Registered Charity no 1098642
Registered Charity no 1098642

Most of HELPING's projects involve schools, especially the creation of nurseries to improve the language and numeracy skills of children before they start at primary school - what Gambians call Lower Basic school - at the age of seven.  However, children can only start school if their families can afford to send them.

The Gambian government provides schools but education is not free and families have to pay for school fees, uniforms and stationery.  School uniform is compulsory but school is not! Gambian families tend to be large and a family may only have the money to pay for one child to be educated. 

There is no automatic progression from one school year to the next.  Pupils have to achieve a level of competence before they move up a class.  Many children have to drop out of school for lengthy periods if they cannot afford school fees, then restart at the point at which they left.  As a result, classes comprise children of a wide range of ages and some children do not finish school until their 20s.

Gambians place a high value on education and children are very keen to learn.  Many travel long distances on foot to reach their nearest school and class sizes can be as large as 80 children with one teacher.  They struggle with very limited facilites and equipment in buildings which usually have no electricity and sometimes no water.  All teaching in Gambian schools takes place in English which is a second language for all the children.

There are no State nurseries.  Some private nurseries exist on the South Bank where more affluent families may be able to afford the fees.  HELPING has built nurseries in some of the poorest communities on the less developed North Bank where poverty is widespread.  HELPING nurseries are free, provide free lunch for the children and each child receives a free uniform when they enrol.  Having a nursery education provides a head start for children, enabling them to make better progress more quickly and to begin to fulfil their potential.