The Republic of Gambia is the smallest country on the African mainland, and one of its poorest. In 1997, the Government of Gambia introduced free primary education for all. The implementation of this policy has resulted in an education system that is struggling to deal with increased enrollment.
Teachers face huge resource challenges. In some schools, large pupil numbers and a shortage of classrooms has necessitated a double teaching shift system. The average class size is 45 - 50 pupils. School buildings lack basic amenities, and there is grave concern about poor educational outcomes for Gambia's young people.
The Gambia Ireland Volunteers in Education (GIVE) is a project set up in 2009 to develop a working partnership between the Gambian Teachers Union and retired Irish teachers in the primary school sector. It was established by retired school principal who had travelled to Gambia and saw the need for teacher training.
And so in January 2012, fifteen retired primary school teachers embarked on a six-week trip to The Gambia, bringing with them over 500 years of teaching experience. The aim was to offer mentorship and training to Gambian teachers, to help improve the overall standard of teaching, and bring the lessons they have learned through their lives as educators in Ireland into the classrooms of The Gambia.
“Old School, New School” was presented and produced by Sarah Blake for RTE Radio 1, Ireland. Sound supervision was by Anton Timoney. Photos courtesy of Sarah Blake.