Plight of Trainee Teachers From The Gambia College
Monday, April 11, 2011
Gambia College was the main supplier of trained (qualified) teachers in the school system way back in 1970s till 2000 with inception of the University of The Gambia. Gambia College still remains the main and only institute in the country responsible for training teachers on Early Childhood Development (ECD), Primary Teachers Certificate (PTC) and Higher Teachers Certificate (HTC).
Until 1999/2000, PTC and HTC were done in two years. Every year, teachers on both categories go out on school experiences known as Teaching Practice (TP). The HTC students then concentrate on their project writings in second and third terms from their first term school experiences. They used to be with their supervisors (lecturers) who guide them in the process of their writing and had paid dividend. Sources had proven that well written projects were produced and were kept in the college library for references.
The then system was that, those in the first year at the college go out to schools on their teaching practice in second term when the second and final year students resume from their first term TP. At the end of each TP, students who were supervised by their lecturers during their TP in schools would share their experiences with the colleagues and lecturers and rectify errors they may have committed as well as their interpersonal relationships with Pupils and teachers and the school administration as well.
With the coming of three years length of training, PTC students spend only one year at college and two years on TP in schools. The HTC students spend two years at college and one year on TP in schools. Every policy is set up on reasons and clears out objectives which need to be achieved. However, there is no plan or policy which is not subjected to review. Several HTC students do have difficulties particularly when writing their projects. Imagine that a HTC student is posted at Sandu Darsilami Basic Cycle which is far from Basse not to talk about Brikama; the student has to travel to meet his/ her lecturer or supervisor in Brikama for supervision and is term as a full time, fully loaded and couple with records and other responsibilities bestowed on him by the school. It would be very difficult for such a student to concentrate effectively on his project which is a requirement for his program.
Last year one trainee teacher called me and informed me that he had an appointment with his supervisor on a particular day which coincided with a staff meeting convened by the school administration. According to this person, who preferred anonymity said he went the vice principal of the school that he had already made an appointment with his lecturer which he should not fail. The vice principal forwarded the matter to the principal who without a second thought denied him a permission to travel to meet his lecturer but ordered to attend the meeting. He felt very bad about this and had defied the principal’s order after several appeals. When he returned the following week he had a bitter quarrel with both the principal and the vice principal and they wanted to write unpleasant report about him and send it to college authorities.
Principals of all the Upper Basic School across the country should develop a good relationship with the trainee teachers (TTs) throughout their stay in schools and should understand that they are students no matter what. Some of the TTs had never taught and need guidance and motivation as stipend earners. When they are warmly welcomed throughout their training periods with them, it would encourage others to join and stay in the service in order to reduce teacher insufficiency in schools.
The purpose or the main objectives of the school of education at The Gambia College is to train qualify teachers to be posted to all schools in various categories by the Ministry of Education to improve the quality and standard of education for all Gambian citizens and to every nook and crane of the country. The college had been on this noble crusade since in 1970s and still schools are yet to have enough teachers.
There are frequent challenge in many foray of quality and competency of some TTs and even qualified teachers from The Gambia College. Sometimes students do not cover all the modules they should and this may be due to frequent interruption of supervision of TTs in schools and sometimes insufficient lecturers in various departments within the school of education at The Gambia College. In order to make a great impact on the current trend of the level of education in our schools, the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MOBSE) through its department of Curriculum Research and Development and The Gambia College, the current method of training teachers need to be revisited and redesigned.
Suggestion projected by ‘Education In-depth’ is that, PTC students and HTC students should remain at college for three years of their programs, as a set of batches of teacher should be dispatched into the school system every term for their school experience. For example, year three students should go on teaching practicing in the first term, year two a second term and year one on third term. This will enable the students to have good interaction with the school environment and upon their resumption they would discuss about their weakness and improve more on their strengths. They would introduce lots of ideas into the system and would be very much resourceful. By the time they complete their third TP, they would gather lot of experiences in the schools. As a result of these suggestions , HTC students would stay at the college , use library judiciously for their researches and have constant contact with their lecturers and would have finish their project before the deadline given by the college authorities.
We often see paranoia administrations which should undergo educational psychiatric tests and healing. With this new suggestion, such administrations would cool down to freezing point of 0 Celsius. Certain school administrations scare away TTs and confuse them a lot. They need motivation and support for the entire period of their training. During my discussion with several TTs, they often find it very difficult to survive under certain school administrations, but commend some for hospitality, understanding and concern. Some of them are being given more than twenty five periods coupled with the unfriendly environment created for them. In some schools, we made to understand that some TTs are put in double shifts due to the high demand of teachers who are insufficiently supplied.
We want to draw the attention of the MOBSE and authorities from the school education of Gambia College to look into these suggestions professionally and critically. Let them not see it as a suggestion from an outsider or an ill-will but from patriotic concern educationist who are concerned about the uplifting the status quo of the whole education sector of our beloved country. The problems we are facing is that those on the top echelon of the ministry do not read and follow events as they unfolded, and suggestion and comments made by people. The wise is the one who do listen to others and make sense out of it.
Author: Jannerh S Darboe