Promoting Rights in School (PRS)
10 rights defined in the PRS project:
1. Right to free and compulsory education
2. Right to non-discrimination
3. Right to adequate infrastructure
4. Right to quality trained teachers
5. Right to a safe and non-violent environment
6. Right to relevant education
7. Right to know your rights
8. Right to participate
9. Right to transparent and accountable schools
10. Right to quality learning
Promoting Rights in Schools initiative (PRS) is a collaborative approach between Action Aid The Gambia and the consortium consisting of Forum For African Women Educationalist (FAWE-GAM), Education For All Network (EFANet), Gambia Teachers Union (GTU), Child Protection Alliance (CPA) and Nova Scotia Gambia Association (NSGA). This year the consortium focused on 3 rights, namely the right to free and compulsory education, the right to quality trained teachers and the right to transparent and accountable schools. In July 2013 the project team visited 3 schools in the Greater Banjul Area to conduct research on these three rights. Focus group discussions were held with teachers, parents and students to gather information, facts and figures related to these rights. The findings will be shared with the key stakeholders to advocate on improving access to education..
The project team visited Serekunda Lower Basic School, Bundung Lower Basic School and Talliding Upper Basic School to conduct research. A total of 217 students, parents and teachers took part in the focus group discussions and validation session.
Findings and recommendations
The research shows that education is not free in The Gambia. However, it should be noted that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is currently implementing the School Improvement Grant (SIG) policy. As from September 2013 all levies at Lower Basic Schools will be abolished.
In recent years the number of qualified teachers has increased tremendously. However, the number of students has also increased. As such the teacher-pupil-ratio remains a challenge. Although there is a government policy in place stating the teacher-pupil-ratio should be no more than 1:45 the consortium found that at the three schools the ratio is often higher. In order to improve the quality of education there is need for more qualified teachers. Furthermore the research has shown the need to strengthen Professional Development for teachers. It can be concluded that a serious issue is the transparency and accountability in schools. At all schools visited the governance, especially in budget and policies, needs to be improved. The fact that the majority of teachers, parents and students interviewed are not aware of how the school budget is spent or which policies are in place calls for action.
Other challenges discussed mostly concerned safety issues in and around the schools. Similar issues were addressed at the three schools. All schools visited are based in a highly congested urban area. The lack of proper fences results in security issues at the school grounds. Girls indicated that they do not feel safe using the toilet facilities and are sometimes harassed at or around the school premises by young men who are not students at the school. Furthermore parents, students and teachers felt that there are insufficient facilities and materials available for children living with a disability at the schools.
Sharing our findings and taking action
The findings were shared with the key stakeholders at a Bantaba at the 10th of October 2013. Representatives of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (Gender unit and Special Needs unit), Social Welfare Department, Police and Army Child protection units, Action Aid, consortium members, parents, head teachers and students came together to discuss what actions they could take to tackle these issues.
School Management Committees and Parent Teacher Associations will need to be encouraged by the head teacher to share information with parents, teachers and students to improve the transparency and accountability of schools. Also, they will have to take into account the means through which they communicate as in some areas there is a high percentage of illiteracy among the parents.
All stakeholders are concerned about the safety and security issues around the schools. As such it was discussed that for schools that have security issues the local area council together with the head teachers and police will need to collaborate and make a plan of action on how make the school a safe and secure environment. The members of the Mothers' clubs also noted that they will address issues regarding girls' education and safety issues with the head teacher and members of their own community.
The Special Needs Unit of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education has been working to implement the Special Needs Policy. A challenge is to provide enough learning tools and materials to improve access to all schools due to the limited funding available. EFANet will continue to advocate for inclusive education and calls upon the stakeholders to increase the budget to fully implement the Special Needs Education policy. Early 2014 EFANet will start a mapping exercise to collect data on how many children living with a disability are currently out of school. EFANet will use the outcome of this exercise to raise awareness on this issue at local and national level during the Global Action Week
in May 2014.
Comment of a head teacher present at the Bantaba:'I usually never go to these kinds of meetings, but discussing the issues with the different stakeholders and jointly come up with solutions has really broadened my horizon.'
EFANet, together with the consortium members, will continue to advocate on free and compulsory education, quality trained teachers and transparent and accountable schools.