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The Gambia Should Conduct National Teachers’ Competency Tests And Develop A Reading Framework

Celebrating International Literacy Day 2023, the Gambia’s young scholar, writer, and sustainable development champion, Modou Lamin Age-almusaf Sowe, who has been promoting SDG goals 4, 11, and 13 for over 5 years has said the country needs a reading framework while teachers should undergo a national teaching competency test every 5 years.

ML Sowe pays tribute to Dr. Lenrie Peters, Dr. Ralphina Almeida, Dr. Cherno Omar Barry, Prof. Pierre Gomez, teachers, scholars, writers, and all those who furthered the value of humanity through books and teaching.

The young scholar disclosed that the current literacy rate in The Gambia is precisely 50.78%. The Gambia has, according to UNESCO, a literacy rate of 50.78%, while the male literacy rate is 61.77%, and the female literacy rate is 41.58%, showing a big gap between the sexes. There are more males literate in the Gambia than females. In our schools, boys perform better than girls in both internal and external examinations.

In comparison with other countries, he said The Gambia has a low literacy rate. “A point of concern is that the literacy rate has decreased in recent years. The Gambia Education Policy is aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 4, focusing on accessible, equitable, and inclusive quality education for all. The Constitution of The Gambia states that basic education is a right and should be free, compulsory, and available to all,” he explained.

However, he admitted that there is a huge gap in terms of advocacy, capacity building, and promoting relevant and quality education that matches modern learning needs. More so, he added that COVID-19 was a perfect example and an indicator of how unprepared our education sector had been in terms of aligning our curriculums with modern learning and teaching methods.

“We have been doing very well in internal and external examinations, but there is every need to conduct a national teachers’ competency test every 5 years and lay off teachers who are not fit enough to remain in the teaching system. Those who pass the test can be maintained with a salary increment, and those who fail the test can be compensated and work on improving themselves, he suggested.

Furthermore, he urged the concerned stakeholders to develop a national reading framework to promote reading and practical learning in junior secondary schools. Thus most Gambian students graduating from high school every year either have a reading problem or are not competent to enter the workforce effectively, he lamented. At the same time, adding that not just high school students but even some university graduates. The national reading framework should also promote and preserve the national languages as a way of promoting non-formal education.

A rebrand is upon the populace, and it’s been a long time coming. Maybe it’s a new age or a new revolution, but he said he has been thinking about the Gambia developing a national reading framework in addition to its existing education policies.

But quick to say that the country has a national problem of readership and there is every need to re-evaluate the country’s education system every year and fix the broken leads of literacy that must be addressed critically.

“What do you think will become of Gambian students in 2030? Something that encompasses our national languages should be put into consideration. The reason why we could not overcome our national education crisis is not because there are not enough qualified teachers to teach in our schools—or there are not enough classrooms for teaching—but because it is the teaching methods, the rewards for teaching, and existing policies that must change.

“One of the problems confronting The Gambia is the gradual but steady literacy erosion that can be noted from one region to another. People are becoming rather too lazy to read or too busy to learn,” he claimed.

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Yunus S Saliu

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