By Mama A. Touray
First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow on Friday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center, Bijilo presided over the launch of the zero out of school children project in the Gambia, a United Nation International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Gambia government project in partnership with Education Above All.
The project is meant to support 66,766 children, ages seven to twelve that are out of school, out of which fifty-one percent are girls and forty-nine percent are boys, and 1.5 percent are children with disabilities.
Speaking at the launch First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow said education is the source of livelihood and that any contribution towards the educational status of society is a source of capital for human development.
The First Lady added that she is happy to have contributed her part towards this national commitment and leadership to invest in children’s education to reach every child and to get ready to make sure that every child is educated.
She continued: “With my support, this project is indeed another major initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Basic and secondary education to achieve the overall vision of the country’s educational blueprint which is in line with the national development plan and the United Nations sustainable development goals
For her part, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Hon Claudiania Cole said she is happy to witness yet another turning point in the educational system of Gambia supported by the Qatar fund for development and that the Gambia like many sub-Saharan countries struggles to ensure all children are in school, especially at the right age.
“Data from 2018, multiple indicated that less than one in four children of age thirty-six and fifty-nine months old attends early childhood education, about 74.6 percent of six-year-old, one year younger than the official primary entry age of seven years attends early child education, the disparity in early childhood education attendance exist between the local administrative regions as well as rural 67.1 percent children in the urban area and 78.8 percent in the rural area in terms of school readiness sixty-nine percent of seven year old had early childhood education,” she outlined.
Meanwhile, UNICEF representative (OIC) Shahid Mahbub Awan said in accordance with UNICEF’s global mandate on equity as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Global Out-of-School Children Initiative. He noted that the project launched is aligned with EAC’s mission, vision, and goals and will contribute to the overall education policy and Country Strategic Plan Results of Gambia and will further strengthen the country’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general and specifically- SDG 4.
He continued that “UNICEF Gambia is proud of the partnership with MoBSE, Child Fund, and EFANET throughout the journey of developing this project. What we have achieved so far in putting this project together is just the first lap of the race. Building and keeping this partnership is a critical success factor throughout the project period. Providing space and opportunity for wider community participation and social dialogue will also enable us to reduce the Out-of-School rate in the Gambia from 28 percent to zero.”