madarassa system is behind at 36 percent at the Lower Basic School level.
Ms Andreata, Holland Consul to The Gambia who doubles as MRC-Holland’s Project Coordinator presented her objective to modernise and increase learning facilities in the country, having constructed up to three hundred classrooms in the Upper River Region since 2015.
She noted that the idea for the construction of the first teacher college in the rural Gambia steamed from the fear for a shortage as projected by the growing trend of enrolment even outside the Greater Banjul Areas.
Although, lectures have started, the foundation pledged to build more learning facilities such as libraries with reading centres, and installation laboratory equipment for the need of different specialists.
The campus is built to cater for students in the Gambia College School of Education mainly in the Central River, And Upper River Regions with sophisticated classrooms and dormitories some seven kilometres away from the main town, Basse.
In September, the first batch of students were hosted on the Brikama main campus until January 2020 when they moved to continue their studies at the annex in the provinces.
The college principal assured that the quality of education at the new campus will be at per with the one being offered in the coast, noting that, the standard required for lecturers remains the same in pedagogy and training.
Written by Ebrima Bah