Education in The Gambia – One step at a time

Onderstaande weblog schreef ik in het kader van het vak Children's Rights from an International Perspective, dat ik momenteel volg aan de VU Amsterdam.

This month I had the chance to visit The Gambia. This country is one of the smallest, in size and in number, African countries situated in Western Africa. The estimated population is just over 1.7 million (SOWCR, 2009) with 50 percent of the people being children and youth under 18. Although the Gambian state is making progress in the field of education not everybody is going to school yet. In this short piece I would like to discuss the issue of law concerning the right to education and I will defend the point of view that this children’s right is not guaranteed in The Gambia.

Based on the legal framework there should be no problem with guaranteeing this right, since The Gambia is a State Party of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which includes the right of the child to education in article 28. Besides that, they are a State Party of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which contains the right to education as well (article 11) and moreover, they are one of the few countries with a wide-ranging Children’s Act, which has the goal of harmonizing national law with the relevant international conventions and declarations.

The Charter was adopted in July 1990 by the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) in July 1990 and entered into force in November 1999. It was created to complement the CRC. Both conventions include principles of non-discrimination and participation, but the African States felt the need to address some topics specifically to African children, for example harmful practices against the girl child, such as female genital mutilation and the duties and responsibilities of the child towards the family and community.

Based on art. 28 CRC and art. 11 of the African Charter The Gambia should establish free and compulsory primary education and encourage children to go to school. Even though The Gambia has different promising policies to improve the situation, it is not clear that the situation has indeed improved. Since The Gambia has not reported to the CRC since 2001 it is difficult to give percentages concerning the amount of children that are attending school.

One of the most urgent matters at this moment is the short period of compulsory education. Education is only obligatory for children between 7 to 12 years old. The second important concern is the quality of education. Right now The Gambia has the policies but NGOs are doing the work. Numerous international institutions are willing to help The Gambia so my suggestion would be that The Gambia signs the protocols to the CRC and the ICESCR (which will open individual communication procedures) and starts working together with the NGOs. This way The Gambia will be able to take more steps, which they should be taking, in creating an educational environment that complies with the children’s right to education.

To read more about the project I visited you can go to their website:

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