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by Nick Jeans and James Kay from Sero

For entities in Gambia see Category:Gambia

Experts situated in Gambia

None found so far.

Gambia in a nutshell

The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia, is a country in West Africa. The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, bordered to the north, east, and south by Senegal, with a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

The country is situated around the Gambia River, the nation's namesake, which flows through the country's centre and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its area is almost 10,500 km² with an estimated population of 1,700,000.

On 18 February 1965, The Gambia was granted independence from the United Kingdom and joined The Commonwealth. Banjul is The Gambia's capital, but the largest conurbation is Serekunda.

The Gambia shares historical roots with many other west African nations in the slave trade, which was the key factor in the placing and keeping of a colony on the Gambia River, first by the Portuguese and later by the British. Since gaining independence in 1965, Gambia has enjoyed relative political stability, with the exception of a brief period of military rule in 1994.

An agriculturally fertile country, its economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. (1)

Education in Gambia

The Constitution mandates free and compulsory primary education in the Gambia, but a lack of resources and educational infrastructure has made implementation difficult. In 1995, the gross primary enrolment rate was 77.1 percent and the net primary enrolment rate was 64.7 percent. School fees long prevented many children from attending school, but in February 1998 the President of the Gambia ordered the termination of fees for the first six years of schooling. Girls make up about 40 percent of primary school students, though the figure is much lower in rural areas where cultural factors and poverty prevent parents from sending girls to school. Approximately 20 percent of school-age children attend Koranic schools, which usually have a restricted curriculum. (1)

Since 2002, a new basic education programme has been in place. Lower basic covers Grades 1 to 6 and upper basic covers Grades 7 to 9. Secondary education is divided into Middle School (three years), Higher Secondary, and Sixth Form (2 years). Senior secondary education (Grades 10 to 12) is for pupils between the ages of 16 and 18. At the end of Grade 12, pupils sit for the West African Secondary School-leaving Certificate Examinations (WASSCE). (2)

Public spending on education was 2% of GDP in 2005. There are six years of primary education and six years of secondary. Net enrolment ratios are 62% for primary and 38% for secondary, and gross enrolment ratio for all levels combined 47% (2006). The pupil-teacher ratio for primary is 35:1 and for secondary 24:1 (2006). The school year starts in September.

Schools in Gambia

The school going age in the Gambia is officially seven years. The education system, which is largely based on the British system, consists of the following:

  • Six years of primary schooling: grades 1 – 6
  • Three years of Junior Secondary schooling: grades 7 – 9
  • Three years of Senior Secondary schooling: grades 10 – 12

At the end of grades 6 and 9, there are selection examinations to proceed to the next level. At the end of grade 9 people have the option to go into the numerous skills centres which provide pre-vocational training for its students. At the end of grade 12 also, depending on their performance in the West African senior Secondary Certificate Exam (WASSCE), students have the option to go into the Technical Training Institute, which provide vocational and technical education; to into Gambia College which provide pre-service training for teachers, nurses, public health officers and agricultural supervisors; or they can go on to university or join the labour force. (3)

Net enrolment ratios are 62% for primary and 38% for secondary, and gross enrolment ratio for all levels combined 47% (2006). The pupil-teacher ratio for primary is 35:1 and for secondary 24:1 (2006). The school year starts in September.

Further and Higher education

Higher education in The Gambia is provided by the University of The Gambia, created in 1999, which comprises four faculties and Gambia College which includes four schools: Agricultural Science, Education, Nursing and Midwifery, and Public Health. (2)

University education typically lasts for four years. (3)

In The Gambia, quality academics are very scarce at the tertiary and higher education sub-sector. As result, the UTG and the tertiary institutions depend heavily on foreign lecturers and foreign tertiary education service providers from the sub-region. (5)

In addition to the tertiary institutions, there are about 103 registered Skills Training Centres providing courses towards local and external certificates and diplomas in a variety of professional fields. These are mainly privately operated centres. Information available on 50 centres indicates that about 10,000 students are enrolled in the centres. Data was not available on 53 other registered centres. The National Training Authority (NTA) was in the data collection exercise during the preparation of this paper. In total, tertiary and higher education, including skills training centres, enrol over 18,000 students. (5)

Universities in Gambia

The University of The Gambia offers programs which lead to a Bachelor's Degree after four years of study in Humanities and Social Studies, Economics and Management Science, and Nursing and Public Health; and six years in Medicine and Surgery. (4)

Currently, the UTG does not have a campus, neither at Faraba Banta nor at Kanifing and the basic infrastructure is rudimentary. The approximately 1500 students of the UTG use lecture room space of the main public tertiary institutions (GC, GTTI & MDI) leading to congestion and strain on the available space and furniture. The university teaching and learning conditions and the paucity of equipment, especially specialised equipment adversely impacts higher education delivery and the quality of education dispensed. (5)

