From $28 Million ‘Food for Education’ to National Teacher Prize: U.S. Boosts Gambia Education


By Sanna Camara 

From the launch of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program over the weekend to the convening of the first-ever National Teacher Prize in the Gambia, the United States government continues to boost the education sector for social impacts and national development.

The U.S. Ambassador and its Embassy in The Gambia have been strong allies to US-Gambian educator Mr Alhassan Susso in the initiative to recognize and motivate teachers and educators in the country through the National Teacher Prize 2024. Through this initiative, some two dozen U.S. educators are convening in Banjul this week, courtesy of The Namie Foundation, led by the award-winning educator. 

A five-year $ 28 million project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), aims to improve literacy, health, and nutrition outcomes in six target regions of The Gambia and enhance the quality and access to education for students nationwide.

On the other hand, the National Teacher Prize also aims to motivate and recognize the work of teachers in the country to promote welfare and retention, both of which align with The Gambia’s education policy and national development goals. 

According to Unicef 2020 data, 38.7 percent of male children and 3.8 percent of female children of the key population group still need to complete primary education. In turn, 26.7 percent of children of the target population still need to complete primary education live in urban areas, with 53.8 percent not completing in rural areas.

Sharon L. Cromer, the United States Ambassador to The Gambia, expressed excitement at the project’s launch. She notes its potential to improve primary school literacy through nutrition, address numeracy, gender parity, health, nutrition, and sanitation, and build the capacity of local farmers in the Gambia.

The Unicef education data further reveals a 14.41% (2022) rate, representing 62,607 children (ages 7–12 years) out-of-school children (OOSC). The lower basic education completion rate has increased to 96% in 2022 (girls 100%; boys 91%) from 74% (2010); however, the upper basic education rate decreased to 63% (68% girls, 58% boys) from 65% (2021).

Minister of Basic and Secondary Education Claudia A. Cole described the school feeding program as a crucial social protection initiative in The Gambia, dating back to the 1970s.

She said, “The school feeding program would motivate parents to send and retain their children to school.”

Hon. Cole noted that with food and educational support, quality teaching, and the provision of teaching and learning materials, it is hoped that school enrolment will increase, retention will be enhanced, and the drop-out rate will be reduced while performance will significantly be improved. 

Mr. Alhassan Susso, unveiling the seven regional winners of the National Teacher Prize in January, said The Namie Foundation launched this prize as one of three mission objectives. He added that the award is a testament to the teachers’ dedication and commitment to shaping the minds of future generations while promoting collaboration among key education stakeholders through the ‘The Best Teacher Prize’ initiative. 

The National Teacher Prize of The Gambia is scheduled for the 15th of February, 2024. Mr Susso, as the Chairman and the Board of The Namie Foundation and the Organizing Committee of this National Teacher Prize 2024, comprising representatives of the Ministry of Basic Education, Gambia Teachers Union, educators, and other professionals, will have a convergence of the delegation of 24 U.S. educators to The Gambia today in Banjul. This delegation was also comprised of top-notch educationists in the U.S., drawn from academia, personal development, and other subject specializations. 


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