The Gambia government has finally opted to reopen schools after an eight month-long closure, when the coronavirus first hit the country in March. The Minister of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), Claudiana Cole described the 2020-2021 school opening as the most critical and challenging period in the history of the Gambia’s education system.
“I can assure you my dear Parents, Teachers and Students that this was not an easy decision as the prolonged closure of schools, which we are all aware of, has severely affected all students in all educational settings, with the unintended effect of great learning loss and psycho-social consequences revolving around learners being at home for such long periods. My Ministry is aware that this situation has seriously deepened inequalities in learning and access to basic health and nutrition services, and negatively affected the most vulnerable segments of the population – such as the poor, the girl child, rural population, and those with special educational needs,” she said.
According to her, public decision makers are beginning to understand the virus, and seeing positive signs in our countries’ efforts to contain the pandemic. They have also learnt and gained some lessons and experiences from the partial school re-opening. Henceforth, the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education is determined to reopen schools under strict conditions, based on the advice of the Ministry of Health and in adherence to the WHO international standards.
“In light of the above, I am pleased to inform all Students, Teachers, Parents and Stakeholders, that Schools will reopen for grades 7 to 12 on October 14th, 2020 and for ECD to grade 6 on October 28th, 2020. It is my hope that maximum attention will be paid to the necessary health regulations that will ensure safe school environments for the good of all students, teachers and ancillary staff within the school settings,” she said.
When the schools got closed in March, the Ministry introduced distance learning system and the Minister claims it has positively impacted especially on grade 9 and 12 students, enabling “24,348 students to successfully sit to the GABECE” which reflects an “increase of 3.44% from the previous year” while also enabling “14,323 students” who sat to the “WASSCE, representing an increase of 3.10%.”