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From $28 Million ‘Food for Education’ to National Teacher Prize: US Boosts Gambia Education

By Sanna Camara

From the launch of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program over the weekend to the convening of the first ever National Teacher Prize in the Gambia, the United States government continues to boost education sector for social impacts and national development.

The US Ambassador and its Embassy in The Gambia has been a strong ally to US-Gambian educator, Mr Alhassan Susso, in the initiative to recognize and motivate teachers and educators in the country through the National Teacher Prize 2024. Through this initiative, some two dozen US educators are convening in Banjul this week, courtesy of The Namie Foundation, led by the award winning educator.

A five-year $28million project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims not only to improve literacy, health, and nutrition outcomes in six target regions of The Gambia, but also to enhance the quality and access to education for students across the country.

On the other hand, the National Teacher Prize also aims to motivate and recognize the work of teachers in the country, to promote welfare and retention, both of which align with the education policy and national development goals of The Gambia.

According to Unicef 2020 data, 38.7 per cent of male children and 3.8 per cent of female children of the key population group not completing primary education. In turn, 26.7 per cent of children of the target population not completing primary education live in urban areas, with 53.8 per cent no completing in rural areas.

Sharon L. Cromer, United States Ambassador to The Gambia, expressed excitement at the launch of the project. She notes its potential in improving primary school literacy through nutrition, addressing numeracy, gender parity, health, nutrition, and sanitation, while building the capacity of local farmers in the Gambia.

The Unicef education data further reveals a 14.41% (2022), representing 62,607 children (ages 7–12 years) out-of-school children (OOSC) rate. Lower basic education completion rate have increased to 96% in 2022 (girls 100%; boys 91%), from 74% (2010); however, the upper basic education rate decreased to 63% (68% girls, 58% boys) from 65% (2021).

Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Claudiana A. Cole described school feeding program as a crucial social protection initiative in The Gambia, dating back to the 1970s.

“The school feeding program would motivate parents to send and retain their children in school,” she said.

Hon Cole noted that with food and educational support, quality teaching and the provision of teaching and learning materials, it is hoped that school enrolment will increase, retention will be enhanced, and drop-out rate will be reduced, whilst performance will greatly be improved.

Mr Alhassan Susso, in unveiling the seven regional winners of the National Teacher Prize in January, said The Namie Foundation launched this prize as one of three mission objectives, adding that the award serves as a testament to the teachers’ dedication and commitment to shaping the minds of future generations, while promoting collaboration among key education stakeholders through ‘The Best Teacher Prize’ initiative.

The National Teacher Prize of The Gambia is scheduled for the 15th February 2024. Mr Susso as the Chairman and the Board of The Namie Foundation, and the Organizing Committee of this National Teacher Prize 2024, comprising representatives of the Ministry of Basic Education, Gambia Teachers Union, educators and other professionals, will have a convergence of the delegation of 24 US educators to The Gambia today in Banjul. This delegation also comprised top-notch educationists in the US, drawn from academia, personal development and other subject specialisations.

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