An Innovation in Tutoring
Shortly before Christmas nine of our scholarship students — five girls and four boys, all in grade 9 at the Salikenni village school — traveled to the Gambia’s busy metropolitan area to train for a crucial set of exams.
There, in the Salikenni Scholarship Fund’s campus in Serrekunda, just outside the
capital city Banjul, they have begun two weeks of intensive classes to prepare for
a week-long series of exams that grade 9 students throughout The Gambia will take
in June. These exams will determine whether they will be able to attend good high
schools in the urban area and thereby increase their chances of going on to higher
The training schedule in the campus library is rigorous — two hours a day in each of
four core subjects: English language, mathematics, science and SES
(social and environmental studies.) All of these, particularly English and math,
have tripped up many of our students in the past.
Eight senior SSF students, both men and women, many enrolled in the University of The Gambia, are teaching the classes as volunteers. Both the trainers and their trainees are on holiday break .
The team of senior students and alumni who manage SSF day to day in The Gambia took the initiative on their own to start the training program. They felt that our long established practice of paying selected teachers at the Salikenni school to hold after-school tutoring classes was not achieving sufficient results.
Abdoulie Bah, SSF’s new manager in The Gambia as of January 1, described the initiative as an experiment to see if a different method will get better results. An assessment will be made of student skills before and after the training. Meanwhile, the older system of hiring Salikenni teachers for tutoring classes has been temporarily stopped.
During their training the grade 9 students live in campus rooms vacated by grade 11 and 12 students, many of whom went to Salikenni to visit their families during the break. The grade 9 students were to be given a tour of the Banjul area, including sights such as the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, and high schools they may want to attend.
One of the trainees, Mariama Fatajo, said in a What’sApp phone conversation, that this was her first trip to the urban area, which Gambians call the Kombo. She was obviously thrilled by the experience, and she said, “The classes are helping us a lot.”
Bah said students have told their teachers they wished they could stay longer to cover as many topics as possible. He said the classes are exposing students to topics not necessarily covered in their school, but which may well be on the exams — for example in English: comprehension, summary, and essay writing; and in math, the Pythagorean theorem and graphs.
The nine trainees were scheduled to return to Salikenni on January 5 for the next school term. Many of the senior students, who have a longer break, planned to follow them there to continue the training in the village.
Another batch of grade 9 students, the remainder of the current class of 18, were scheduled to travel to the urban area during their spring break for a similar series of classes in the campus library.