Millions of children around the world are deprived of quality education. Join us and educate someone. Sponsor an underprivileged child in the Gambia. We believe that education is the most fundamental investment, you can make, because of the inevitable ripple effect.

children in school

Education in the Gambia

The Gambia Education System is well structured, providing teaching up to and including university level, but students must bear some of the costs. Many schools have dedicated teaching staff, but most are short on teaching facilities and equipment, and many schools have buildings in a poor condition. Despite all these problems, children are enthusiastic about education, and many achieve good results

Nursery schools (Pre-K) education is outside the state system. Many nursery schools (Pre-Kindergarten) are privately run, though they are often attached to state schools as a private venture by the head teacher. They (Pre-K) typically have three levels; N1, N2 and N3, with children starting in N1 aged 3 or 4. Although expenses such as books are low, parents must pay fees for their children to attend. So the annual cost is similar to keeping a child in primary (elementary) school.

Primary (Elementary) Schools – These are known as Lower Basic Schools (LBS) in The Gambia. Children start in Grade 1 at about age 7 and stay there up to Grade 6 at around 13. The education itself is provided free by the state (in the State-run schools), but the family must still pay for school fund, some books, food, uniform and travel.

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Middle School – These are known as Upper Basic Schools (UBS) and have Grades 7 to 9, with an age range of about 13 to 16. Students work towards the Basic Education Certificate, which is roughly equivalent to US Middle School. These schools charge fees for tuition and exams, and the cost of books etc is higher than in LBS. In some rural areas, LBS and UBS are combined into a single school known as a Basic Cycle School (BCS).

Senior Secondary  (High) Schools (SSS) – These are equivalent to US High School, with Grades 10 to 12 and an age range of about 16 to 19,  Students study for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE), roughly equivalent to High School Diploma. Tuitions and other fees are much higher than for UBS students, and as there are fewer of these schools, travelling distances and costs are often higher.

Other Schools – There are a large number of ‘mission schools’ and other independent schools that are NOT in the state system and these schools cost more than the state schools, charging fees even at LBS level.

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Why sponsorship is needed

We believe in “Education for all”. We firmly believe that education is one of the best ways of improving living standards in The Gambia. BDI provides help to schools in many ways i.e. Books, used computers and other learning materials. This helps to improve the environment in which children learn. However, school fees and the cost of books; uniforms etc. limit the opportunities available to less well-off children. About 40% of Gambian children are not able to attend school because the family is too poor to pay. Schools try to give some leeway in payment, but eventually they will exclude children if fees are not paid. Sponsoring children from poor families can make all the difference, allowing them to reach their full potential and contribute to the future prosperity of The Gambia.

BDI’s Sponsorship Program

BDI has set up a sponsorship program whereby the entire amount of a sponsor’s donation is sent directly to the child concerned. Unlike some other sponsorship programs, we do not put your donations into “general funds” which can then be used for anything – including admin or marketing. Full sponsorship aims to cover school fees, exam fees, books, travel, uniform and one meal per school day over a whole school year. Organizing this involves a lot of work, both here and in The Gambia. We want ALL of the money you donate to go to your chosen student, so the admin costs are paid from the money we raise from Membership Fees in kind donations and through fundraising.

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We have a list of children and young people who are currently seeking sponsorship. We are working on a Page that will show photos of these students, with some brief details. Once posted, you can use this page to request further information about one or more selected students. This information will then be sent to you.

Once you have agreed to sponsor a particular student, we would like you to establish a personal relationship, so we prepare an information pack containing a message from you, the sponsor, preferably with a photo, and we send this to the student. During each school year a message is sent back to you (in the form of a letter or drawing from the child) together with photographs and a report on progress at school. BDI constantly checks that the money is being used correctly for the student’s education. In general, sponsorship is sent to each student in two installments each year – the first is sent out before the start of the school year in September, so that uniforms and books can be purchased and the first term’s fees can be paid. The remaining money is given out in February, to ensure that funds are available for the child throughout the year. See how sponsorship works on our Sponsorship in Action Page.


How much does it cost?

You will not believe the cost… It costs less than 40 Cents per day to sponsor a nursery or primary age child to go to school. The amount of sponsorship needed depends on the child’s grade at school.

Grade US equivalent Annual amount
Nursery $100.00
1-6 Elementary school $100.00
7-9 Middle School $140.00
10-11 High School $190
12 $200

You can pay annually, quarterly or monthly; by cash, check, or online, using our secure online payment with First Data or paypal or by electronic check. Contact us for information on making payments or for BDI’s bank information and routing number.

We are working on sponsorship form which will be posted on our website soon. If you are a US taxpayer, we will send you a donation receipt which you can use for tax purpose.

General Sponsorship Fund

We have set up an Emergency Fund for children who have made some progress in school but whose parents can no longer afford the fees, and for sponsored children whose sponsor can no longer continue sponsorship. We do our best to ensure that students under our program can be kept at school until new sponsorship can be arranged. If you would like to help us with our Sponsorship program, but feel that you cannot commit to a long term arrangement over a number of years, then you might like to contribute to our general Sponsorship Fund. A single donation can make the difference between exclusion and being able to take an important exam. You can donate using the options on our website