Multilingual teaching resources

Project description

The Multilingual teaching resources: primary schools in The Gambia  project (December 2021-July 2024) explores how primary school teachers can design bespoke written teaching resources embracing all the languages their students know. This is in a context where we know teachers may not necessarily know the language(s) their students speak and/or may not be able to write the non-European languages they speak fluently. The project is useful in promoting inclusion in education, engaging and motivating students and therefore enhancing student’s emotional and social well-being at school. The main outcome of the project is an online toolkit for primary school teachers in The Gambia and their trainers.

Multilingual teaching resources: primary schools in The Gambia was led by five highly motivated teachers who represented a rich and diverse range of teaching experiences, and linguistic and cultural backgrounds. These teachers’ profiles below highlight the complementarity of their expertise in primary school teaching and national language teaching. 

A project led by five teachers

Alhagie S. Cham - P.T.C. 20+ years of versatile teaching experience throughout The Gambia. In his current school: Sports Coordinator Zone 7; Senior Teacher; Stream Head Mentor (Grade 1), School Librarian, and Theater & Drama coordinator for lower and upper basic pupils. He is also an active member of the community-led Adolescent Neighbour Watch Group which protects vulnerable children in tourism development areas in The Gambia.  

Ida L. B. Ceesay – P.T.C. & H.T.C. Primary. 12 years of primary school teaching experience in The Gambia. Trainer for Mandinka adult literacy facilitators for the National Women Farmers Association (NAWFA) (2012- 2017). Business Development Officer, Mentor and Coach for the Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) in The Gambia since 2020. In this post, she successfully uses Gambian languages to work with and teach young people. 

Abdoulie Salam Jallow – In-service teacher training. 4 years of teaching experience as primary and secondary school teacher. 6+ years of experience of teaching Pulaar adult literacy lessons in Kerewaan Demba for the Department of Non Formal Education of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education. In this role, he has worked extensively with women farmers through the National Association of Women Farmers (NAWFA) and has coordinated a wide range of Pulaar adult literacy projects. Also works as a Mentor and Literacy Facilitator (Pulaar) for Petty Trading, organisation responsible for helping women entrepreneurs in rural areas to develop essential life skills and build confidence.  

Naisatou Konteh - A.D.S (2018-21; the dissertation she wrote focussed on the Mandinka literacy lessons of The Gambia’s early parallel biliteracy programme) 25+ years of experience as National Language Teacher (Mandinka and Wollof): Peace Corp volunteers, St Mary’s College of Maryland study abroad program in the Gambia and  private tuition. Trained and certified Entrepreneurial Coach by IOM for Standing for Youths (The Gambia). Also experienced in translation and interpreting (Mandinka to English/English to Mandinka) and host radio talk shows (2007-2008).

Bangally Sabally - P.T.C. & A.D.P. 20+ years of teaching experience (primary school teaching and teaching French as a foreign language to children and adults). Aims to develop story books in Pulaar. Remains an active teacher in the Gambian education system. Has taught in a wide range of countries in Africa (Mali, Senegal, Guinea Bissau).

Phase ONE – Initial development of multilingual resources by teachers

Phase one (December 2021-December 2022) centered around a one-week workshop with our five teachers which took place in The Gambia (21-25 March 2022). The five teachers involved in this bespoke multilingual material development workshop received support in developing their own multilingual teaching aids (e.g. multilingual posters) and in leading a one-day train the trainer event which prepared trainers interested in facilitating workshops to support teachers wishing to develop their multilingual teaching resources in the future.  Attendees included a diverse range of Gambian educators who might be interested in being trained, e.g. teacher trainers, literacy facilitators, curriculum developers, national language desk officers. 

