FGM MODULE FOR SCHOOLS LAUNCHED After decades of struggle to end the practice

By Sarjo Camara-Singateh

Mr. Babucarr Bouye, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, on the 30 June, 2016 launched the “Module on female genital mutilation for Basic and Secondary Education sector of the Gambia”. The book which was launched at a local hotel in Kololi, was introduced by the Basic and Secondary Education Ministry and GAMCOTRAP with support from Save the Children, Senegal.

In his launching statement, Permanent Secretary Bouye noted that Female Genital Mutilation causes tremendous emotional stress and health complications to women in Africa and other parts of the world.  He described it as a deep rooted culture that has no tribal boundary. Through education we can end this aged long cultural practice, he said.

He believes that they have won the battle they have started through the signing of the MOU describing it as a battle they all feel convenient that they should fight. “My only daughter is now protected from the practice, she did not do it, her children will not do it and my brother’s children will not do it,” he stressed.

PS Bouye described the module as one of the best strategies to end female genital mutilation. “We would have to work on sustaining the gains and one of the best ways to end cultural practices is education,” he said.

According to him, this will give inform choices to the students with regards to their health and personal wellbeing noting that people cannot continue to hide behind cultural excuses.

PS Bouye explained that the module on FGM is now part of their teaching and educational materials adding that it have been piloted in three schools in the west coast region.

“Today marks another landmark achievement and progress in our efforts to end FGM in the Gambia. The outcome of our social mobilisation and advocacy work across the country has gained result in a fervent call by all the target groups reached to institutionalise the debates and conversation to end FGM through the school system,” said Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director, GAMCOTRAP.

She noted that this recommendation was heeded to and GAMCOTRAP struck a fruitful partnership with the Education sector to start a process of curriculum development on the subject matter of female genital mutilation.

“In 2009, GAMCOTRAP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ministry of Basic and Secondary education, which made it possible for the organisation to reach out to schools as well as work with teachers,” she said.

The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP recalled that in 2011, twenty-five teachers from seven schools in the West Coast and Education officials were engaged and the teachers had the opportunity to review the draft curriculum which consists of various modules namely definition and concepts of FGM, FGM and reproductive health, FGM and human rights and gender and the issues ranging from the words, concepts from the local languages and how to use them in teaching children.

She said the development of the module on FGM was done in partnership with the ministry of education from the inception of the project aimed to equip education officials with the right information to teach the module at the schools.

“With the approval from the ministry of basic and secondary education, I hope that the teaching of FGM will be effectively integrated into the school syllabus,” said the GAMCOTRAP Executive Director.

Dr. Touray said to monitor the implementation of the pilot in the three schools namely Mingdow, Gungur and Tujereng, GAMCOTRAP contracted the in-service education and training unit (INSET) under the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education(MoBSE) to observe how the pilot teachers integrate FGM in their classroom lessons.

“In 2013, another set of twenty-five teachers engaged  in reviewing the curriculum and validate the information and the comment and observation were incorporated in the final version which will be launched here today,” she said.

Dr. Touray explained that apart from working with teachers under SCI project, GAMCOTRAP has since partnered with UNFPA under the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme to engage with schools to sensitise students on the effects of FGM, early marriage and other harmful traditional practices that negatively impact on their survival and development. Currently, she said the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme has funded GAMCOTRAP to engage schools in the Jokadu, Lower and Upper Baddibu districts. Dr. Touray added that they have engaged with different schools in the different regions in the past including seventy five Arabic Islamic students from Tawfiq madrassa schools in Brikama, Kombo Central,” she said.

“I believe that engaging the school system will bring in lasting and sustainable change in behaviour in the current and future generation of young people to protect their children from this gruesome practice of FGM and other harmful practices,” she said.

Dr. Touray urges teachers to be ready to learn new knowledge and make research in order to avoid giving the wrong information with regards to harmful cultural practices which have no basis in this generation.

Mr. Momodou Jeng, Principal Education Officer, Head of In-Service Education and Training unit (INSET) under the Ministry of education, said inculcating female genital mutilation education in young children is something that is appreciated by his ministry.

Mr. Jeng said this collaborative effort between the education ministry and GAMCOTRAP will go along way in the history of The Gambia.