Primary schools have been fee free since 1998 and children start from the age of 7 until 11. The Government has committed to a better provision of education for all children in the country but there are still many barriers preventing children from accessing an education. The provision and quality of schools also differs between urban and rural areas. The figures for those attending schools in rural areas tend to be lower, and lower still for girls who are often overlooked in the process. Education beyond the age of 11 has to be paid for or is granted on merit, which then prevents many children from going any further.
Nursery schools are vital in giving children the basic skills they need before they start formal education and as they considered private they receive no state funding. These nurseries are under developed and as a result rely solely on charitable organisations and NGO’s to fund and operate them. Whilst there are nursery schools which feed into state schools, nursery school places remain woefully inadequate.
Roots Nursery School is more than a free nursery education in the village of Nemakonku, by giving our children a head start before they start formal education, we are giving them the opportunity to go beyond primary education to provide a better future for themselves and their families. Our role does not stop just there, healthcare also plays a large part of our local operations. We have always provided an emergency fund for healthcare essentials for our pupils and their families from treated mosquito nets to dealing with conjunctivitis outbreaks in school.
The Roots Nursery School Charity initiative started with a holiday to The Gambia in 2006, when Mark our charity's Founder and Secretray, visited the Village of Juffureh also known as the Roots village (‘Roots’ the popular 70s American drama). During a conversation with the tour guide he was invited to see the local nursery school. The nursery was housed in a building that was only 6 months old but already in a state of disrepair, with a hole in the ground for toilets for which there was no funding. Troubled by this, a return holiday was booked with the intention that he could do something to help. Mark and friends raised £500 from local people and businesses to fund the cost of installing the toilets. In March 2007 during the return trip to the school, a local contractor was instructed to carry out the construction work.
The Roots Nursery School Charity became a UK registered charity on 7th December 2009 and although the school received nominal funding from other organisations at this point, we took on the costs of paying the teachers salaries, uniforms, mosquito nets and educational materials for over 100 pupils and worked with them to develop the school. November 2006 was the starting point for the Roots Nursery School Charity and the beginning of a journey to provide an education to the children of Nemakonku.