26 November 2017

 

Days 19 and 20 The last weekend

Saturday

We had decided to do our very little bit to help The Gambia’s litter problem. The facilities at Yundum barracks school are very limited and they do not have the funds to buy bins to put in the school yards, which are much littered. We therefore went in search of wheelie-bins. Yes, the sort you and I use at home We drove past a number of shops that had wheelies of varying sizes and colours and stopped to enquire what was the best price. We wanted three, one for the yards of each of the Nursery, the LBS and the UBS. We found a store that would sell us three at a slight discount and bought them for a total of D4,800, or just under £30 each. These were duly tied to the roof of the van.



We made a quick stop to buy some graph paper for the workshop kits and then went to a couple of compounds. We went firstly to Fatou and Sulayman’s compound and had a very good chat there. Pippa gave Bintu Betty, their daughter a tablet as a prize for very good work. On then to Fatou Lisa’s compound, an old friend from our days at The Atlantic Hotel where she worked. Alhagie, her son, is the holder of the Ian Howard Memorial Scholarship and it was great to see them all again.

A short stop back at the hotel and then off to Linda’s for our second Gambia Pageant meeting. Abdoulie, Wandifa, Yankuba Pippa and I were all there. We mostly discussed admin matters but we did agree the programme of workshops to be delivered by Wandifa, Abdoulie and Yankuba in the period from when we go back, to when we come again in February. The plan is for them to give three workshops to schools on the north bank in December and one to a school on the south bank in January. One of the workshops on the north bank will be delivered to two schools simultaneously so two kit sets will be needed there. 

Abdoulie, Yankuba and Wandifa left to go home, leaving Pippa and Linda to sort out money mostly for projects agreed but not yet started or part completed, and to bring Linda’s records up to date.

We were delighted to be asked to stay on for supper where Tida cooked us a really excellent Chicken Yassa. We were joined by Famara, Salif and of course all the children who earlier were happy to join in some maths games with us. Happy birthday to Mariama who will be 7 on Wednesday!

Sunday

Our last full day in the Gambia for this trip. We went to Musa’s compound. Musa worked in the Atlantic Hotel for many, many years. Pippa and Ian met him on their first ever trip to The Gambia in 2000. He subsequently transferred to the airport restaurant, still working for the Atlantic Hotel, which manages the restaurant there. He retired at the end of October having worked for the hotel for nearly 30 years. He is great fun and is sorely missed at the airport where he was a friendly face to chat to whilst waiting for the plane.

Whilst there Wandifa had a call from the Headteacher of the Lower Basic School at Yundum Barracks. He had something for us and asked if he could deliver it. He arrived after a short period and gave us some wrapped presents. One each for Tom, Isaac and Yun, for everything they had done at the schools for the two days that they were there. Whatever they are, I am sure they will be highly appreciated. 


We made a final visit to the Manneh family compound and then returned to the hotel for the afternoon.

This has been a very successful trip and we have all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Our thanks to Wandifa, Yankuba and Abdoulie for all their hard work. Abdoulie has, as ever been an absolutely brilliant driver.

This will be my final blog from The Gambia for the time being, although I will post some more photos when I return to the UK.

Kathy, Pippa and I are coming to The Gambia on 1 February and I will resume the blog then.


I have enjoyed writing this blog and hope you have enjoyed reading it.


Andrew

 

Day 18 A day at the hotel

Pippa and I stayed in the hotel in the morning as Yankuba, Wandifa and Abdoulie had other things to do. They came round in the afternoon and we decided it was a little late to go out, so we spent a couple of hours sorting through microscopes and the ancillary kit that goes with them. We packaged-up 5 sets containing microscopes, and consumables ready to go to schools. Wandifa, Abdoulie will be taking them to schools after we have left, giving workshops (all the feedback we get says that they are brilliant at that) and then leaving the kit there.


In the evening Pippa and I, paid our second visit to Mama’s restaurant along with Ann, Brian and Linda to have their excellent sea-food buffet. It really is excellent value at D500 per head.

