Adama Barrow Needs To Put The English Language At The Centre Of The Gambia’s Renewal Plans.

English — the national language of The Gambia few actually speak.

The Gambia’s president Adama Barrow, ending a two-day state visit to France, has committed to increasing the teaching of French in Gambian schools.

This is a welcome development, given The Gambia is bordered on all sides, bar a short stretch of Atlantic coastline, by French-speaking Senegal, and should assist The Gambia in engaging with Francophone countries across West Africa, as well as with France itself.

But the real issue Adama Barrow needs to address is the sub-standard English being taught in many state schools here in the Gambia.

Under Yahya Jammeh educational standards were allowed to plummet, and sadly many teachers now graduating as our future teachers are themselves barely competent, passing on to their students the poor English they were themselves taught.

Adama Barrow needs to open up state schools to better qualified and better experienced foreign teachers who can help raise standards and secure the future of the country.

English should be this country’s most valuable asset, the jewel in The Gambia’s crown, not for historical colonial reasons, but because English is the primary language of the world for business, commerce and the internet.

Neighbouring Senegal has far more tourist attractions than The Gambia, and just as inviting a winter climate and beaches, but the British, Germans, Dutch, Finns, Swedes, Danes, Spaniards and other Europeans head for The Gambia because it is a notionally anglophone country.

Sadly they, like West African visitors from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria, are dismayed to find most Gambians do not speak English at all, and only a tiny fraction are in any way fluent in the world’s first language.

Solving The Gambia’s language problem should be one of Adama Barrow’s top priorities.