You will have noticed in our mission statement that we are committed to helping with education in the Jokadu District of The Gambia.
Our first venture into this area has been at:
Bakang/Karantaba Lower Basic Primary School.
This school was established in 1989 and has 150 pupils [78 boys & 72 girls]. There are 4 teachers, 6 classrooms, 1 caretaker and 3 cooks. The children are enrolled at the age of 7 yrs and then complete 6 yrs tuition before moving to an Upper Basic Primary School. They stay there for 3 yrs and then move to a Senior Secondary School.
Our first contact with this school was in the Autumn 2005 when visiting the Jokadu District on the north bank. Following that we sent out exercise & reference books, pens, paper, blackboard paint, chalk, pencils & rubbers etc. Since then we have sent out other parcels containing mathematical equipment, books and writing materials. In the spring of 2007 we opened a school bank account @ Kololi in order that we could send money to the school. We then arranged with the headmaster to have the school repainted, both inside & outside and sent £500 to cover the cost of the paint, re-plastering as required, and labour. This work was completed during the summer holiday in readiness for the new school year in September 2007.
During the autumn of 2007 we also set up a sponsorship scheme to help with the education of children from the poorer families. We started with 9 children in December, who were selected for help by the headmaster, Mr Barham Wadda. By the end of June, 2008, we had 20 children being sponsored. If you would like more information please contact us via our Email address:
In December 2007 a sponsor donated £500 to the school in order that a library could be provided for both the children and the staff. Following consultation with the headmaster and the staff a spare room was converted into a library with special shelving for the books, lino covering the floor and chairs and tables purchased. The room was redecorated and a hand carved plaque placed above the entrance door in memory of the sponsor's son, who had died in a motoring accident.
On our most recent visit to The Gambia, early March 2008, we took this sponsor and 4 other supporters to the school and the library was officially 'opened'. Although it was a very happy day for the children and the school there were very few dry eyes at the time. The Gambian people are most appreciative of what is done to help them and they make every effort to show their thanks.
On the same day we visited the school vegetable garden, which is maintained by the children and the staff. The children were delighted to show us the fruits of their labour, from using the tools we had given them and the plants they had grown from seeds, which we had sent out in the autumn. They had grown lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and were persevering with fruit trees, banana, orange, mango, cashew nut. The plan is to make the school self sufficient in fruit and vegetables. Any surplus will be given to the children to take home for the family.
You may recall that we were looking at the feasibility of providing the school with 3 x Beehives + bees so that they would help with the pollination of the fruit and vegetables and hopefully provide some honey. We are now delighted to say that the bees and beehives have been bought from the Gambian Beekeepers Association and placed in the school garden. Our thanks for this go to a generous donation from someone who visited the school earlier this year.
When we visited the school in December we checked to see where the beehives had been placed. To our surprise the hives were placed amoung the lower branches of cashew nut and mango trees. As you can see from the photos these hives do not have legs on which they could stand, as in the UK.
Although there were not many bees flying at the time we were assured that when the trees came into blossom, in the next month or so, the place will be humming! It will be most interesting to find out how much honey is produced in this first season. If it is a success then the plan is to have at least 2 more hives for next year.
Following on from the discussions we have had with the Minister of Education, Mrs Fatou Faye, concerning the use of a spare classroom as a Nursery Class, for children 5 - 7yrs old, we are pleased to report progress. A very generous donation of £600 has been given to the school to furnish this classroom with desks, benches, and other equipment. We have already sent boxes of pens, pencils, crayons, chalk, exercise books, coloured paper etc. The headmaster, members of the PTA and a representative from the Education Department have already met and decided who will teach these children. Initially it is thought that 10 - 15 children will benefit from this venture.
Our latest visit to this school was in fact to officially "open" this Nursery Classroom, which we are delighted to say Dulcie Peacock did, in memory of her daughter Clare. There was much applause and appreciation, by the many parents and children who wanted to be there. There are 25 children aged 5 - 7 yrs enrolled, at the moment, with as many again wanting to join. With a young female teacher to encourage and help these children, in a classroom which has been well furnished with desks, chairs and display material, it is almost certain that this latest venture will be the success that the library has become since it opened in March 2008.
We are delighted with the response to the sponsorship scheme we have running at this school. In the first year 28 children have been sponsored. It is our policy that only one child per family should benefit from the sponsorship. In an area as poor as this, we feel this decision will benefit many more families, and lead to a wider education in a remote area.
Finally, we have heard that the school headmaster, Mr Barham Wadda, has been called to attend a 12 month training course, run by the Gambian Government. We understand that the reason for this is to progress his future development within the educational field. It is understood that he will come back to Bakang/Karantaba School in September 2009. In the meantime another headmaster Mr Jammeh has been appointed to carry through the plans made, by Barham, for the next school year.
