Sare Gubu Students’ Association in Sandu, Upper River Region (URR) has convened its annual meeting with local education authorities to discuss the challenges hindering the performance of students in the rural areas in late December.
The student association is formed by ex-students of Sare Gubu Basic Cycle School on the objectives of improving the education system in the school. Members of the association include current students and alumni who are occupying top jobs in and out of the country as lawyers, nurses, teachers but also the present students.
The event provided solutions to overturn poor academic records in the GABECE and WASSCE examinations systems in the region.
The president of the association, Saidal Ali Bah, said since their establishment in August 2013, they have been paying tuition fees for students, helping them with other school materials, conducting summer classes for students, rendering voluntary services in the community such as tree planting, buying materials for public facilities such as the village’s well and borehole, and holding sensitisation programs to raise awareness in the community.
“Before, the formation of the association, dropping out of school in the village was prevalent, but since its formation it has drastically reduced and almost everyone is interested in going to school. Parents are indeed interested in sending their children to school compared to when the association was formed,” he told the gathering at a ceremony held in the village.
However, Bah remains on alert that school drop-out is still occurring, though now at a minimal rate. He said the organisation has been challenged by the busy schedules of most of its highly-engaged officials as well as funding issues.
Upper River Region is the sixth educational directorate in the country with a student population of forty-seven thousand three hundred and nine (47,309) of which twenty-three thousand three hundred and eighty-six are (23,386) are girls, according to education officials.
Serving as the guest speaker of the ceremony, the Deputy Director of Regional Education Directorate of Region 6, Janko Jawneh, admitted to poor performance of students last year in the GABECE and WASSE. However, he said this is not always the case.
“In the past, it was difficult for MOBSE to send teachers to that part of The Gambia because of poor communication and harsh climatic conditions. Thus, qualified and most talented teachers were difficult to attract there,” he said.
“Also, there was a national budget constraint for the construction of permanent structures in each community which resulted to some students travelling long distances to the nearest schools and this has always cause students fatigue. Staff and students’ attendance and punctuality are one of the key indicators of quality education.”
According to him, Sandu schools were not meeting the baseline attendance target of 95% and above as internal monitoring of teaching and learning is difficult for the cluster monitors.
“There is a delay in the supply of textbooks and lack of adequate and relevant teaching and learning resources in schools amongst others,” he added.
Jawneh said poor attendance due to excessive parental engagement of students in the farms and other domestics works, especially the girl child also hinders students’ performance in schools.
He suggested that the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MOBSE) needs to increase teachers’ incentives through building more staff quarters while parents should ensure that children attend schools.
In addition, he said, School Management Committees (SMCs) should engage in vigorous sensitisation on enrollment and retention drives in schools. Also, MOBSE should engage in more in-service training for already trained teachers on content and pedagogy citing the E-Learning, and cluster and school-based workshops as examples.
He also suggested the increment of the School Improve Grant (SIG) so that school would have the ability to purchase more teaching and learning materials.
Presenting on the role of parents in supporting their children in pursuing their educational goals, Hala L. Bah, a trained teacher, said: “When parents and teachers work together, children do better in school”.
She encourages parents to visit schools regularly to know how their children are faring in school rather than waiting to see their end of term results.
The young trained teacher told parents to spend some time with their children to discuss with them their education and help them in their studies.
According to her, these make students feel valued and motivated to concentrate on their education and build their confidence.
Meanwhile, a former student, now a lawyer, Mamadou Saidou Bah, has taken the gathering through some provisions of the draft constitution to enlighten villagers. Citizenship, jurisdiction of Sharia Court, appointments of Alkalolu [village heads] and Seyfolu [chiefs] were discussed.