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Mini Aya Pre-School was started to ensure that local children aged 4-11 years old are skilled in phonics, reading, handwriting and Numbers as these are the foundation subjects taught in government schools. Our volunteers are guided by both Gambian and UK teachers to provide teaching in English, Maths and the Arts. We also organise regular excursions to natural, cultural and historical sites to expose them to more areas of learning. Our aim is to prepare the children both academically and psychologically for grade one in primary education so that they begin as confident and motivated learners. Each term we maintain 20 enrolled pupils and admit new pupils as others graduate.

Many pupils face immense difficulties as they progress through primary education in The Gambia. In 2022 among pupils in Grade 3, only 9% achieve the expected level of reading skills for that grade. For numeracy, this number was as low as 6%. Importantly, one in 18 first-year primary school pupils repeats the year. This suggests that many children are ill-prepared for their first formal education. In our experience, this can lead to confidence problems that hinder their progress through their school years. Furthermore, many pupils in the Gambia only attend the Muslim Dara school to become proficient in the Koran up to the age of 10 without any exposure to English. Whilst this is essential religious learning it also presents a challenge because English is still held as the official and business language in the Gambia and starting at a late age can place them at a disadvantage.