Searching for The Lost Book Policy of The Gambia
From post-independance to date, the system of education in The Gambia mainly focus on only academics and not much has been done to harness the huge potential in vocational skill education. As Writers’ Association of The Gambia responsible for promoting a literary culture in The Gambia, our Action Plan for 2019-2021 is produced to complement the existing Education Policy of The Gambia. The three year framework document articulates the ambition, values and goals that are the basis for the high-level work programme of the association, its partners and mandate.
This will impact on us as a nation to create the Gambia we want – by complementing the efforts of government towards the attainment of the National Development Plan (NPD). In response, we are working to ensure that we can provide the right skills offering, to secure economic recovery and to increase opportunities for all learners. During 2020, our focus will be on embedding the systemic reforms we have already begun. These are taking place across the entire continuum of education and training services on creative writing , in order to ensure that we equip Gambian students’ with the skills and knowledge that they need to achieve their potential and to participate fully in society and the economy. Delivering on our 2020 actions means that we are shaping our education and training services so that they are best placed to respond to broader political and economic uncertainty. Quality enhancing measures are being further embedded across the system, professional development is being enhanced, our capital programme is expanding, and we are continuing to progress our literacy programme in order to provide a solid foundation to the sector. Our Action Plan is for school children and teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of their students through a focus on literacy for our reading and writing project. What does literacy have to do with high dropout rates, low test scores, frustrated teachers and students, and irate employers? Just about everything.
Adolescent literacy is in a state of crisis in The Gambia in the Age of Technology. WAG estimates that as many as 8,000+ junior and senior secondary school students read below grade level (WAG Secretariat , 2019). The number at risk is far higher when we talk about the literacy habits and skills that students will need to meet 21st-Century demands: core subject knowledge, 21st-century content, learning and thinking skills, information and communications technology, and life skills.
Students are dropping out of school in large numbers, many because they do not have the academic literacy skills to be successful in school. Limited literacy skills are a barrier to getting and retaining good employment and participating actively as a citizen. A substantial percentage of high school graduates need remedial classes in reading and writing when they get to the Gambia College or The University of The Gambia (UTG), etc. Scores on the National Assessment Test (NAT) remain flat. The bottom line is that many students in The Gambia are leaving high school unprepared to read, write, speak, listen, and think at a level needed for college, careers, or citizenship.
Many school leaders are daunted by the size and complexity of the task. Systemic development of literacy influences—and is influenced by—all aspects of school including curriculum, instruction, assessment, policies and structures, resource allocation, teacher professional development, and school culture. Therefore, it is understandable that many upper basic and secondary school leaders wonder where to begin and what is involved in the process of improving literacy achievement for all students despite the free education for all. The Education Policy of the Gambia should be accompanied by a National Book Policy!
Our goal in as an association is to help junior school, secondary school, and tertiary institutions address the challenge of improving students’ skills in reading, writing, speaking, and thinking. School and regional education offices need to know what they can do to reverse the cycle of failure experienced by so many students in the areas of reading and writing and how schools can be organized to prepare all students to meet the literacy demands of 21st-century life, be it in school, in the workplace, or as a citizen. In the broadest sense, school and regional education offices need to take three important steps:
1. Develop and communicate a literacy vision: work toward a shared understanding of literacy goals, and create a schoolwide literacy vision that will inspire faculty, students, parents, and the community to motivate and engage students in becoming competent readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers by reading Gambian books written by Gambians. We must get rid of all foreign books in our schools and replace them with our own books. I’ve travelled wider across Africa to 15 different countries – I can tell with certainty that you hardly find foreign books in school curriculums of other African countries.
2. Translate the literacy vision into action: establish and lead a schoolwide literacy team ( book clubs in school which is our mandate ) that includes representatives from all content areas who will work to develop and implement a schoolwide literacy action plan for at least one year. Provide quality teacher professional development and expect all teachers to provide literacy support in the content areas. Ensure that literacy interventions are in place to help struggling readers and aspiring writers. Set up procedures to monitor progress. We need reading and writing projects to implement this vision. Reading and writing should be taught in schools as a subjects if we want to improve our performance in WAEC/WASSCE as a nation. It’s so sad noticing how terribly bad public offices in The Gambia write reports, letters, minutes, statements , etc and interestingly, those overseeing those offices are the very PhD holders, those with masters degrees, etc.
3. Create and sustain a supportive, literacy-rich environment: promote an academically oriented, orderly, and purposeful school climate with literacy as the central focus on the use of Gambian books in school curriculums. We’re sick and tired of getting our books approved by MoBSE without any form of patronage from them. At least if they won’t buy the book, let them closely work with the Gambia Printing and Publishing Cooperation (GPPC) to print and send all books approved by MoBSE to schools across the country.
I would like to acknowledge the high level of engagement we have had with our partners ( NCAC, UNESCO and Gambia National Library Service Authority) in the development of the NATIONAL BOOK POLICY FOR THE GAMBIA. This underlines the fact that almost three quarter of the population are learners who are youths; there is a huge level of interest in our work due to its wide-spread impact as the most successful association under the NCAC.
It sets out our ambition to have the best education system in West Africa by 2030 with less foreign teachers. It recognizes that learning as a public good has a critical role in the development, cohesion and wellbeing of society. Education is at the heart of all of our ambitions as a nation. No other area of government activity has greater capacity to change our country for the better apart from education. It supports the development of a strong growing economy while sustaining a fair and compassionate society. An excellent and innovative education and training system is pivotal to personal fulfillment, the building of a fair society and a successful nation. It is central to sustaining economic success and in building strong communities. Our central vision is that, through adopting a “whole-of-system” approach, the Gambian education system should lead in innovation and a broad range of endeavors and that we will harness education and training to break down barriers for groups at risk of exclusion and set the benchmark for social inclusion. Through this approach, our ambition is that we will deliver to the highest national and international standards, and prepare learners of all ages to participate and succeed in a changing world.
Since our inception in 2009 to date , we have sent more than 20 people to the first and second Republics of The Gambia. Meaning that most of our executive members still hold or held high positions in government such as Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, PS, DPS, Director Generals, Dean of various departments, etc. We’ve made real progress towards achieving our goals and objectives. 86% of actions targeted for delivery by the end of 2020 is to create a Gambia of arts and culture.
The intended book policy emphasis across the continuum of education from early years to higher education includes: taking action to strengthen and revitalize the gone Fast Track Initiative (FTI) ; using digital technologies to enhance teaching, learning and assessment; increasing competence in local languages; initiating a review of senior cycle programmes; tackling disadvantage, strengthening inclusion and supporting transitions; building leadership capacity and actively supporting a professional workforce; continuously improving quality including embedding a new model of inspections and a review of higher education; strengthening entrepreneurship and innovation; focused engagement with enterprise; and enhancing career opportunities and developing strong alternative pathways including further education and training, traineeships and apprenticeships.
Modou Lamin Age-Almusaf Sowe ( ML Sowe)- Author and Scholar,
Former University Librarian and the Director of Academic Research at African Development University (ADU),
Founder of the Young Writers’ Association of the Gambia (YWAG),
Current Secretary General of the Writers’ Association of The Gambia (WAG),
CEO – Founder, The Voice of The Pen (VOP).