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early childhood development, teacher-training (ED)

education support
£1,150 - details below
Help develop a pioneering Early Childhood  Development training and resource centre in the Gambia -  volunteer with the country's first ECD resource. Live and work in one of the friendliest countries in Africa!
Click for larger imageSkillsRequired

We work closely with the local people who manage this project, and they have identified their  primary volunteer needs.

Lisong Bah and the Early Childhood Development Centre would welcome the following skills and volunteer input

  • ECD professionals
  • curriculum development
  • training programme design
  • training implementation
  • brochure and print resource development
  • creative play development
  • child counsellors
  • arts and crafts teachers
  • classroom management
  • bid writing - to facilitate accreditation
  • sharing ideas with local teachers about maximising available free resources and low cost items would be invaluable.

The Project
The Early Childhood Development Resource Centre (Futures) is the vision of Mrs Lisong Bah, a Gambian educator who has worked as an ECD educator and programme coordinator first for Unicef and then for Christian Children’s Fund (CCF).

Futures seeks to provide
"an environment that nurtures children, provides for child friendly settings, appropriate childcare practices, and ensure holistic child development, thus securing a generation of adults that have developed in a holistic manner to sustain and maintain good governance, productivity and peace in the future."

Early childhood care and development has become part of the basic education title in The Gambia and The Deprtment of Education is keen to work with Futures to provide training for pre school teachers. The education policy (2004-2015) acknowledges the importance of these early years, and the department of state for education has developed linkages with other governments, NGOs and local authorities and local communities to promote an integrated approach to ECD. Since ECD is largely provided by the private sector, affordability becomes an issue and poses a major constraint for poor households. The problem becomes more pronounced in rural areas where poverty is more acute and where the traditional practice of leaving children in the care of siblings or grandparents, or having children accompanying their mothers to the farm or work place still remains the dominant practice for early childhood care.

" I’m realising that Lisong is right when she says the important thing is to train new teachers and raise the quality of the children’s experiences in the classroom, and that you don’t need expensive resources to do that.  I’ve seen a few classrooms now with the odd thing obviously donated by well-meaning visitors from abroad – the odd reading book or coloured poster, and they always look at though they are just put on one side or sellotaped to the wall and never looked at, for example alphabet friezes with half the sections missing.  I’m coming to realise that donating things is a waste of money, the important thing is to raise the quality of teachers. " Volunteer Dianne 2009 

Nursery schooling in The Gambia covers a higher age range than in the UK as children do't start school until they are seven or nearly eight years old, and Gambian pre-schools therefore care for children between the ages of 2 to 8. 

Facilities vary greatly - from good to barely non-existent.  Some schools have links or sponsors from overseas who provide equipment and maybe send visitors to provide occasional training.   Many others have as many as 50 to a class, with only one member of staff and when he or she is absent, they just have to double up with another class as there is no supply teaching facility available. There is little or nothing in the way of equipment apart from pencils and chalk, most of the learning is by rote and some classroom walls are completely bare.  At the moment, nursery teachers who have completed the only ECD course at Gambia College are paid as unqualified teachers, earning only 750 dalasi a month, which is about £22. A meaningful and accredited ECD programme will mean higher rates of pay and in turn attract the best teachers.

There are no educational equipment suppliers, early learning centres or large toy shops in The Gambia. Basic items like sugar paper and paper fasteners (attaches-parisiennes) are  impossible to find.  Children have so little opportunity for learning through play.

Pre-schools are not government funded and school  fees are 100 Dalasi (about £2.80) per term per child  in most village schools - so there is precious little to spend on equipment. Where there are resources there is often little knowledge as to how to use them creatively. 

This is the background against which Lisong is setting up her Early Childhood Development Resource Centre.
This is an opportunity for volunteers to be involved in the creation of meaningful pre school education for the children of The Gambia.

Learn more about how the volunteer programme supports Early Childhood Development in The Gambia here

The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in West Africa with a total land area of 10689 square kilometres.  It is located mid-way on the bulge of the West African Coast and stretches 350 kilometres (Km) inland from the West to East on either side of The Gambia River.  It is bound on the North, South and East by the Republic of Senegal and to the West by the Atlantic Ocean.  The River Gambia which runs the entire length of the country from the Futa Jallon Highlands in the Republic of Guinea to the Atlantic Ocean divides the country into two halves - the North and the South Banks.  

Overall per capita income is approximately US$320 per year. The Gambia is classified as one of the highly indebted poor countries.

