Back to The Gambia – Jan 2020
Gambia receives a lot of its income from money sent home from Gambians working abroad and tourism.
The collapse of Thomas Cook has affected tourism, restaurants and hotels had already shut prior to the Covid-19 pandemic but with a 45 day lockdown in place life is very difficult for those that live hand to mouth buying food to feed the family with the money they make selling each day. A lot of workers abroad are in insecure positions and unlikely to have any income to support themselves let alone their families at this time. Having spoken to people in Bansang they are stressed and worried about how they will manage over the coming months. Schools have been closed temporarily and it is unclear what is happening about the West African grade 12 exams. We will keep our sponsors informed when things become clear.
Annabel visited Bansang in January this year, spending 2 weeks at the Bansang Senior School, visiting other schools in the area and meeting sponsored students. We support 11 schools in the area, adding a 12th this year. We are also sponsoring 54 students, 25 of which receive money daily for lunch thanks to our generous sponsors. We provide uniform, text books, extra study fees, schools bags shoes and stationery. The students find this reduces the stress they feel due to financial worries and they are able to concentrate and perfom well.
Many sponsored students in the past have gone onto further education and it was lovely to bump into nurses at the hospital who were sponsored by BEA a few years ago as well as a tailor running a successful tailoring shop in Bansang now. Many former students are teaching at various schools in the area also.
The day after we arrived in The Gambia we visited a stationery wholesalers to buy supplies to donate to the schools we visit. We have to send these in a taxi to Bansang as we don’t have enough space in the car we’re travelling in. Salaries for teachers are paid by government but there are very few materials given to the schools. Children buy their own stationery. For a time there was an initiative through unicef but this has stopped now so schools are grateful for what we can donate, even though I feel it’s a drop in the ocean.
Fuga nursery school has now become a government lower basic school with children up to grade 2. It has had some help to start building a second classroom and BEA is helping with the roofing of this building. Children are currently being taught in temporary classrooms made from grass and sticks. The water pump supplying the school with clean water had stopped working while we visited and we were able to pay for this to be fixed.
Classroom building in progress at Fuga.
One boy at Fuga, Numli Jallow broke his leg a few years ago which wasn’t set in hospital so has healed in a way he can’t walk normally and has 2 km to walk to school. He can ride a bike with one leg so we donated the funds for his headteacher to buy him a bicycle to make transport easier for him. Keeping bicycles roadworthy in the sandy dry conditions can be difficult so BEA has promised to fund maintenance when needed.
Jabou, Annabel’s Gambian “mother” has retired from Daru Lower Basic School but the new head is former head at Sukuta School, Mr Kanuteh. The school is managing well, but does need support with a building for the class for deaf children. The current building is damaged at one end.
We are hoping to help with this as it’s the only school in the area with a trained teacher for deaf children who have struggled to access education up til now.
The storage end of the classroom at Daru needing renovation, or more likely a complete rebuild.
Mr Kanuteh and teachers receiving donated stationery materials.
This is repeated at 10 schools in and around Bansang.
Mr Kanuteh, head teacher at Daru school showing us the garden
Chargill School is a remote basic cycle school education children from nursery to grade 9. A big issue for them is electricity supply, there is none locally and the school had a solar power project but this is needing maintenance and investment. The scale and expertise of this is beyond our means but we are hoping we can find support for this from other NGOs.
We donated materials and a big issue for teachers has been uneven hard blackboards that are difficult to write on. We were pleased to fund new blackboards for the school in every classroom.
Sololo school is also a basic cycle school covering nursery to grade 9. Mr baldeh is the current principal. At Sololo School BEA agreed to fend the school garden. The garden hasn’t been used well for a few years as the solar borehole water supply to the school was needing repair.
This has been completed by another NGO and so food can be grown to support the school kitchen and school, but fencing is needed to stop the goats and sheep getting into to eat the plants.
I was pleased to visit Sukuta school, another very remote school which is always a pleasure to visit due to its welcoming, calm environment. BEA has been funding the completion of the school kitchen over the last few years and it was wonderful to see it finished and in use.
Sukuta kitchen, it may be very different to school kitchens here but a functioning kitchen means children are encouraged to be in school and are able to concentrate in class as they are not hungry.
On this trip I visited Dobang Kunda lower basic school for the first time. This is a lovely little school a few kms from Bansang Senior School. It was lovely to meet the head teacher, Mr Kora and see the school.
I love the bright uniform 🙂
The Library at Dobang Kunda, lacking shelving which BEA hopes to help with.
Using local matting they are managing to keep the dust levels down.
I visited Sare Gideh school which used to be an annex school of Daru and is now a school in its own right. The principal is Mr Jobarteh, The school is doing very well given its small size and had some excellent results in national tests for primary school children.
If the fencing at Sololo School works well we hope to expand it here and to other schools in the area.
Arabic lesson in progress, older classes are using the nursery classroom as the school has only 3 classrooms.
Sare Gideh school garden with local fencing.
Marget is a sponsored student at Bansang senior school in grade 11. She is an orphan and was living with her grandmother who was in a difficult position to support her. She is now one of a few students living with staff in the school so she has no travel difficulties, has regular meals and can make the most of her education.
It’s a pleasure to be able to support her, we hope girls go on to have some independence and can make decisions for themselves.