The Junior Department was founded in 2015, and last year it was finally able to relocate to its current temporary location a short distance away from the main campus which is being developed. Click here to find out about the exciting new campus.
With a total of 36 students, the Academy is currently running as a compact, pilot version of the larger school which will cater for up to 300 junior students in addition to senior students. The students currently have 3 outdoor classrooms, 3 indoor classrooms, very large grounds and easy access to the beach. The current site gives Jobarteh the space to shape, refine and perfect the contents of the curriculum that she is dedicated to developing in time for the new campus opening at the end of 2021.
"Education is a vital foundation block in changing mind-sets, which in turn determines the degree of success a nation in its journey towards self-determination, self-dependence, self-governance, and economic self-sustainability." - Sona Jobarteh
Currently much of Africa still largely maintains the old-style European approach of “listen and repeat”. Eduction is an experience of being dictated to rather than being nurtured. Whilst this authoritarian method may be effective for memorisation, it does little for developing engagement, agency, critical thinking, self-determination, tenacity and excellence within students. We therefore need to overhaul this old approach and replace it with new delivery techniques which actively engage and inspire students.
At the root of the education philosophy of the Academy is belief that children learn best through active participation in a subject, rather than solely behind desks. For this reason lessons are structured in such a way that students are required to actively engage in the subject by applying the information taught in the classroom to solving and dealing with real-life challenges outside the classroom. In addition to this, much of the work in Africa requires interaction with the environment in some way. It is therefore vital that children are taught to utilise, interact and master their environment within the context of their academic education. Students must be shown, not just told how things work in the real world.
Students study Maths, Literacy, Science, African History, World History, Art and Geography. Whilst a lot of focus is placed on the quality of the academic education, at the heart of the school lies emphasis on a teaching approach which centres on making the subjects engaging and related to the real world. This not only helps children learn at a deeper level, but also encourages children to think critically as individuals, take initiative, be pro-active and instil empowerment through the knowledge that they have to ability to effect positive change in society by their own actions.
Sona Jobarteh has been working hard on developing the curriculum for the study of music and dance which guides students through both the history and performance aspects of the tradition. Jobarteh has carefully hand picked a selection of music teachers from The Gambia to deliver this curriculum, who are all accomplished musicians in their own right. Volunteers can also come on board to offer courses in aspects of music and dance from different parts of the world. Click below to watch some videos of our students in action.
Jobarteh promotes that an essential part of providing a well rounded education for students to equip them for success in the real world is making sure they learn about business, trade, investment and finance. This is taught through agriculture and poultry classes, giving students the hands-on experience of setting up and sustaining business enterprises, which according to Jobarteh, is essential for young Africans.
"The Academy is committed to the reversal of deep-rooted, undermining, regressive premises upon which most ‘development projects’ across Africa are based. Without these reversals, the efforts to contribute to development in the forms of ‘projects’ and ‘aid programs’ will continue to be temporary, unsustainable and dependent ventures serving only to maintain reliance and inequality." - Sona Jobarteh
In line with addressing the child holistically, the Academy ensures that students are in tune with their physical development just as much as their mental development. Martial arts and Capoeira bring an energising balance to the mind and body of students allowing them to explore music and movement in new ways.
Click below to watch some of our students in action.
The positive connections between physical exercise and concentration for children is well documented. We also emphasise the aspect of team-building in PE, often utilising it as a supportive tool in supporting student welfare and cohesion.
Jobarteh believes that issues relating to gender is not something that should just be taught but something that should be demonstrated and experienced through the daily routines and structures of a child's life. Carefully thought-out activities make sure gender equality is a normality at the Academy, from having girl team leaders, to supporting girls' interests in typically 'male' industries such as construction.
Due to the fact that we are reforming not only the curriculum but also the teaching approaches, we have two main challenges:
Firstly ensuring sustainability for the new curriculum not just for the Academy but for the ultimate goal of being able to implement the curriculum into other schools in the country. Secondly we want to ensure that we mainly employ teachers from the local community rather than relying on foreign teachers. However the pool of teachers that come from our local communities have been educated in the very system that we wish to overhaul, hence it is challenging, time-consuming and resource-draining to train teachers from scratch to be able to deliver a new teaching approach effectively.
These are challenges that Sona Jobarteh has been overcoming for the past few years, and as a result has led her to developing a curriculum resource kit which provides all the tools and requirements for teachers to deliver each subject to their students. This resource kit is a huge undertaking, however will provide a sustainable solution to the challenges which will ultimately undermine the important changes that need to be made within the education sector. She is therefore calling on people from all over the world to come forward and help by contributing to the this resource kit that she is building. Whether it is contributing a lesson plan, or a course overview, or books/resources that can be used to teach a specific course, these are all much needed in order to make this project a realisation.
The subjects Jobarteh is keenly seeking volunteers to contribute to are: English, Maths, Science, African History, Global History and Geography. Additional subjects not listed are also welcome. If you think you can help contribute to this amazing resource which will be used to educate a new generation of African change-makers, please contact us!