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ChildFund ZOOSC project impacts communities

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By Olimatou Coker

In its quest to provide quality education for all children in The Gambia, ChildFund visited education projects and programs funded and co-funded by the organization to assess their implementation country-wide.

The tour was meant to speak directly to program participants and to gauge from project beneficiaries their opinions and impressions, or otherwise of these projects meant for the population.

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The Zero Out Of School (ZOOSC) Children project funded by Educate A Child (EAC), and jointly implemented by UNICEF, MoBSE, ChildFund and EFANET has achieved remarkable success, with over 23,000 children enrolled so far.

The three year project which was launched in April 2023 aims to enroll over 66,000 children including children with disabilities. 

In the community of Medina Tunjang, in Niamina, the project is taking shape, but facing challenges from members of the rural community some of whom perceive western education as negative due to their cultural beliefs.

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Aminata Boye, a native of Medina Tunjang village and a teacher, said she is the only native of the community who completed Grade 12 education from a population of over 1000 people. She is currently attending The Gambia college and on her second-year teaching practice at the newly established school in her native village.

Madame Boye, said she was the only one going to school in the village. “And it was very difficult for me as I have faced so many challenges because in this village people believe western education is not Islamic. At some point in time, it turned out to be a stigma to me and my father because for him to greet his fellow elders in the community was a problem,” she said.

Kujaly Jabbie, a teacher in the schools, said since the inception of the school three years ago. “The number of students in this school stands at 246 but efforts are continuing to improve enrollment and retention”.

He added that the community is not  much aware  of western Western education. “So enrolling their children was a bit difficult. The coming of the project actually motivated some to bring their children to school”.

At Bantundung Lower Basic School in the Upper River Region, the ZOOSC project is supporting children there.

Speaking to reporters, Momodou Jaiteh, the headmaster of the school, explained that the zero out of school project is gradually changing the narratives.

“We have done our very best to talk to the parents about the importance of education. We used to have meetings with the PTA. With the SMC that is the school management committee so we are able to have some little bit of improvement on the site retention is also our problem because many times some these children when we will  register them,  and when there are social gathering  they always go with their parents when we ask for them they will say they have gone for a  social activities and others will transferred  the Kombo either for married proposes or  things”.

Oumou Hawa Jallow, a teacher at Bantunding LBS, said she is also happy with the idea Childfund and partners brought to their school  because with that it is going to help children to come back to school.

As part of the project, Bantunding LBS classroom blocks and toilet facilities are fitted with ramps to accommodate children with disabilities.

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