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e-volunteer - early childhood development and teacher-training in The Gambia (EV)

Location: Gambia
Project type: e-volunteer
Price from: £300 ie £25.00 per week - details below

Help develop pioneer nursery training in Gambia. Link up with staff from the Training Centre and school from your home, share your skills - mentor, work  to produce training materials, story telling, online teaching/training - so many possibilities

Skills required

We work closely with the local people who manage this project, and they have identified their primary volunteer needs for the e-volunteer programme.

Lisong Bah and the Early Childhood Development Centre would welcome the following skills and volunteer input

  • ECD professionals
  • curriculum development
  • training programme design
  • training implementation
  • story tellers
  • brochure and print resource development
  • creative play development
  • nursery, pre-school and primary teachers and classroom assistants
  • arts and crafts teachers
  • child nutritionists
  • classroom management
  • bid writing - to facilitate accreditation
  • sharing ideas with local teachers about maximising available free resources and low cost items would be invaluable.
This programme offers the opportunity to volunteer without leaving home for little cost.

Main project details

The Early Childhood Development Training Centre (Futures) is the vision of Mrs Lisong Bah, a Gambian educator who has worked as an ECD educator and programme coordinator first for Unicef and then for Christian Children's Fund (CCF).

Futures seeks to provide
"an environment that nurtures children, provides for child friendly settings, appropriate childcare practices, and ensure holistic child development, thus securing a generation of adults that have developed in a holistic manner to sustain and maintain good governance, productivity and peace in the future."

All educational facilities in The Gambia closed in March 2020 for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.  During the lockdown volunteers have worked productively with Lisong to write a training programme for trainers and teachers on the GOALS curriculum - this is a new version of the Gambian early years curriculum, designed to provide a more structured approach a clearer guidance than earlier versions of this curriculum, which was first issued in 2012.  The Goals curriculum will be implemented in Mary's Little Lambs School and other local school from September 2020, and thereafter in other parts of the Gambia.  Remote volunteer help has been invaluable in putting this course together.  Volunteers also worked remotely to put together a training manual for parents of young children which will be used to support holistic child development throughout the Gambia.  Lisong would like to work in a similar way to develop other courses in the future.  

Early childhood care and development has become part of the basic education title in The Gambia and The Department of Education is keen to work with Futures to provide training for pre school teachers. The education policy of 2015-30 acknowledges the importance of these early years, and the department of state for education has developed linkages with other governments, NGOs and local authorities and local communities to promote an integrated approach to ECD. Since ECD is largely provided by the private sector, affordability becomes an issue and poses a major constraint for poor households. The problem becomes more pronounced in rural areas where poverty is more acute and where the traditional practice of leaving children in the care of siblings or grandparents, or having children accompanying their mothers to the farm or work place still remains the dominant practice for early childhood care.

" I'm realising that Lisong is right when she says the important thing is to train new teachers and raise the quality of the children's experiences in the classroom, and that you don't need expensive resources to do that.  I've seen a few classrooms now with the odd thing obviously donated by well-meaning visitors from abroad - the odd reading book or coloured poster, and they always look at though they are just put on one side or sellotaped to the wall and never looked at, for example alphabet friezes with half the sections missing.  I'm coming to realise that donating things is a waste of money, the important thing is to raise the quality of teachers. " Volunteer Dianne 2009 

Nursery schooling in The Gambia covers a higher age range than in the UK as children don't start school until they are seven or nearly eight years old, and Gambian pre-schools therefore care for children between the ages of 2 to 7, after which they move on to lower basic schools. 

Facilities vary greatly - from good to barely non-existent.  Some schools have links or sponsors from overseas who provide equipment and maybe send visitors to provide occasional training.   Many others have as many as 50 to a class, with only one member of staff and when he or she is absent, they just have to double up with another class as there is no supply teaching facility available. There is little or nothing in the way of equipment apart from pencils and chalk, most of the learning is by rote and some classroom walls are completely bare.  Nursery teachers who have completed the only ECD course at Gambia College still early less than those holding primary teaching certificates. A meaningful and accredited ECD programme will mean higher rates of pay and in turn attract the best teachers.

There are no educational equipment suppliers, early learning centres or large toy shops in The Gambia. Basic items like sugar paper and paper fasteners (attaches-parisiennes) are  impossible to find.  Children have so little opportunity for learning through play.

