The Republic of The Gambia is located in West Africa and is bordered on the north, south, and east by Senegal, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The borders roughly mirror the Gambia River which runs through the middle of the country. The population of The Gambia is 1,735,464 and the literacy rate is 40.1%. The Gambia is the smallest country of continental Africa. It was also the home of Kunta Kinteh, the ancestor of Alex Haley as described in his book Roots. It is estimated that about 3 million people were taken from the area and sold into slavery.
Arab traders visited the area of present-day Gambia during the 9th and 10th centuries. By the 14th century, it was part of the Malian empire. During the late 17th century and the 18th century, Britain and France fought for supremacy along the Gambia River. The 1784 Treaty of Versailles gave the Gambia River to Britain. After an agreement with France in 1888 on borders, Gambia became a British Crown Colony known as British Gambia. On February 18, 1965, Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom and was the last British colony in Africa. In 1982, Gambia and Senegal formed the Senegambia Confederation to unify their currencies and economies. In 1989, Gambia ceded from the confederation.
Primary and Secondary Education
The Gambia’s educational system previously followed the British 6+5+2 pattern. After 6 years of primary education and 5 years of secondary education, students completed their Ordinary Level (O Level) examinations. Students could choose to do an additional 2 years of study, which led to the Advanced Level (A Level) exams. Both were awarded by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) at the time. Students with a minimum of 5 O Level subject passes were eligible for university admission, whereas those with a minimum of 2 A Level subject passes were eligible for direct entry into year two of university study.
Now the Gambia follows a 6+3+3 system of primary and secondary education. 6 years of primary education are followed by 3 years of lower secondary study, leading to the Gambia Basic Certificate of Education from WAEC. Upper secondary education is also 3 years. Upon successful completion, students earn the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). The results can be verified online with WAEC scratch cards/PINs.
Gambia College was established in 1978 and offers programs in agriculture, nursing, education, and public health. However, no system of higher education existed in The Gambia until 1995. The University of the Gambia was founded in 1999 and is the only institution to offer university-level degrees in the country.
Admission to Gambia College and The University of the Gambia requires 3-5 passes (depending on the program of study) on the West African Examinations Council Senior Secondary School Certificate. Gambia College offers 2-year certificate and 3-year higher diploma programs. The University of the Gambia offers 4-year bachelors degree programs. They do not currently offer graduate programs.
Gambia College offers a 3-year program for training basic and senior secondary school teachers. Upon successful completion, students are awarded a Gambia Primary Teachers' Certificate or a Gambia Higher Teachers' Certificate.