23 November 2017

 

Day 17 Farewells and Hellos

We left the hotel at about 9.45 heading for Humanity Nursery School in Farato. We had planned to meet Faks the owner there and hand over the first stage payment for his project to create a multi-use area which could be used as a canteen and kitchen as well as being used for other activities. 

Unfortunately he had called earlier to say that he now had a meeting at GTTI, where he is head of automotive engineering, which he couldn’t get out of. Nevertheless we met Ebrima, the Headteacher there who showed us around and led a great singing performance from the children.We also saw the canopy that had been erected by means of a Pageant project. It is very impressive.and provides valuable shelter.

Humanity Nursery caters for special needs children, but as they don’t attend every day there were none at the school today. We would still like to discuss their individual needs because we would like to help with any materials etc. that may be of use.


Children singing at Humanity Nursery under the new canopy

After that we went to Faks’s farm which is on the original site of Humanity Nursery. We were shown his 800 or so laying hens the five turkeys he is rearing. All profits from the sale of eggs are ploughed back into the nursery.

Our final visit to Yundum Barracks schools followed. We had brought over many bags of school uniforms from Haslemere Prep School. Included were a large number of grey school shorts. Somewhat surprisingly it seems that very few schools have grey shorts as part of their uniform, but Yundum Barracks schools do. They were delighted to have them. They will be suitable mostly for their lower basic grades. We also had with us some beige shirts, pullovers and socks, which may be of use. They were delighted with these. We had only brought 3 bags with us. We have many more.


On then to the airport which is nearby. Tom Isaac and Yun were flying home today. Ann and Brian were arriving on the inbound flight, which were pleased to hear was more or less on time. After refreshments we said our farewells to the boys. They have enjoyed themselves immensely and have contributed a great deal to the schools they have visited. We welcomed Ann and Brian and then returned to the hotel.

 

Day 16 Mostly project and assembly work

Yun, Tom and Isaac set off with Jerreh shortly after 9.00 to go for their second visit to Yundum Barracks Schools. Shortly after them Carol, Pippa and I with Wandifa, Abdoulie and Yankuba set off in the opposite direction towards Banjul.

Our first port of call was to Banjul Hospital to give them parcels of very small woollen hats and blankets for neonatal and very young babies. The staff were very grateful for these.

On then to Wesleyan LBS in Banjul. We had told the principal that we had agreed to fund their project for hard-standing for a catering area. She was delighted and we gave her the money to carry out the project.

St Augustine’s SSS was our next stop. That was where our container had been unpacked almost two weeks ago. We had left with them some modular shelving units that had been disassembled in Leatherhead and shipped over. St Augustine’s was the lucky recipient, mainly because the frames were so heavy that it would have been nigh on impossible to take them anywhere else. The shelving now had to be reassembled but we had no instructions and its assembly was not particularly intuitive. With the aid of photos taken as the shelving was disassembled we could work out how to do it and showed staff at the school the method. We did a small section and then left the rest in the capable hands of the staff.


Assembling shelving units

We then headed out of Banjul and stopped off at St Therese’s Lower and Upper Basic Schools to see a couple of children who were sponsored and one who wanted to be.

Heading now towards Yundum which is where the barracks schools are, we picked up our carpenter’s liaison, Fansu and then returned to those schools. We are having made some tables and benches for the lower basic school there. We know what size table top and bench tops we want, but not the height. We all discussed this at some length and agreed on the height suitable for a G2 or G3 class. After leaving we gave Fansu the money to get the work done; he thinks it will take two weeks.

Tom Isaac and Yun had not finished at the school, so we drove a few kilometres down the road to Kings Kid Academy in Lamin village. We were hoping to see our old friend Bishop Dennis but he was in Senegal, so we spoke with the new Headteacher who started in September. We knew he had a project to create six new classrooms on two levels and we were given a very professional document including architect’s plans and estimates to take away and consider.

Back then for the final time to the barracks schools to pick up Isaac, Tom and Yun who were still playing rugby with delighted children at that time. They said they had had a great time there.



Team photo: Left to right: Abdoulie, Carol, Andrew, Tom, Yankuba, Isaac, Wandifa, Yun, Pippa



21 November 2017

 

Day 15. Farewell to David and Regina

A shorter blog today to balance up yesterday’s long one. Actually it is because we had a short, quiet day.

