Dear Minister of Basic and Secondary Education,
Now that the new school year opens, we write to share our concern about reported abuses in the system.
For instance, we’ve learned that a certain school in the Coastal Road/Old Yundum area is demanding that students must pay the study fees – of around D300 – whether or not they attended study classes held over the summer holidays, before they are allowed/admitted into their new promotion class!
Another well known private school in the Mile 7 area is reported to be demanding around D300 to issue the school testimonials and transcripts to their students completing grade 12.
This is a school which is already asking parents and students to pay around D10, 000 per term for school fees, not including the cost of school books, uniforms etc.
If we live in a country with the rule of law, then obviously private schools cannot be allowed to do as they please unchecked.
It is our view that the State needs to intervene and put a stop to such excesses for two obvious reasons. One, in order to check inflation/a rising cost of living in the country induced partly by the exploitative mindset of investors in the schools industry. Indeed, such apparent greed by school proprietors/teachers is contributing to the public frustration and discontent as basic necessities such as giving your child quality education become increasingly unaffordable in The Gambia. The other consequence is that it feeds the perceived corruption all over which people complain about, with all energies focused on the rat race to have and maintain a decent standard of living in today’s Gambia.
By this open letter, we call the attention of our national education custodian to the urgent need for the schools inspectorate unit of the ministry to effectively and efficiently fulfill its mandate of regular inspection of schools.
Definitely, your Ministry as a primary duty bearer must live up to expectations by enforcing the relevant provisions of the current and applicable Education Act and regulations; consistent with protecting the rights of school children and promoting civil rights generally.
Let me add that in the recent past, we heard reports of private nursery-primary schools lacking adequate water and proper toilet facilities.
Of course, we know these are part of your Ministry’s requirements for opening and operating private schools, but you must follow up to ensure that your schools inspectors do their job and school proprietors comply.
This letter is also for the attention of UNICEF, GTU, the national Competition and Consumer Rights Protection Commission, CPA, and all NGOs and other civil society organizations engaged in the promotion and protection of child rights.
We call on all actors and stakeholders in the education sector to be alert and alive to the negative practices in the sector.
We recall that in the second Republic, efforts were to monitor and control the sector, and prevent abuse.
This government too needs to firmly regulate the private schools sector, with mostly foreign investors now involved in it, since they see there an opportunity to make money easily and quickly in the Gambia.
Obviously, when the state neglects or overlook people’s excesses in their pursuit of self gain, such anti-social behaviour could have serious consequences for the maintenance of continuing peace and harmony in the society.
Alieu Famara Sagnia