In spite of its multi-ethnic and multi-lingual characteristics occasioned by the existence of five main ethnic groups (Mandinka, Fula, Wollof, Jola and Serahule) and a similar number of minority groups (Serers, Manjagos, Akus, Balantas, and people of Lebanese origin) there is ‘unity in diversity’ because of similar structures in the communal lifestyles.  Islam is the predominant religion with 95% of the population being Muslim. Christians account for the remainder and a few people practice traditional religions.  One common strand among ethnic groups is the patriarchy where male dominance is common.  Gender disparities are notable in that women play a limited role in the decision-making processes both in the public and private domains. Other factors that militate against women are low literacy levels and low status in society.

The social fabric of The Gambia is based on family networks often stretching into neighbouring countries where the extended family takes responsibility for the well-being and maintenance of the family.   According to the 1998 Participatory Poverty Assessments, 69% of the population live in poverty and 30% live in extreme poverty.  Poverty has been feminised as women and youths are classified the poorest of the poor.  Consequently families are finding it extremely hard to maintain this system, which largely has hindered entrepreneurship by limiting savings and investments.

Agriculture is the main economic activity and accounts for the largest proportion of economically active persons with more than half of the population engaged in subsistence farming, livestock rearing and groundnut cultivation.  Groundnut is the main cash crop but efforts to diversify have brought in sesame growing, which is predominantly grown by women.  Rice is the staple food but the country has not yet reached self-sufficiency in rice production thus leading to huge importations of the commodity.  In addition to agriculture, tourism is an important source of foreign exchange as well as of employment. 

Volunteer opportunities in this early childhood development project – whether you are a professional teacher or classroom assistant, retired or in work and looking for a career break, you can share your skills and experience with local teaching staff in this education development project. Other skills are needed too – take a look at the list of needs, as identified by the project, near the top of this page. Responsible volunteer work overseas with people and places.

"Two cameos will remain etched in my memory; one sad – a teacher sharpening the children’s pencils with a razor blade and then cutting the one pencil rubber into four pieces to share out amongst the class of 40; the other took place on the north coast in an empty school playground during the workshop we were holding. I took the elastic game with me and I have a photo of the headmaster, teachers and the regional education leader all jumping about and joining in. I do hope they have been able to share it with the children."
Joan Belshaw - volunteer - 2009  

Minimum Duration
4 weeks is an optimum length of time, but placements can be designed for as little as 2 weeks  to a maximum stay of 3 months according to volunteer input.
Living Conditions
You will stay in the comfortable home stay of reknown Gambian cook Ida.You will have your own room with a fan - 
 there is an inside bathroom with a shower and hot and cold water.
Breakfast is included - you can arrange to eat at home for an additioonal £3.50 - or eat out at one of the many eateries
Self catering and small hotel accommodation can a;sp be arranged.
Project Costs

£1150 for 4 weeks 
returning volunteers 
will receive a 25% reduction in project management and matching fees 

ead about our costs and pricing policy here 
watch an explanatory interview with programme director Sallie Grayson

Additional weeks are costed at a sliding reducing rate. Please ask for details

Please note these costs are correct to the best of our knowledge but can only be confirmed at time of booking due to changes in accommodation, transport and taxes outside our control.

Included: home stay Band B, airport transfers, full local orientation, city tour, social event,  local SIM card, project & placement liaison

Your project contribution will be used for the purchase of essential equipment  and teaching aids. Previous donations have been used to purchase training equipment and aids and educational toys.

How your money is spent based on 4 weeks
£450- direct costs in The Gambia (airport transfers, accommodation, orientation, information packs)
£250 - project management, liaison & supervision in The Gambia
£200 - project 
contribution in The Gambia
£250 - recruitment, matching & project development in UK

Not included: flights, insurance, visa costs, daily travel if needed, meals, personal expenses such as phone calls, medical expenses, etc..
an allowance of £10 to £20 per day should be be sufficient for meals.

If you or your friends and family wish to make further donations to this project CLICK HERE

Recommended Reading

A report from Lisong project director on the new futures centre - click here

Rough Guide to The Gambia

The Good Tourist in The Gambia - a guide book for the conscientious tourist

The Bradt Travel Guide Book - The Gambia
a video interview with volunteer yvonne http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYfW8GFifeM

check out slideshare   youtube  our blog  facebook for volunteer interviews & project news

Project gallery
Project reviews

Registered volunteers can learn about the local Team for this project - log on to learn more about this project and the local team we work with

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