Pre-schools are not government funded and school  fees are 100 Dalasi (about £2.80) per term per child  in most village schools - so there is precious little to spend on equipment. Where there are resources there is often little knowledge as to how to use them creatively. 

This is the background against which Lisong has set up her Early Childhood Development Centre.  Futures Training Foundation was founded by Lisong to provide certificate training workshops. The Foundation also includes a model school, Mary's Little Lambs, which provides high quality pre-school and lower basic (primary) education for children aged 2 to 10.
This is an opportunity for volunteers to be involved in the creation of meaningful pre school education for the children of The Gambia.

Learn more about how the volunteer programme supports Early Childhood Development in The Gambia here


The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in the world.  It is also one of the friendliest - perhaps the most attractive "real" Africa to visit.  Gambians demonstrate a genuine warmth and tolerance for other cultures.  This may be the perfect place for first time travellers to Africa.  

Most of the population survives on subsistence agriculture, mainly livestock rearing and groundnut cultivation.  Groundnut is the main cash crop but efforts to diversify have brought in sesame growing, which is predominantly grown by women.  Rice is the staple food but the country has not yet reached self sufficiency in rice production thus leading to huge imports of this commodity.  In addition to agriculture, tourism is an important source of foreign exchange as well as of employment.

Life expectancy is just 62 and approximately 65% of the polulation is under 25.  The social fabric of The Gambia is based on family networks often stretching into neighbouring countries where the extended family takes responsibility for the well-being and maintenance of the family.  According to the 1998 Participatory Poverty Assessments, 69% of the 1.8 million population live in poverty and 30% in extreme poverty.  Women and youths are classified the poorest of the poor.

In spite of its multi-ethnic and multi-lingual characteristics occasioned by the existence of five main ethnic groups (Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola and Serahule) and a similar number of minority groups there is `unity in diversity' because of similar structures in the communal lifestyles.  Islam is the predominant religion with 95% of the population being Muslim; Christians account for the remainder and a few people practise traditional religions.  One common strand among ethnic groups is the patriarchy where male dominance is common. 

Volunteer opportunities in this early childhood and primary school development project - whether you are a professional teacher or classroom assistant, retired or in work and looking for a career break, you can share your skills and experience with local teaching staff in this education development project. Other skills are needed too - take a look at the list of needs, as identified by the project, near the top of this page. Responsible volunteer work overseas with people and places.

"Two cameos will remain etched in my memory; one sad - a teacher sharpening the children's pencils with a razor blade and then cutting the one pencil rubber into four pieces to share out amongst the class of 40; the other took place on the north coast in an empty school playground during the workshop we were holding. I took the elastic game with me and I have a photo of the headmaster, teachers and the regional education leader all jumping about and joining in. I do hope they have been able to share it with the children." 
Joan Belshaw - volunteer - 2009  

To see a video interview with Joanne, e-volunteer with Mary's Little Lambs, click here

Minimum duration

Flexible, depending on the type of e-volunteering work you are able to do.

Living Conditions

You will work from your own home.

Project costs

£300 based on a 12 week placement
£100 placement design,management and support in The Gambia including regular video conferencing with you and the volunteer coordinator and project leader

£100 project contribution to fund the ongoing work of Futures and to cover any costs involved for Futures to facilitate your placement - eg purchase of materials locally 
£200 matching, preparation support in the UK including regular video conferencing with you before and during your placement and liaison with local partners
You will need to go through the people and places matching and monitoring process, which includes an up-to-date enhanced DBS check - if you require a new DBS check the cost is currently £29.80.
You will also need to cover the cost of any resources you wish to buy in the UK to support your e-volunteering work.
If you or your friends and family wish to make further donations to this project please contact us at
Why are we asking you to pay? Please take look here to learn why our work would not be possible without a payment from you

Recommended reading

A report from Lisong, project director of the Futures Centre - click here

Rough Guide to The Gambia

The Good Tourist in The Gambia - a guide book for the conscientious tourist

The Bradt Travel Guide Book - The Gambia

a video interview with volunteer Yvonne

check out slideshare   youtube  our blog  facebook for volunteer interviews & project news

UN Report on Youth in Africa

Project gallery

Project Reviews

Registered volunteers can learn about the local team for this project - LOG ON to learn more about this project and the local team we work with. Not registered yet? It's easy and free HERE!

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