We said our farewells to David and Regina and hope they have a good journey home. They have been great fun and very supportive. We will miss them. Shortly after they left I received a Met Office warning on my phone for gales in south-east England, so I hope they don’t have too bumpy a landing.#

After that we went to see Ebrima Cham at Kotukala School. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the school cannot use its well-water because of possible contamination. He has provided us with an estimate to sink a new borehole at a proper distance from the toilets and we have discussed and agreed to fund it, so gave him the necessary cash.

A quick meeting with a student who has completed his G12 and has applied to go to the Nursing School in Banjul. He has found out the cost of this and will know if his application is successful in December. We told him that funding is available and to contact Wandifa when the outcome is known.

On then to Ding Ding Nursery. I have not been there before, although Pippa has, but not for a few years. We wanted to see the work of one of the sponsored nursery children there.

Our final visit to the day was to KJM Nursery in Wallingara. Tina and Frances have both been there before and Tina would like to provide the school with a shipment of some teaching and learning aids for use by the children. We went through the types of aids with the principal who said she will be delighted to have them. We will sort this out when we get back to the UK.

Back then to the hotel for a spot of R&R. Tom, Yun and Isaac will be returning from Misera this evening and we are looking forward to hearing of their time there.



 

Day 14. Way upcountry

A longer than usual blog today to record the events of a longer than usual day.

We assembled in the hotel lobby at 5.30 am to set off. We had two cars today. Abdoulie, Yankuba Tom, Isaac and Yun set off in the Pageant van, while Wandifa, Pippa and I went in the other car with Jerreh driving.

Upcountry in The Gambia is so very different from the urban conurbations of Banjul, Serrekunda, Brikama and the other villages that make up the coastal strip. It is quiet, peaceful and very very rural. It is also considerably poorer even by Gambian standards.

We made good progress as the road to Brikama is quiet that early in the morning. After Brikama the road is very good for the next 150Km or so, so we sped along stopping only for the numerous police and army checkpoints, but there were even fewer of those than last year and none detained us for long.

We arrived at Misera BCS shortly after 8.00 having made a brief stop to check out the scout lodge where Isaac, Yun and Tom will be spending the night. We were met by Mr Faye, the principal who was delighted to see us. He gave us a tour of the school and we were able to see the completed fence (what we call a wall) that Pageant had funded. It is a very impressive structure and Mr Faye has plans for it – more of that later. We were able to see some of the furniture that had come over in the container in the school library. The library there is well-structured and more importantly seems well used. Mr Faye considers it to be the best library in the province. We had also given some bundles of clothes for distribution to the local community.


Part of the school wall which may be decorated, with children singing


The library




The school was also currently experiencing a crisis with its water then. It has two wells. The pumping mechanism (hand-pumping) in the large one is broken beyond repair, and a person or persons unknown had dropped an engine in the other one. Why someone would sink so low as to do that is beyond me. However, a new borehole has been sunk in the village which is only a couple of hundred metres away. The school will have access to that and the pipework has been laid. They are only waiting for the connections to be made. We heard later in the day that those connections were made shortly after we left so they now have water; good news there.

Tom, Isaac and Yun then left us to start their two days of helping out generally in the school. We are hoping they will be providing a report of what they did which I will post here. Pippa and I  discussed some possible projects with the principal. He would like to render and paint the school’s perimeter wall. There would be pictures and teaching aids painted on the wall. The school has a talented art teacher who could organise  the painting. He would also like to provide a secure area with shelter for the food vendors who come to the school. Mr Faye will provide some estimates for both of those.

We then suggested a possible project. The idea is to create a new building for use by the school on Mondays – Fridays and by the local community at the weekend. The building would be put to use as a skills centre. We envisage it consisting of workshops for woodwork, metalwork and home science. It would be accessible from inside the perimeter wall by the school community and outside the wall by the local community. Mr Faye very much liked the idea and we asked for a detailed drawing of what he would like together with a reliable estimate.