Polytechnics in Gambia

Higher technical and vocational education is offered at the Gambia Technical Training Institute which offers courses leading to the examinations of the City and Guilds of London Institute and the Royal Society of Arts. (4)

Colleges in Gambia

The Gambia College offers non-degree certificates and diplomas in Agriculture, Science, Education, Nursing and Midwifery and Public Health, Catering, Management Development and vocational training. (4)

Education reform


In 1988, the Government of The Gambia began a major education initiative which included a 15-year plan that has emphasized increasing gross enrollment rates, lowering school entry age from 8 to 7, developing basic education curricula, and improving teacher training. Many of these goals have been met. The gross primary enrollment rate increased from 62.2 to 77.1 percent from 1989 to 1995; the entry age was lowered to seven years; more textbooks were made available for students; and 1,200 unqualified teachers in the system received training. The major goal The Gambia has set for itself for the remainder of the plan is to enroll 90 percent of children in schools for the full cycle of basic education by 2005. Over the 1990s, spending on education increased from 15 to 21 percent of government expenditure and 2.6 percent to 4.3 percent of GNP, while the share of the education budget devoted to primary education increased from 38 percent to 45 percent. (3)

The Gambia's Education Policy (2004-2015) recognises the importance of education in the early years. Central government policy is working in partnership with NGOs and local authorities and communities. Among the government's bilateral partners is the UK's Department for International Development which is working on capacity-building in the Department of State for Basic and Secondary Education.

Among initiatives to promote equal access to education for girls from an early age, the Department of State for Basic and Secondary Education introduced a Scholarship Trust Fund to boost the school enrolment, retention and performance rates of girls from rural communities, which resulted in an increase in the gross enrolment ratio for girls, rising from 61% in 2000 to 71% in 2005.


A Higher Education Policy is being developed and elaborated following the establishment of the new Department of State for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DOSHERST) in early 2007. In the interim, the Tertiary and Higher Education component of the Education Policy 2004-2015, prepared by the then Department of State for Education (DOSE) is being used to guide the activities of the new Department of State.

The Gambian tertiary and higher education system will evolve during the period of this policy around the development of the UTG at the apex, with the existing three tertiary institutions constituting the nucleus of the system. The major objectives of the tertiary and higher education programmes are:

  • To enhance the human resource development capacity of The Gambia in

response to labour market needs;

  • To provide relevant, sustainable and high quality tertiary education and research to support socio-economic, scientific and technological advances and development, and promotion of excellence in the creation and dissemination of knowledge; and
  • To produce men and women who can provide intellectual leadership to the emergence of a nation wedded to the ideals of democracy and a socially, politically and economically self-reliant country in a globalised and interdependent world.

The main policy components for the UTG will be to:

  • Encourage the integrated UTG to offer, beginning on a limited scale, graduate programmes within the existing faculties
  • In cooperation with foreign universities, reduce dependency on expatriate teaching staff
  • Encourage the integrated UTG to collaborate with other universities in programmes relevant to The Gambia
  • Enable the integrated UTG to take up a strategic position within the national development programme
  • Finalise the Higher Education Observatory Act.
  • Establish the HEO as the body charged with accrediting and validating qualifications in order to reduce the dependency on external bodies (5)

Administration and finance

In 2007, a new ministry was created for tertiary and higher education, and research and scientific technology. The Department of State for Basic and Secondary Education is responsible for education at the primary and secondary levels and the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology for the upper levels.


There are several independent or private schools spread throughout The Gambia, though most are concentrated around the Banjul area. Some of these include, the Banjul American Embassy School which is affiliated to the US Embassy Banjul and functions as an NGO to offer a comprehensive American-based educational curriculum in English from pre-school years to 8th Grade; the SBEC Shiloh International School, the first English and French School in The Gambia; and the Marina International School, considered to be one of best private schools in the country and functions as a Cambridge International Examinations Centre, where scholars are taught the British national curriculum.


Currently, tertiary and higher education institutions depend on government subvention, the levels of which are determined by the performance of the national economy. As the allocation of resources to the education sector from the national budget declined over the years, so did the amount of resources available to the tertiary and higher education institutions. While institutions are encouraged to generate resources from a variety of sources, the revenue is normally just enough to augment operational costs but not embark on any major development activities. Indeed, because of the policy of encouraging tertiary institutions to generate additional resources for operations, institutions have tended to offer soft and popular certificate and diploma courses for which students pay. Some of these courses are not necessarily aligned to national priority needs. (5)

Quality assurance


The West African Examinations Council hold the responsibility of ascertaining examinations required in the public interest in The Gambia and other English-speaking West African countries.


