Girls’ Familial Responsibilities and Schooling in The Gambia

  •  Haddy Njie    
  •  Caroline Manion    
  •  Musukuta Badjie    


Like many countries in the developing world gender inequity remains a staggering problem in The Gambia, particularly at the secondary school level. In this study, we focus on the relationship between girls’ education and heavy domestic workloads, herein referred to as girls’ familial responsibilities. We explore this topic in relation not only to performance but also to the value that girls assign to schooling at the post-primary level through the use of a qualitative-inductive phenomenological-approach, mixed with descriptive survey. Findings from this study enabled us to gain a more nuanced snapshot of how, in practice, familial responsibilities can work against the goal of gender equality in and through formal education. More specifically, we find that although access to girls’ schooling has improved in The Gambia, there is still a profound tension between the values parents assigned to female education and the gender socialization of the girl child in preparation for their socially expected future roles as mothers and care takers of their families. We conclude from the data that girls are allowed to attend formal schooling, but they are expected to remain feminine in and out of formal schooling spaces. Arguably, the goal for girls to remain feminine has an immediate negative effect on their schooling performances and lasting consequences on the ways they construe their opinions and values about their gender roles, social statuses and future employment capabilities.

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