Since December 2008, when Dulcie Peacock opened the Nursery Classroom she had funded, it has been fairly quiet at the school. The number of sponsored children has now risen to 35. Improvements made to the school kitchen, following our support, have resulted in providing extra meals for these children.
As mentioned before, the stand in headmaster, Mr Jammeh, has completed his year at the school and we look forward to his end of the school year report. This should arrive around the middle of August and a copy will be sent to every sponsor.
We await the decision of the S.O.S. for Education, Mrs Fatou Lamin-Faye, as to whether Barham Wadda, who has been on a educational development course for the past 12 months, returns to the school in September, or is moved to another school. We feel that having completed this course, it would be ideal for Barham to return to the school and put all his new knowledge into practice. This school has been struggling in previous years, hence the reason why we felt we should help where we could. Without doubt our sponsorship scheme, the library, the nursery classroom along with some new ideas and enthusiasm would benefit the children, the parents, and the area as a whole. We will have to wait and see what is to be done.
Although Dulcie Peacock has made several visits to Karantaba School, since she opened the Nursery Classroom in December 2008, and has kept us informed of the successful progress to date, we were able call at the school at the end of April 2010, and just see the progress for ourselves.
The Minister of Education, Mrs Lamin Fatou Faye, decided not to send Barham Wadda back to this school, as headmaster, after his 12 months future development course at the education college. He was moved to another school near Kerewan and Momodou Jammeh told to continue as headmaster.
During this current school year, starting in September 2009, the sponsorship of the children has grown by 11, to a total now of 46. Since Dulcie opened the Nursery classroom 21 of the children there are sponsored. The important point to remember is that if the Nursery class had not been provided, in this village school, a large number of the children there now would not have gone to school. There is no other Nursery school in this remote area so getting educated would mean moving to another area or stay with relations where there was such a school. It also needs to be remembered that we have told the headmaster that he is to offer sponsorship to the poorest families and because this is a very poor area of subsistence farmers we have said only one child per family. Although this may seem hard we are trying to help educate at least one person in each family.
Our visit on this occasion was to hand out some small gifts that sponsors had sent to us. Needless to say there was much enjoyment and many smiling faces. We spoke to the staff who are never slow in coming forward with requests for help be it material or money. This time the request was for us to build a separate Nursery School, as they were running out of space. The government have now decided that no two year groups should be in the same classroom i.e; years 5 & 6 as an example. This decision has meant that the spare classroom, which we turned into a very good library in March 2008, has now been used as a classroom and the library only to be used after school. The fact that there may only be 12 children in a particular year group is ignored, they still occupy the library, which is so frustrating both for the children and the staff, who use the library.
We found that the vegetable garden was still not as good as it was 2 years ago. The current headmaster is not that keen to encourage both the staff and the children to grow fruit and vegetables for the school kitchen or to take home to their families. The headmaster claims that the soil is poor and nothing much grows, it was certainly good soil or more enthusiasm that produced a good garden in 2007/8. However, we did have a surprise from the garden – honey! Yes, the bees have become established and a member of the staff has managed to spin off honey from the combs. This is now being sold to raise money for use in the school. The lady who donated the money to buy the 2 beehives and some bees will be delighted to hear this result.
In the next week or so we will be writing to the headmaster to remind him that we will expect his end of year report on the school and what he plans for the next year. We will also remind the staff that the children’s sponsors will be waiting for the end of term report for the child they are helping.
Finally, now that we have a sponsor, who is helping us to pay the salary of the Nursery Class teacher, we decided that the teacher should sign a contract of employment. This has been discussed with the teacher and she is happy with the arrangement. The contract will be an annual contract with a 3 month termination on either side. This has now been sent to the P.T.A for their approval and then signing by the people concerned. Let’s hope it is another satisfied Gambian whom we are helping..
We are very pleased to report that the school is progressing well. We now have 47 children sponsored, and at the end of last term [Summer] there were 45 children in the Nursery class. This is a great success considering we only set up this class in December 2008, thanks to the very generous donation from Mrs Dulcie Peacock. It should also be remembered that, if this class had not been provided, a large number of these children might never have gone to school. Education in The Gambia is not compulsory, and yet, before a child can get into a government Primary School, they have to attend a Nursery School for at least 12 months.
The most recent news we have from the school is somewhat alarming, as it appears that the Government is going to take back the spare classroom we have been using for the Nursery. This means that a separate classroom will have to be built to hold the current number of children. The P.T.A. are hoping to raise the money to build a new classroom. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to fund this expense, at the moment, as we still have ongoing commitments with the Health Clinic.
All the sponsors should now have received the school report of the child they are sponsoring and the headmaster’s end of school year report.
