Zakat Foundation of America Spearheads Summit for Peace and Prosperity with Experts from UNESCO and The Gambia Academy

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Gambia, a picturesque West African nation renowned for its coastline and peanut exports, is poised to become a trailblazer in alternative education. Recognizing the transformative power of learning, in 2022 Zakat Foundation of America partnered with The Gambia Academy and its founder, Dr. Sona Jobarteh, a renowned singer, composer, educator, and activist, founder, in order to drive educational reform throughout Africa. 

“Education is a vital foundation in changing mindsets, which in turn determines the degree of success of a nation in its journey towards self-determination, self-dependence, self-governance, and economic self-sustainability,” highlights Dr. Jobarteh. A new, uniquely "Africa-centered" literacy curriculum has been developed by the Academy in alignment with the UK National Curriculum Standards and Common Core Curriculum in the US. Its aim is to empower students with communication and critical thinking skills for success in their own country, reducing the need to seek opportunities elsewhere. This educational framework is set to become the cornerstone model for schools across Africa.  

Mr. Halil Demir, Executive Director and Founder of the Zakat Foundation of America, traveled to Gambia for the February 2024 Summit for Peace and Prosperity in the Sahel and Across Africa. His aim was to strengthen the partnership with The Gambia Academy and emphasize the mission of educating Gambian children as future leaders. Representatives from UNESCO, including Dr. Lalla Aicha, Ben Barka, Dr. Ibrahima Abdoul Hayou Cisse, Dr. Adama Ouane, Dr. Moulaye Kone, and Ann Therese Ndong Jatta, witnessed the educational success achieved at the Academy and commended Zakat Foundation of America for organizing the event.  

“Africa faces ongoing challenges including a lack of proper education, healthcare, wars and poverty. At this summit we are creating the blueprint of educational reform to transform not only the country, but the entire continent,” shared Mr. Demir. Experts spent 3 days discussing the success of The Gambia Academy and gathering practical solutions for positive change. They toured The Gambia Academy, attended a reception at the US Embassy with the Ambassador Sharon L. Cromer, conducted planning sessions, and were briefed on the healthcare and education of the students. The data and solutions from this summit will be shared with the US Embassy and stakeholders in the hopes that the success of Gambia Academy will be emulated in other communities across Africa.  

ZFA has pledged additional support and funding for the Academy's future, and all are enthusiastic about the next phase of curriculum development, creating an innovative African Heritage curriculum from scratch. By integrating Literacy and African Heritage coursework, the organization aims to empower the bright, young students of Gambia Academy. 

A stellar example of the Academy's success is Michael, who before joining the school faced economic instability and bullying, resulting in impaired mental health and well-being. Upon joining the Academy, he received a bicycle for an easier school commute and was given a renewed sense of support and purpose. Michael appreciates the Academy's methods in which teachers patiently explain concepts, fostering deeper understanding and connection to lessons. “The way of learning is different here. You have more time to ask the teacher to explain what you don’t understand. Even 10 times is okay,” explains Michael. Dr. Jobarteh noticed how much Michael had changed since attending The Gambia Academy. She shared, “From the person whose only wish was to stop being bullied, he is now one of the most celebrated students at the school. His swift embrace of these initial literacy lessons provides early evidence that our unique learning model will achieve the desired goals and serve as a powerful tool for all levels of age and ability.” 

“These efforts are about creating a platform for men and women who will be leaders in this country, and bringing permanent change so communities can take care of themselves rather than rely on others,” remarked Mr. Demir. The new African Heritage curriculum will ensure students study the past, learn from the present and work on building a better future through critical thinking and analytical skills. Hands-on problem and project-based learning will help students gain confidence in their leadership qualities, with the goal being increased economic stability and job opportunities. Zakat Foundation of America will be working closely with The Gambia Academy to facilitate these objectives and produce a successful academic year.  

Zakat Founation of America strives to support recovery and development in all its forms, aligning with the UN’s 17 Goals for Sustainable Development. Zakat Foundation of America has been featured in the press including CNN Max, Fox News, WGN, ABC and NBC among others. Media including photos and videos are available on the organizations website and social media. Additional media requests or interview requests can be submitted to [email protected] 

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