Of Gambia’s Spelling Tragedy

By Foday Jawla 

Ministry of Education

Last time someone brought a spelling contest. The outcome was a tragedy.

My brief thoughts on this topic.

During the first republic, the Gambia had very few schools. Only certain areas were having primary school. If you want to attend school, the children have to foot sometimes six kilometres or more a day just to reach the school. I was lucky to be one of those children.

After primary school, there were very few high schools. High schools entrance was based on common entrance. This admission exam was conducted by a body of WAEC. Students with high school marks go to high school and those below high school quotation go to secondary schools. They again were few but more than high schools. The standard of education met the British one. With A Levels, we were able to study at any university.

After the junta invasion in 1994, the junta open a university with cooperation of Canadian university. The professors were guest professors. The first badges were hard working students from first republic. After sometimes, the university was fully established by appointing Jammeh as head.

He was the first to be awarded doctoral and prof title.

As hardworking and motivated students, the ambition was high. He even assured them that the sky is the limit. I don’t know whether we want to go so high but at least we want to achieve our masters and PhDs.

This ambition was the problem. Students with masters and PhDs from western counties were threats. The ideas were definitely not in line with his principles as patriarch. Except few, students were sent to Taiwan and Venezuela. North Korea was also in option but entry is too restricted. To be fair, he doesn’t want to go that too far. Taiwan is direct neighbour to China. And for some geopolitical reasons, was perfect.

The socialist government in Venezuela was equally against the West. Jammeh entered the club as a junior member of the axis of evil. All students were inducted and trained to believe that the west is the evil. Try discussing with them about democracy or capitalism, you will know what I mean.

After graduation, students return home. They were brought to the TV. He will curse the west, the first republic and the British. He will boast about his achievements.

The students will be employed, promoted, etc. As more and more students were coming, Jammeh thought of a second option. This was to introduce his own faculty with PHD award. This is not the real PhD but in Jammeh’s Gambia, could be interchangeable.


Education is no more priority. The priority was to work. Of course it is true. We all go to schools up to the universities at the end of which was to get employed. He has the work.

Students then must not learn. They must not get distinctions to land you a job. In fact it can land you in prison because you are considered as someone very intelligent. The only requirement was to be ready to do everything for him. Just take some notes and someone would do the corrections. Assessment tests turned loyalty tests. How often you appear in APRC parties. How often you work on his farms were some on the job test areas. Can someone confirm that? If yes, you get the job.

A short test to get the certificate would be very if a certain director or manager also was sighted in the fields. If the trainee speaks in negative for that person, the person is fired. After employment, the employee is promised with everything. Again, the sky is the limit. They can even get their PHD without going abroad. They just have to be loyal and make sure the unloyal employees are watched and sorted out.

With this background the education in Gambia is compromised. More resources are allocated to security sector because they get the highest number of employees. Schools were ignored because no need for them. Just to get the basic.

Spellings and writing proper sentences were British ways for him and that is neo colonialism. Therefore students can write how they pronounce the words.

Are you satisfied with the education standards of our children?

Let’s join the struggle to rescue Gambia.

Our education is compromised. Let’s stand up.


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