The quality of instructions, as well as standards, varies widely from the more quality and standards-conscious university to the less vigorously monitored private skills centres. At present, each institution has its own way of ascertaining quality but a coherent system of quality assurance with set standards and benchmarks and an effective monitoring system is completely absent for tertiary education. This, invariably, impacts negatively on the quality of tertiary education programmes. Therefore, there is a need to establish and make the HEO functional to effectively institute and monitor standards and assure quality in tertiary and higher education. The main implementation agencies for this activity will be the DOSHERST and the tertiary institutions. It should be mentioned however, that the NTA (National Training Authority) has developed a national skills qualification framework in a bid to instil standards and quality in the skills training programmes. While the NTA has developed quality-oriented framework instruments and are working to assure quality technical and professional education is dispensed, the institution continues to be challenged by institutional capacity constraints, especially financial and human resources. (5)

  • Quality Improvement in Tertiary and Higher Education

The tertiary and higher education component of the Education Policy 2004-2015 and the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2006-2015 have both identified quality improvement in tertiary and higher education as a major preoccupation of the sector over the next seven years. In this regard, Government intends to establish a Higher Education Observatory to institute and monitor standards and quality of teaching and relevance of research undertaken in higher education institutions. When integration of the higher education system is complete and certificates, diplomas and degrees accredited and awarded by the UTG (University of The Gambia), improvements in standards and quality is expected. (5)

Information society

The proposed Gambia National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) Policy and Plans was designed to address the areas where ICT would facilitate the achievement of the Vision 2020 overall objective, which is to transform the nation into a middle-income country by 2020 through accelerating private sector development, restructuring economic management, developing the human capital base, and institutionalising decentralised and democratic participatory government structures, processes, and systems. The overall objective for the policy is to “leapfrog” several stages of development by establishing a participatory approach in building human resources and a conducive environment that utilises ICT as a platform to exchange data, information, and knowledge, and as a tool to implement applications and provide services to achieve higher growth rates in all spheres of socio-economic activities.

The policy addresses 10 priority focus areas or pillars:

  • Infrastructure
  • Regulatory issues
  • Local governance
  • Education
  • Health
  • Trade and commerce
  • E-governance
  • Agriculture
  • Gender
  • Media

The Department of State for Communication, Information and Technology is the lead agency responsible for implementing the policy. (2)

ICT in education initiatives

A draft ICT Policy framework for State Education has been ongoing since 2002. It is expected to be finalised by the end of March 2007. Core elements of the ICTs in education policy include the following:

  • Network all educational institutions and institute a mandatory computer literacy programme in all educational entities in the country coupled with continued training of all educators.
  • Strategically position the newly established University of The Gambia by appropriately integrating ICT in all of its curricula.
  • Forge alliances with a carefully built up “high-end” ICT training institution to be establishd by the public sector or in partnership with the private sector (or preferably by competent Gambian entrepreneurs with the support of government) and position it as an ICT training hub not only for the Gambia but also to the entire West Africa region. Information technology skills must be a mandatory requirement and carefully integrated in the entire curriculum of the entire educational sector.

The major implementation agency for the proposed policy is the Department of State for Education.

There is a proposed second policy for schools, sponsored by DFID, but it is at a very early stage of development. (2)

At the secondary level, a project by the Ministry of Education to provide a computer lab for all state schools in The Gambia has lead to 16 state secondary schools (out of 31) being equipped with state-of-the-art ICT labs. The schools received Pentium IV computers and were networked. The project was supported by the World Bank, but further funding has yet to be arranged for the other schools. Internet connection at these schools has remained a challenge with only a select few schools currently having access. Most of the schools have their connection through a private sector initiative or NGO support At the primary level, while there is no co-ordinated government initiative for ICTs, several initiatives by individuals and NGOs have helped equipped some schools with computer labs. (2)

Virtual initiatives in schools

iEARN Gambia: involves teachers in about 20 schools in collaborative project work. Ogranisation(s)/funding sources: Department of State Education (2)

Virtual initiatives in post-secondary education

At the tertiary level, a computer lab with a high-speed Internet connection provided by the Government of Taiwan and the Government of Gambia is currently serving the university community with other private-sector initiatives. At the Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) there are two networked labs connected to the Internet. (2)

Lessons learnt

Generally there is a commitment to improve ICTs in education in the Gambia. There are three major obstacles however:

  • Gender bias in access to ICTs
  • High attrition rate of teachers with ICT skills
  • Heavy reliance on donor support for ICTs in education (2)



2. infoDev Gambia report (2007) at


4. US Embassy in Gambia

5. Republic of The Gambia Higher Education Strategy Paper 2007-11

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