An exclusive interview conducted by the Information Officer at MoBSE, Lamin B. Darboe with the Director of In-service Training and Lifelong Learning, Mrs. Tida Jatta-Jarjue. By the time of conducting this interview with the director, she was the Director of Basic and Secondary Education at the ministry.
Information Officer: Being the director of Basic and Secondary Education at MoBSE, what are your directorate’s main functions?
Director: The directorate is responsible for education programs ranging from school feeding programs, gender, and life-skill education among others. It is the biggest technical directorate within the ministry. We are responsible for basic and secondary education programs. In total there are 9 units within the directorate and all these units take care of education programs nationally.
Information Officer: What are the difference between Standard, Primary and basic education system in the 60s and today?
Director: There are lots of differences. As you may know, education is sensitive to the burning issues of the day. In order for us to be in the same level with the world, we have to adjust our education system. If you could remember education system started with Standard System which our parents went through. Then after Independence we had the Primary System of Education where you attend Nursery then Primary 1 to 6 and then take your Common Entrance Examination and go to Secondary Technical School or High School. But with the population growth and also with the emergence issues, it was discovered around 1988 Policy Period that something has to be done to those who finished grade 6 and couldn’t proceed to high school and also couldn’t go to Secondary Technical School becomes school drop-out. And we had lots of them. Because we couldn’t accommodate them as per available number of secondary technical school and high school in the country by then. I think that was the time we in tandem for Education for All Goals, and MDGs to make sure that children go to school and have 9 year uninterrupted basic education. In order for us to increase the literacy level in the country, it was found prudent for the country to try and adopt a different way of education system which is to make sure that children get uninterrupted 9 year basic education. From there early age of school drop-out was reduced drastically so children have the opportunity to go to grade 9 without dropping out from school.
Information Officer: In your own opinion, how did you see the expansion of basic education system from grade six to nine years?
Director: Oh yes, it is one of the positive way of expanding the basic education program for students to stay in school UNITERRUPTED. Imagine, a child completing school at grade six, he/she would be 13 or 14 years old but at least at grade 9, the child will be at 15 or 16 years old and at that age, the child will have the mental capacity to learn a skill. If you look at the country, most of these vocational works are done by foreigners. If i need a carpenter and plumber I will look for a foreigner and those works are the highest paid job in the country than even those in the office.
Director, Mrs. Tida Jatta-Jarjue speaking to Information Officer, Lamin B. Darboe
Information Officer: As director of basic and secondary education, is the ministry receiving positive support from its stakeholders in terms of access to quality education?
Director: Yes, we are receiving lots of support from our partners both nationally and internationally. Although, there are need for improvement because as at now, we are having over 700,000 students and we are saying as a sector our children should go to school with no school fee levy on them which is not a joke. More support is needed because right now schools just open and lot of things have to be in place at schools like Covid-19 PPE. We need money whether in cash or in kind so that we can keep our students safe against the pandemic thus for them to achieve quality education. We want them to finish school safely so that they can better themselves and contribute their part in nation building. It is a collective responsibility for all, so it is not only the ministry but everybody have to put hands on desk to make sure our children go to school, stay in school, finish school and come out with wonderful results.
Information Officer: What will you regard as the greatest challenge in the ministry?
Director: Our greatest challenge is Funding, because we are talking about quality education and in that we need to take care of schools, make sure children are in school, children need textbooks, they need teaching and learning materials, they need qualified teachers and those teachers need In-Service training all those things need to be put into considerations. Our children need support of all kinds both physically, psychologically and emotionally so that they can do well in class. So funding is an issue which is not always be physically cash but it may be for technical assistance and anything we can get in kind like textbooks, exercise books will be appreciated.
Information Officer: Is there any step/steps ministry is taking to address those challenges?
Director: Yes, ministry is doing a lot because our Permanent Secretary is always everywhere lobbying for funds on behalf of the ministry. If you go to his office, you will not meet him there, he may be at the ministry’s planning directorate or attending other meetings somewhere lobbying funds for the sector. We as directors in the ministry, we are also working with the ministry’s partners to mobilize funds for the sector while minister is also lobbying funds both at Cabinet and international donor levels.
Information Officer: Can you outline few positive achievements within these years which MoBSE will be proud of?
Director: Our achievements are huge and key among is taking education to the door steps of all Gambians. Now, you cannot work 5 kilometers without finding a Lower basic school. Children, who are not thinking of getting educated, are now having education within their door steps. You can go up to Jah Kunda, Nyankui, Bolibana, Garawol all in Region six and Sami Pachonchi in Region five north access to education in those areas not a problem now. Mr. Darboe, let me inform you that two meter radius for basic education was achieved and we are now trying to achieve the three meter radius for senior secondary schools. Another acheivement is bringing children to school who were not in school before or who left school due to some reason/s. Another improtant thing is Second-Chance Edcuation where children were given non-formal education at their own localities and levels and prepared them to take grade 9 and eventually grade 12 examinations.
Information Officer: Can you describe the current enrolment rate of students in Lower Basic, Upper and Senior Secondary schools levels?
Director: The enrolment trend is going up every year thanks to Allah the Almighty for that. One important achievement is that we achieve parity since 2005 and those are one of the MDGs that the country achieved and we still maintain the parity at basic education level. The problem we used to have at senior secondary school level in the side of girls was early marriage, pregnancy and dropping out of school because of financial issue. The financial issue Mr. Darboe is now the thing of the past because of the introduction of the “Scholarship Trust Fund for Girls” then. But now with SIG, school is free for everybody from ECD to senior secondary school levels. That problem has been solved and girls that were given up for marriage or left school because of pregnancy were re-entered to school. Issue of Second-Chance-Education is doing a lot in improving our percentages.