We moved on then to Kani Kunda for a brief visit to Wontu who is Wandifa’s sister. We arrived at a nice quiet compound, but within milliseconds numerous children of differing sizes and ages materialised. Pippa had brought some parcels for the women’s club there, mainly of clothing, bedding and towels and she also had some shorts and dresses hand-made by Esther, a Pageant member. These were highly appreciated and unexpectedly orderly queues of girls formed to be given a dress of the right size. We handed out some small presents to eager children and then said our farewells, departing for Soma Health Centre, where we met a doctor named Amadou and gave some items to be used in the hospital as they see fit, and including some things for the baby care unit.

Trying on dresses, Wontu in the background



Wandifa and Wontu with home-grown water melon

On to Pakalinding UBS where we had funded a project to provide a new water tank and four standpipes situated around the school grounds. The school has mains water which is metered but often has no supply as it as at the end of the line from the pumping station. The system will enable the tank to be filled when demand from other users is low.


Part of the water installation



Back in the UK we had agreed to fund the refurbishment of the staff room which is in a total state of disrepair. We handed over a payment of one-half of the estimate with balance to be paid when it appeared the work was progressing well.


The decrepit staff room

The state of the school’s grounds is somewhat shambolic and we suggested that tidying them up would help the children to have pride in their school. The school also received quite a lot of furniture from the container that has been put in store, some of it is destined to go in the staff room, but we said that most should be used for the children. We would like to see these when we next visit.
We had a tour of the school. Most noticeable was that the school had proper workshops for woodwork, metalwork and home science, but these were hardly being used for practical work and these subjects were being taught theoretically. This may be partly because what little tools and equipment they have is very old and worn-out. The school also has some microscopes donated by Pageant. A teacher was able to show us some photos of them being used, but we would like to hear of them being used more.

We gave a bicycle along with the essential padlock and pump to a Pageant student, Nfamera which was paid for by his sponsor and then went to his family compound nearby. We had some mosquito nets and garden implements from the ethical gifts programme which we wanted to give to an upcountry family where there is greater need for them, but we have only a few sponsored children who live up there.

We set off back to the hotel speeding along the main road stopping only at a local tourist attraction for a drink and a bite to eat. The first part of the journey was very quick, but then we hit the interminable traffic jam that spreads along in the Banjul direction from Brikama so we fumed our way slowly along it arriving back at the hotel just after 7.00.  A quick shower followed, then down to a nearby restaurant. It was David and Regina’s last evening here. A good fillet steak, peppercorn sauce and chips was a popular choice! 




19 November 2017

 

Days 12 and 13 The second weekend

Saturday

Fafa Jobe the Headteacher from Albreda LBS was coming over from the North Bank to see us. He was bringing with him some estimates for the projects we had agreed to when we went and saw him. We met him in Westfield where he had already bought a toilet, cistern and hand basin together with some pipework to be used in the staff toilets that were to be built. When we have finished we will drive him to Banjul port where he will engage a porter with a barrow to load these onto the ferry. At the other end they will be wheeled of to Fafa’s car.

We went for refreshments at Timeless and discussed the projects. We gave him the money for the first project which will be running water to the kitchen along with a sink and worktop. It was only then that we realised that whilst Fafa had bought the toilets he had forgotten the kitchen sink (sic). When that is finished we will get the money for the second project (staff toilets) to him. By then the new head will be in place and we will get a smaller project to carry out under him before embarking on the largest of the projects – the conversion of the derelict kitchen to female staff quarters.

Abdoulie then drove Fafa to the port whilst Pippa, Regina, Carol, Wandifa and I went to Albert Market in Banjul. Yankuba had gone out for the day with Isaac, Yun and Tom to do some touristy things with Jerreh driving them. We were at the market for two reasons. Pippa was buying some small carved wooden animals to take back to the UK and sell at school craft fairs to children at pocket money prices. There were protracted negotiations over how much we should pay, but eventually a fair price was agreed. We were also buying some mosquito nets from some money raised in our ethical gifts programme. We were able to buy 12 which will give great protection to some upcountry families.