With the very serious drought situation in a number of African countries, and the lack of food and hence starvation, the World Health Organisation has decreed that food support should be diverted to the most needy. This has meant that the supply of rice, split peas, and cooking oil, that was allocated to schools in The Gambia has been curtailed, with some schools having to go without. The Gambian government has now said that it will help schools to grow more of their food requirements and have set up plans to help this to be done. Bakang/Karantaba Lower Basic Primary School used to have a very productive vegetable garden [as shown in earlier photos], which did provide food for the school. Unfortunately this has been neglected as a result little interest by the current staff and parents. However, following a meeting we had with the Minister of Education, Mrs Fatou Lamin-Faye, the headmaster and staff were left in no doubt as to what they would have to do to turn this situation around. Meetings have been held with PTA and families and we understand that land is to be made available for food production and possibly livestock. The Minister made it very clear that unannounced visits would be made to check that every effort was being made so that children would get a meal at school – we shall now follow this through to its conclusion.
On the sponsorship front we now have 59 children sponsored in the school with one or two more pending. Of this number 16 are now at the next level - Upper Basic Primary School. We will hopefully see, from the headmasters’ end of school year report, how many more will be moving up in September. May we remind sponsors that we arrange for their sponsorship money to go with the child when they move up to the next school. This ensures that the child continues in education. In The Gambia education is NOT compulsory, but it is NOT FREE – parents either pay at the start of the school term or the child takes money everyday to pay for its education.
On this visit we were delighted to meet the new headmaster Mr Samba Corr and his new staff.
The government, in September 2011, following the dismissal of the previous headmaster, appointed Mr Corr. This dismissal followed on from discussions we had with the Minister of Education, Mrs Fatou Lamin-Faye, and a written request for a replacement. Straight away we can see an improvement in the standard of tuition, the behaviour of the children, and the interest of the staff. New steel lockable doors have been fitted to the classrooms and government maintenance staff had recently visited the school to assess what structural improvements were required. Certainly the roof of the library needs repairing, as do the dirt floors in the classrooms and the library. Ideally these floors need concreting and then tiling. We did a thorough inspection of the school and noted improvements, in which we, as a charity, could and should assist in an effort to turn this school around. It was interesting to meet the Deputy Regional Director of Education, at the school, when we arrived. He had been instructed by his boss to go to the school and assess the educational needs required. This apparently was his second day, so perhaps he decided to stay over so that he could see just what we were doing to help with the education in this area. He certainly expressed his gratitude and wanted to help. Having spent most of the day at the school we finished up having a meeting with the headmaster, Chairman of the PTA, School Governors, Parents and the Deputy Regional Director. Apart from all the other things mentioned, there was a strong request for us to provide a perimeter wall around the school. It would then be safer and secure at all times from, unwelcome visitors, livestock and rubbish blown from the surrounding area. We measured up the proposed route of the wall and estimate that it will require around 6,000 concrete blocks to build a wall six feet high. We did make the point that we considered the other educational needs, within the classrooms, should take priority and we have stressed this in a written report to all interested parties, including the Regional Director for Education, Mr Sait Saine.
Photos showing children with Xmas boxes that we given by members of Chatsworth Gymnasium. Due to problems on the high seas these did not arrive in time for Christmas. As you can see the children were not bothered, on the contrary they and their parents were delighted. These boxes were shared between the Nursery class and year1. The football shirts and shorts will be given to the older children by the headmaster as will knitted teddy bears be given to the older girls.
What a change we have seen since our last visit in April 2011. With the new headmaster, who is interested in gardening, and a change of mind by the villagers, who no doubt had been asked to help, the school can now be proud of what it has grown. The villagers pooled their resources to enlarge and refence the original plot of land. They then set about tilling the soil and planting seeds, in time to make the most of what rain that fell. Since the rain stopped, the children, with guidance from the headmaster and villagers, have kept watering the plants. From the photos you can see the results of their efforts, quite a revelation!! In fact the school garden is now back to the standard it was in 2008/9, as seen in the first photos we took. This change of thinking has also resulted in more choice for the school kitchen and better meals for both the children and the staff.
Following on from our last visit, in March 2012, when we discussed, in detail, with the Headmaster, Chairman of the PTA, Deputy Regional Director of Education and the School Governors, all the repairs and improvements that were needed at the school. We are now pleased to say that we have received photos of the work that was done during the Summer holiday. We think the photos below give a good idea of the improvements. Certainly the Library has had a new lease of life as has the Nursery classroom.
[New tiled floor, bookcase, display board & cupboard]
[New roof sheeting on one side]
[New tiled floor & new desk tops]
All the classrooms now have display boards to show off the children’s work. There is also a lockable cupboard in each room for the staff to store school materials. The floors have yet to be levelled and then tiled.
The Headmaster’s office is also being renovated with the introduction of a new filing cabinet and lockable storage cupboard.
We have already made mention about the request for a fence around the whole school and the protection that it would offer. Just to give readers an idea of how 'open' the countryside is, in this area we took a photo. Yes, it is a lovely large silk cotton tree, but there is little or no other cover to be seen. It is at this end that the school gates would stand, to the left hand side of the tree as you see it now. The only slight protection from the elements is at the opposite end of the school buildings, where the school garden is to be found.