Phase TWO – Online toolkit and in-service teacher training development

Phase two (December 2022-July 2024) consisted in co-designing he Multilingual resources for primary schools in The Gambia Online Toolkit with the five teachers having led phase 1 of the project. Following the suggestion of one of the teachers, a workshop for in-service teachers drawing on this toolkit was also developped. A series of evaluative focus groups with national language literacy experts as well as educators and people from a wide range of backgrounds were also held for quality assurance purposes.

Multilingual teaching resources: primary schools in The Gambia was initially developped by two UK-based scholars in consultation with Hon. Sidia Jatta, a Gambian language activist, educator and politician.

Dr Clyde Ancarno – Senior Lecturer in Linguistics & Education at King’s College London (UK) whose research focusses on multilingualism and multilingual education in The Gambia. Developer of the Multilingual Education in The Gambia platform.

Dr Sabine Little – Senior Lecturer in Languages Education at Sheffield University (UK) with many years of experience in curriculum design, supporting teachers in multilingual classrooms all over the world and developing and running her own project on multilingual resources in the classroom.

Hon. Sidia Jatta – trained Africanist linguist who contributed to early research into West African languages while he was a research fellow at the International African Institute in London (SOAS) between 1980 and 1982. He is the founder of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism in The Gambia. He is a vocal proponent of Gambian language use (instead of English) to facilitate communication, information exchange and learning. He was also a member of the Gambian National Assembly’s Education Committee for over 10 years.

Multilingual teaching resources: primary schools in The Gambia  was funded by King’s College London.


Several people were key to the success of this project. We would like to thank the following individuals in particular: Kitabu Jabang of OTPLM for his insights into national languages during our workshops and focus groups, our twelve guests who attended the train the trainer event, the dozens of participants in the evaluative focus groups of the second phase of the project, Mrs Sanneh for her endless support of the project, and last but not least thank ‘Fatou and Fatou’ for their delicious food all week. We would also like to thank Mr Darboe for sharing some of his experiences during his surprise visit during the 2021 workshop. Such a project could not exist without the support of experts in Gambian languages and we would like to thank the desk officers of the National Language Unit for their scrupulous scrutiny of the multilingual resources developped by our five teachers, namely:

  • Adama Barry (Desk officer for Pulaar)
  • John Bass (Desk Officer for Manjaku)
  • Fatoumata Bittaye (Acting Desk Officer for Olof)
  • Saffie Camara (Desk Officer for Jola)
  • Lamin B. Jammeh (Desk Officer for Mandinka)
  • Sarata Njie (Desk Officer for Seereer)
  • Muhammed Tunkara (Desk Officer for Sarahule)
What does this project contribute?

The project makes a timely contribution to current debates regarding the integration of Gambian languages in The Gambia’s otherwise quasi English only education system. Many of those involved in this debate are motivated by the view that using children’s home language can facilitate content learning, promote a better learning experience in general and support the wellbeing of Gambian children by embracing their linguistic citizenship.  This echoes key international education institutions’ established support for mother tongue teaching (e.g. UNESCO since the 1950s), while reflecting more recent endorsement among donors having previously been criticised for their hidden support for English language policies in post-colonial countries. This applies to the July 2021 report ’Loud and Clear: Effective Language of Instruction Policies for Learning by the World Bank, for example—largest education donor in The Gambia.

The Multilingual teaching resources: primary schools in The Gambia intervention was designed to be sustainable. The ways in which the development of multilingual teaching resources can continue beyond the scope of the project was therefore carefully considered. The one-day train the trainer event, for example, was also open to a diverse range of participants, including teacher trainers, literacy facilitators, etc., in the hope that our five teachers as well as others will continue delivering workshops where they can support the development of multilingual teaching resources after the project ends.

UPDATE [24.11.23]: the language (-in-education) policy landscape of The Gambia is fast evolving. At the time of writing, The Gambia’s Curriculum Research Evaluation Development Directorate, with the support of the World Bank, has been successful in getting a new language in education policy which will introduce national languages as languages of instruction during children’s initial years of schooling validated by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (18 November 2023 post on the Facebook account of the ministry).