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ChildHope, and our local partners Child Protection Alliance (CPA) and the Institute for Social Reformation and Action (ISRA) are implementing a 1 year project in 12 religious schools (Majalis) in the poorest communities of The Gambia to provide access to effective education in safe environments. Prioritising cultural education and with limited alternative options, parents send their children to these unregistered residential schools to live with traditional teachers but are unable to finance their upkeep. As a result, children often spend more time labouring in fields, even begging, than in education. Whilst often living in inadequate conditions. The project works in partnership with government agencies to provide basic education, improve living conditions and provides support for livelihoods improving the lives of 2,970 children.

Children in The Gambia

Improving Majalis and quality education

Initiated a register of children’s attendance in all 12 Majalis this will provide a clear understanding of how many children are in school and receiving a basic education.

Established an agreement within the 12 Majalis that child must not be used to beg.

Set up vegetable plots in all 12 Majalis providing materials, seeds and training for 32 staff to help provide quality nutrition to the children.

Trained 33 Majalis staff on First Aid techniques and distributed First Aid boxes in all 12 Majalis.

Planning solar cookers and cereal banks to reduce the need for children to fetch and transport wood and provide alternative livelihood options in all 12 Majalis.

Longer term change and advocacy

Conducted a national survey of unregistered schools to provide evidence for advocacy with government

Provided training of 33 Heads of Majalis from all 6 regions of The Gambia on Child Rights and protection issues;

Supported the provision of literacy and numeracy teaching;

Marabouts are the religious teachers at the Majalis (religious schools) and are assured of funding to help meet basic needs including access to water.

Facilitated the provision of educational materials for a Majili destroyed by fire.

Lessons learnt

Traditional teachers cite poverty as a driver for sending children to work, as parents do not or cannot fund children’s upkeep. Through starting up 12 community cereal banks to increase incomes for parents.

Sensitivity to and respect for the culture and tradition of communities is key to winning their confidence. It is important to frame sensitive issues in a culturally appropriate context. In this way, traditional teachers welcome a dialogue about child rights, and open discussions to encourage parents to prioritise education.

We have set-up locally-led community child protection committees to act as monitoring groups. Enabling child rights and child protection in Majalis will take time and requires continuous dialogue and engagement with traditional and other community leaders.

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