By Yankuba Jallow
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education said they haven’t received any funds from the Government to fight the global pandemic, Coronavirus.
The Ministry of Education is providing lessons over the radio and television which many alleged the budget for the broadcasting is thirty-five million dalasis (D35,000,000).
Ebrima Sisawo stated this in a press conference held at the Ministry in Banjul on Thursday, 9th April 2020 about their interventions to ensure learning continues while students are at home amidst the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
“For now we haven’t received any money from the Government. The D35 million is false,” he said.
He said all schools have been closed as a measure to control the spread of the pandemic adding that about 674,000 students are affected both in the conventional and madrassa schools.
He said the Ministry, in line with their Education Policy 2016-2030 came up with distance learning through radio and television broadcast.
He said before the coming of COVID-19, the Ministry has in their plan to come up with distance learning. On the impact of the closure of the schools, he said many hours of schooling have been lost and the recent extension for further 45 days will contribute greatly to the lost.
“More hours will be lost during the extension and we have to keep all learners at home while learning continues,” he said.
He said the Ministry is engaged in the sensitisation of children and their parents about the importance of distance learning so that learning can continue.
“The Ministry is working to have community radios in all regions. Already some of the upper basic schools have been provided with television sets and we are working on providing internet connectivity in all schools under the Ministry,” he said.
He said they are going to solarise thousands of schools countrywide.
He said the Ministry is about to put the right infrastructure to implement this programme- distance learning. He added that electricity, lack of television and radio in schools is the major challenge to the implementation of the project of distance learning.
“We are aware that some children were playing in the streets while the lessons were given. We are sensitising the children, but parents are expected to support us by making sure their children watch or listen to the lessons given” he said.
He said people should not take the excuse of not having a radio or television as the reason why they are in the streets because they have books to read. He added that a survey indicates that 78% of the households in The Gambia have television sets.
There cannot be quality education without the effective participation of their parents.
In the past 10 days, a total of 100 lessons have been recorded and are ready to be broadcast.
He said in Region 6, teachers are delivering lessons through Whatsapp, particularly, the Senior Secondary Schools.
He said after the pandemic, the Ministry will design a way to recover lost time; through extending school hours paying attention to double shift.
“This is not a perfect strategy and everybody will not be covered. Our desire is to reach everybody, but unfortunately we couldn’t,” he said.
PS Sisawo said people should complement the Ministry’s effort and nothing stops the private companies to provide those deprived children with mobile phones. He said they are playing their part and people should join them and play their part.
“This is an emergency situation and we cannot cover all subjects. We are doing subjects that are common to all. Naturally, all these subjects cannot be covered during this period. We have a team of technical experts and they are looking into it,” he said.
On the Madarasa, Sisawo said the biggest discrimination faced by the Madarasa students is after completing their education, they cannot work in the civil service as a result of their level of English Language. He said the Ministry is solving this problem by partnering with AMANA to provide all Madarasas with English and Maths teachers.