We started the return to the hotel but stopped off at the Atlantic Hotel in Banjul which was regularly used by Pageant members in The Gambia until it closed in December 2015. It has undergone some refurbishment since and was due to reopen on 1 November 2017 but the opening was then put back to 1 December. We had a look round, mainly for old times’ sake. All the bedrooms and bathrooms have new furniture and fittings and the place has been given a lick of paint, but other than that it hasn’t changed much. There still seemed quite a bit of work to do, and we doubted that it would be ready in what was then 12 days’ time.


Nostalgia corner. Regina, Wandifa and Carol being shown round


Sunday

A short day. Pippa and I with Wandifa and Abdoulie visited Ebrima and Fatou in their compound. Ebrima and Fatou were both sponsored by our family when they were at school even though they are now adults. Indeed, they were two of the first  children to be sponsored by Pageant. We enjoyed chatting with them. Ebrima is the compound’s gardener and he told us of his plans to improve the garden. We were able to give him some seeds donated by Manor Green Primary School in Crawley.

After that we went to buy a bicycle for a student whose lives upcountry. His sponsor, Alison had asked us to buy him one. Negotiations were successfully concluded and the bike, with a sturdy lock and a pump were loaded onto the van.


Back to the hotel early. Abdoulie was taking the car to be serviced in the afternoon. He wanted it to be in tip-top condition for our long drive to Soma and beyond tomorrow (we are leaving at 5.30)

18 November 2017

 

Blog update

I have just added some photos for days 8 -11

Andrew
 

Day 11 Mostly at Yundum Barracks Schools

Yun Shin, Isaac and Tom, along with Yankuba, Abdoulie, Wandifa, Pippa and I drove to the Yundum Barracks Schools where the boys were going to spend the day helping and doing some sporting activities with the children there. They will also be going on the following Wednesday. 

When we arrived we had to report to the MPs there and I was told by the officer that I looked like Boris Johnson! Oh dear!
The boys were going to start with some drawing with the younger children and had brought materials with them. We left them there and had decided to go and buy some chairs which would be suitable for younger children at that school, to go with the tables we were having constructed, and had seen some outside a shop in Serrekunda a couple of days ago. On that day we had stopped and Yankuba and Abdoulie had talked to the owner and established they had about 100 and he would let us have them for GMD40 each. That is about £6.45 each

We had decided to buy them all and hoped we could get a bulk discount. When we got to the shop it was closed. We rang the number on the door and the owner said he normally does not on on Fridays but would open it especially for us and asked that we came back in about two hours. We went back to the hotel and picked up Carol and Regina, then back to the shop.

We were disappointed. The owner had upped the price to GMD50 per chair and would not budge so we walked away. Thinking caps were put on as we drove to the school and Pippa had the idea for getting a price from the carpenter who will be making the tables to also make some 2-seater benches for the children to sit on. That would enable us to still sit 10 children around each table. We will run this past the school.

When we got to the school a large number of children were on the school field playing rugby, a game which is almost completely unknown in The Gambia. They soon stopped as it was time for Friday prayers and the boys told us that many of the children had difficulty in the concept of passing the ball backwards whilst running forwards!



Twickenham?

We left them to it and went to see Fansu who is liaising with the carpenter and explained our ideas to him and got a price for the tables and benches which we thought was satisfactory. Whilst we were there, the Deputy Head from Brikama Nema School came with his estimate for the tiling. It was not what we had asked for so he will redo.

Back to the school for final time where rugby was still in full flow. When the school bell rang for the close of the day the children slowly and reluctantly left the field. The boys said they had had a great and rewarding time and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They have agreed to write a short account of their time in Gambian schools and I will post it here.



 

Day 10 At the airport (and other things)

Pippa and I started the day by driving to Brikama. We went to Brikama UBS to see Mo Lamin, who is not a Pageant student but is sponsored by a pastor in the USA. He had been asked for a considerable amount of money for materials, books and extra tuition. We were able to get this information and leave him with a maths set and calculator.

