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We are failing our children

Yahya Sillah is a Gambian social commentator
Yahya Sillah is a Gambian social commentator

The majority of Gambians are squarely pointing their fingers at the government in relation to the recent mass failure of our schooling system. Please, as intelligent citizens, let’s calm ourselves down and realise that the phenomenon of schools failing is not only confined to The Gambia. Education systems around the world are struggling to cope with the numerous social and economical challenges which are facing them.

Here, I am limiting my discussions to the challenges facing The Gambia. I might sound ridiculous if I attempted to point out every single major factor responsible for the failure our children. However, we cannot ignore the following: lack of desire to learn, lack of support from parents, lack of role models to inspire the children, lack of adequate funding from sources other than government and lack of qualified teachers available. These, and many more, are the chief contributing factors in The Gambia.

Lack of desire to learn

In the past five years of my charity work in The Gambia, I learnt through my interaction with children that most of them find it quite useless waking up in the morning and going to school to pursue a goal which in their view wouldn’t bring them future wealth.  I noticed that this lack of motivation to learn is skyrocketing, particularly among young boys. Significant numbers of children and adults in the Gambia are actually contemplating to seek a future in Europe and become rich men and women rather than  pursuing higher education for their social well-being. It’s sad to realise that most people in our society struggle to comprehend the idea of the benefit of a quality education.

Lack of parental support

You often hear intelligent students complaining about a lack of parental support in their education. They want access to the right tools, such as lunch, school books, computers, an ideal environment to study at home and encouragement to do their homework. Some parents pressurise their children to prematurely take the role of breadwinner, rather than studying long-term to become doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers and more.  Therefore using the ‘Back Way’ to Europe rather than using the front door to school is more likely to happen.

Lack of role models

There are very few role models available to young people. The people they admire as ideal role models are mostly European and American Superstars, and this has no influence on their education.

Lack of funding

Apart from government funding, it’s pretty rare to see philanthropists injecting cash and providing other essential tools to educational institutions. As a result, there are limited private or public libraries in the country.

Lack of qualified teachers

Without exaggeration there is almost no incentive in the Gambia to become a teacher. Usually people will try any other profession, before thinking of becoming a teacher. There is a mandatory teacher training program in the country, however, it’s far below the international standard, hence failure in the system is inevitable.

We are failing our children

Please don’t think I am excusing our children, but their constant failure and lack of performance at school are partly due to the way we impose education on them. As a result, instead of seeing education as the mean for human advancement and personal well being, they considered it to be a useless institution which carries a heavy burden just to pass exams.  I would like to assume the majority of 12,860 students who failed to pass this year’s West Africa Senior Secondary School Examination Certificate were actually quite intelligent people. They are not failing us – instead it’s our culture of collective failure of responsibility. However, I salute the 475 students out of 13,335 who managed to obtain University entrance; huge congratulations to them.

By Yaya Sillah


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