Schools in The Gambia



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Education in The Gambia

The education system in The Gambia is similar to the one in the UK.
Potential sponsors are often confused by the different information they are given so here is our explanation.

 There are several types of school in Gambia.

Nursery usual age from 3/4 to 6/7
Lower Basic - usual age from 6/7 to 12/13
Junior Secondary/ Upper Basic - usual age 12 to 15
Senior Secondary - usual age 15 to 18
Islamic school - all ages

 The ages given here are the planned age for schools, but in practice students may be older for several reasons.


Lower Basic School

Gambian children start at Lower Basic School around the age of 7. There are 6 years of primary education, tuition during the first 5 can be FREE, depending on the school, but each child has to buy a school uniform, school shoes, a bag, books and pencils. Some stay at school at lunch time, but most go home for lunch. In the last year of primary school (Grade 6) most schools charge a small fee to cover examinations. Children will attend school for half a day only, either in the morning or the afternoon. 

 There are many variations, but during primary schooling the main costs are clothing, and school equipment. Some schools are sponsored by Gambian businesses or by tourist organisations or charities and at these, there may be FREE uniform or books. These differences make it hard for sponsors who will be told different things about costs.


 GETS provides a detailed estimate for any child attending any school and keeps an individual account for each sponsor with details of money spent and received. Fees for Lower Basic students sponsored by GETS members vary from D1,985 to D2,700 a year in a state school and from D4,675 to D8,080 in a private school


 All schooling, except that in Islamic schools, is carried out in English. In primary classes the children learn their numbers, how to count, learn the days of the week and the months of the year. Much is done through rhymes and rhythms with the better children in each grade leading the class. The quality depends on the resources of the individual school, some will have desks and chairs while others will have benches. Most have a board of some sort on the wall, some have nothing. Some have toilets for the children, some just have holes in the ground.  It depends on the luck that the school has had with sponsorship and that often depends on the enterprise of the head and their staff.

Towards the last years of primary education most of the children can read and write. Most parents do their best to send their children to all 6 years of Lower Basic School, but because of costs some never go on to Junior Secondary/Upper Basic school.

Nursery School

Lessons are usually held in the mornings only. These are all private schools so the fees vary greatly. The fees of students sponsored by GETS members vary from D3,500 to D30,000 a year.


School facilities vary greatly



Junior Secondary/Upper Basic School

At the age of about 13, Junior Secondary/Upper Basic education starts. Again the quality is not uniform but most children will have a desk and chair and all are expected to improve their English so that they can read and write.

The costs increase each year, with the first term in each year being the most expensive because there is a new uniform & new books to buy. Fees for Upper Basic students sponsored by GETS members vary from D1,720 to D2,136 a year in a state school and fees for a student at a private Upper Basic school are D8,200

This currency converter from Access Gambia will
help you relate the costs to the currency you use

Senior Secondary School 

From the age of 15/16, families that can afford it send their children for the 3 final years of schooling which ends with the pupils taking the school leaving examination.

Once again the fees increase and again the first and last years are the most expensive because of change of uniform and final examination fees.  Fees for Senior Secondary students sponsored by GETS members are about D4,550 a year in a state school and the fees for a student at a private Senior Secondary school vary from D4,800 to D16,000 a year.

There is now the additional cost of food at lunch time. This is most important as many children travel by bus from their villages and have no way of getting home for lunch. When the average family maybe has a total income of around  50 a month to pay for everything, it is not surprising that children's education suffers, not only does it save the considerable costs but as the child can then work, it provides the family with more income.

Skills School

If children have not passed the Grade 9 exam at the end of the Upper Basic School, or do not wish to continue through to Grade 12 in the Senior Secondary School, they can go to a Skills School to learn cookery, woodwork, tie-dye, sewing and other practical subjects whilst continuing with basic English and maths. Again costs will vary from school to school.

Islamic School
It is difficult to get any costs for this sort of education, but it seems that if finances are critical then girls will go to the Islamic school so when they get married they can bring up their children to understand the principles of the Koran.