Over the past few years, Send My Friend to school and the Steve Sinnott Foundation have run a successful Young Ambassadors Project, with young people from different parts of the world campaigning for the right to a quality education for all.
This year, the Young Ambassadors were four secondary school students, Lettitia, Mathew, Moses and Anna. Them, and their teachers from the Gambia, held various successful events during the month of October 2022.
During this time, they shared their stories, described their education and presented the obstacles they face in detail, as well as highlighting some of the solutions. Events included an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global Education meeting with UK MPs Yasmin Qureshi and Dan Carden, and a meeting with Gambian Ministers; UK school assemblies across the UK, and a cross-learning workshop with the Send My Friend to school UK Campaign Champions.
At each event, the Young Ambassadors spoke passionately about education for all, and their own experiences of education in The Gambia.
The APPG roundtable
Lettitia, Matthew, Moses and Anna passionately discussed the various barriers that many children in their community, particularly girls, face which hinders them from reaching their full potential to MPs Yasmin Quershi and Dan Carden, as well as an invited audience.
Anna explained “how hard it is to be a student in the Gambia”, focusing on the challenges encountered before even arriving to school. She described the long list of house chores to be completed before students, especially girls, go to school. Letticia highlighted the low number of teachers, which can cause very crowded classrooms and hinder Gambian students’ learning.
“We are the future leaders of tomorrow. Young people are the ones who make change, especially in this campaign” Anna, Young Ambassador 2022
Moses focused on the lack of safety, high crime rates and poor transport, with school buses unable to cater to all students. Finally, Matthew described teachers as “non-passionate” and explained how students are finding it difficult to understand the subject matter. He elaborated by saying that teachers arrive late and rush through the material which makes it difficult to comprehend. He emphasised that this takes place mostly in rural areas.
We then heard from some teachers in The Gambia, who highlighted some of the issues they face on a daily basis such as poor base salaries leading to teachers having to take on additional jobs and businesses. They pointed to the lack of professional career development, highlighting that teachers are often young, and not involved in decision making. They further pointed to a lack of resources and materials , and issues around internet connectivity, which could have a detrimental impact on young people’s learning.
Both teachers and students shared with the MPs some solutions they perceive as helpful. This includes helping the Gambian government in raising funds for the education system from different sources as they are currently only dependent on World Bank funding. Funds also need to be directed to the transport and commute system so that both teachers and students arrive at school on time.
Anna reiterated the importance of having a good and reliable internet connection as it will positively affect and improve their learning. She explained how this solution will help decrease the crowded classrooms and have access to various resources. Anna also mentioned how crucial career counseling committees are in schools as they will help young girls and eradicate the issues they face on a daily basis (FGM, superstitious and religious beliefs etc). Finally, Letitia described the importance of each school having a library especially secondary schools.
In 2022, Send My Friend has been campaigning to ensure every child is taught by a qualified, well-trained, and well-resourced teacher. This is one of the greatest investments we can make in children’s futures and is key to unlocking a quality, inclusive and “gender-transformative” education for all children. We call on the UK Government to deliver its commitments to children in the Global South by improving childrens’- including girls’, children with disabilities’ and refugees’- access to qualified teachers.
“Girls can change the world, we have the key to everything”
Anna, Young Ambassador 2022
If the UK, alongside its G7 counterparts, is to get 40 million more girls into school by 2026, then the UK must lead the G7 to commit to recruit and train 1.8 million teachers.
In accordance with the above mentioned aims, we highlight one of our main asks from the UK Government in support of the Gambian students and teachers: for a new FCDO strategy on Global Teachers, which has a focus on inclusive, and gender transformative teaching and teachers- recognising the role that teachers play in inclusion and gender equity. More recommendations can be found in our policy report, available on our website.
For further information about this project or Send my Friend to School (SMF), please contact Nada Mounzer – SMF Campaign Officer, on firstname.lastname@example.org