Gambia has a state educational structure inherited from its colonial power and continues to use English as the language of instruction. Schooling is not compulsory and the system remains under-developed as noted by the lack of adequate funding from the government and the insufficient number of schools to accommodate all of the potential students. Children under the age of 15 account for 45 percent of the country's population. Existing schools may actually operate as two distinct schools with one group of students attending a morning session and another attending an afternoon session. Some classes, even with the split shift, may still have an enrollment of 100 students or more with 3 or 4 students sharing a single desk, book, or other supplies. A lack of teachers and low salaries further demoralize educators, causing a downward cycle in education. This downward cycle is noted in the nation's low literacy rate (38.6 percent).
Educational accessibility to school also varies greatly. Although schooling is theoretically available to all children at the primary level, secondary schooling is competitive and available only to those who pass their examinations. However, failure to attend secondary school is due less to poor performance on the exam and more as a result of low income. Children from poorer families cannot afford school fees, books, or uniforms and thus are prevented from furthering their education. Children may also be needed to contribute to the family income by working in the fields or seeking other forms of employment. This further prevents them from progressing to the next level.
There are instances at the grass roots level where communities are striving to become more involved in the problem of education. For example, villagers from Kanuma built a bamboo classroom to accommodate the children of that village. Still, the basic structure of the educational system includes a Primary School, Secondary Middle School, Higher Secondary School, and Sixth Form.