Gambia Children and School

By | June 18, 2021

School in Gambia

In The Gambia, children start school at the age of seven. School fees have not been paid in Gambia since 1998 and schooling is compulsory up to the 6th grade.

The school system is based on that in England. That dates back to the colonial times when Gambia was British. The primary school (Primary School) for six years. Then who goes to school, visited for another six years secondary school (Secondary School). After the 9th grade and an exam, you can also switch to a school that is supposed to prepare you for a future career.

However, only 69 out of 100 children are at all enrolled in school and only 63 of 100 children then go actually to school. Sometimes the parents don’t have the money to pay for exercise books or pens, sometimes the children are forced to earn money instead of going to school. This affects 19 out of 100 children, i.e. every fifth child. Sometimes the next school is also far away. For example, if the way to school is three miles, some children may not come back or come to school regularly.

But those who go to school usually sit in a classroom with many other children. With luck there are 35, but there can also be 60 or 70 students in a class. Classes take place mornings and afternoons.

Teaching is in English. This is a problem for the first graders because many only speak Mandinka or Wolof or another language of their people. Children who go to kindergarten are lucky because they are prepared for English there. However, only 29 percent of children go to such a kindergarten or pre-school.

Childhood in Gambia

Many children in The Gambia are not doing very well. They are poor, have to starve, get sick or have to work. Many marry very young, others live on the streets.


10 percent of the Gambia’s population lives below the poverty line and has less than $ 1.90 a day to live on. Many people don’t have enough to eat.

Sick and alone

In the Gambia, almost three out of 100 newborns die, almost four out of 100 year olds and six out of 100 five year olds! There are many reasons for this: not all of them have clean drinking water and then get sick. A particularly large number of children die from diarrhea. There are also diseases like malaria that kill children. 87,000 children in Gambia are orphans, so they no longer have parents.

Child labor

19 percent of children in Gambia work. These girls (18 percent) and boys (21 percent) do not go to school. There are also talibés. They roam the streets begging. You can read more about Talibés at Senegal (see there).

Street children

Many children live on the streets. They too beg or steal or collect rubbish.

Marry young

Another problem is that some girls are married before they are 15 years old. In Gambia, a country located in Africa according to, this affects nine out of 100 girls. For girls who were married at the age of 18, the proportion is then 30 percent. These numbers are not as high as in neighboring countries, but still too high.

Gambia Schools

Eating in Gambia

What do you eat in the Gambia?

Rice is the main staple food in The Gambia. Millet and cassava are also used in the kitchen. They are combined with fish or meat, as well as vegetables, beans, tomatoes, spinach, okra pods or cabbage. Everything is often spiced up, for example with chili and pepper. Maggi cubes are also often used for seasoning. Peanuts, the main crop in the Gambia, are of course also used, for example in sauces.

What is yassa?

A popular Gambian dish is yassa, which, like many other dishes, is also eaten in Senegal. Yassa is meat (often chicken) or fish, pickled in lemon juice and served with rice and onions.

Domoda is a stew based on peanut butter.

And what else is there?

Fish balls, maafe stew (with peanuts), and jollof rice (in Wolof it is called benachin) are also popular. Tapalapa bread is a typical bread that is eaten in Gambia, Senegal and Guinea.

Thiakry is a sweet dessert made from couscous, sweetened milk, and spices. Many Gambian dishes are also typical in Senegal, as several peoples live in both countries and they are very close to each other. You can find a recipe for Thiakry in our participation tip !

Morning, noon, evening

Traditionally, you eat little or a warm meal for breakfast. In the city, however, the western breakfast has already established itself. Many Gambians eat bread with butter or jam there.

At lunchtime and in the evening, something warm is definitely eaten. A large bowl or bowl is placed on the floor and everyone sits around it. With the right hand – which is washed before eating – or with a spoon everyone eats from this bowl. In the evening there is often fish or meat with bread, couscous or salad.

Eat by hand!

This is how you eat with your hand: You take a little of the rice, shape it into a ball in your hand, which you then roll forward towards your fingers and put your fingers in your mouth. If there is a sauce to go with it, you press a hollow in the rice ball, with which the sauce can be absorbed. Meat or fish is either already allocated in front of the eaters (you only eat from the bowl that is directly in front of you) or you pluck a piece of the meat that is in the middle of the bowl. Of course only with the right hand! The piece is then placed again on your own piece of shell before you eat it!