To Gambia College to continue our arrangements for the science workshops in February. We left a number of microscopes that had come over on the container in storage there. Nakalang was unable to confirm that one of the days we wanted was available but is confident that it will be. We were also able to agree the price of the breakfast and lunch for the two workshop days with Madam Touray, so there will be no misunderstanding on the day.

We continued to Anne Marie Rivier BCS to see 4 children and give one of them a present from his sponsor. That school certainly seems to have very good facilities compared to others

Anne Marie Rivier Basic Cycle School

This was followed by our second visit to Brikama Nema School, which had been a recipient of a considerable amount of stuff from the container and we were pleased to see it already being put to good use. The schools had received football jerseys and shorts from Haslemere Prep School and we were treated to a display of children in the kit.


In sports gear at Brikama Nema


In a previous blog we wrote about the toilets that had been constructed there. Some were currently unused as they had not been tiled and the school did not have the money to do that so we asked them to provide us with two estimates for tiling the floors and one tile course around the wall. We asked for estimates for using broken tiles, which would produce a mosaic effect on the floor and for complete tiles.


The deputy head and Pippa trying out chairs from the container

Lunch was then provided which we were not expecting. We ate what the children had, which we think is called yankadamg. This is a dish that neither Pippa nor I had had before. It consists of steamed rice to which ground peanut flour is added along with small amounts of smoked dried fish and vegetables. It is quite a dry dish, but very tasty.

It was time then to go to the airport to meet Tom, Isaac and Yun Shin from Christ’s Hospital School. We arrived a few minutes before the plane was due and soon discovered it was expected to be two hours late.😓 Normally we would have checked this at the hotel in the morning, but a lack of internet prevented us from doing that. We used the time to go to Yundum Barracks Schools (where Tom, Isaac and Yun Shin will be going tomorrow) to discuss our plans for providing them with some furniture for some of their lower basic classes. We left them with our ideas and returned to the airport to successfully pick them up.😃 Once again Thomas Cook had to divert to the Canaries to refuel

Back to the hotel. The boys were very hungry as they had not had a proper meal for many hours. An extended power cut at the hotel meant that we decided to walk into go to Luigi’s where the boys enjoyed a large pizza.



16 November 2017

 

Day 9: Mostly visiting schools

David and Carol were feeling a little delicate this morning after a disturbed night, and they decided to stay at the hotel, so Pippa Regina and I set off with Abdoulie, Wandifa and Yankuba.
Our first port of call was to see Buba, a taxi driver at a nearby hotel. The reports for all his children were outstanding. He explained that all of his children had now left school.

On then to Kotukala LBS and Nursery to see Ebrima Cham who is the school’s administrator. We have carried out projects there over the last year or two having been introduced to them by Gambian Education Trust (GET) a UK charity that worked closely with that school and closed down in 2015 leaving its surplus funds to Pageant. Just before leaving the UK, Pippa had received an email from Ebrima stating that some people at the schoolhad become ill and the school had been told that it was probably because the school’s toilets were too close to the well and waste from the toilets was contaminating the well’s water. The school is connected to mains water which is used for drinking, but that supply is currently erratic (possibly due to the frequent power cuts affecting the pumping station)

It has been recommended that the school sinks a new borehole and with the aid of a pump connected to mains electricity, water can go to the school’s large storage tank which currently stores the well’s water. This water would be used for all purposes other than drinking. Ebrima has already obtained a rough estimate of the cost and we asked him to supply us with a detailed one.

On then to Javouhey Nursery School which is on the site of St Therese’s LBS. We talked to the Principal there and gave a newly sponsored child her Pageant Welcome pencil case.
Nest door then to St Therese’s UBS to see two of our sponsored children. There are over 2,400 children at that school spread over grades 7, 8 and 9. Grade 9 and half of grade 8 attend in the morning and the other half of Grade 8 and Grade 7 attend in the afternoon. We talked for some time to the Principal who said that this school was one of the top three schools in The Gambia for results. Ancha (see yesterday’s blog), our prize winner and top-performing student in the Grade 9 exams had attended there until moving on this year to Nusrat SSS. We will return there later in our visit in the afternoon to see a student in Grade 7.

Next on the agenda was a bit of shopping. Pageant runs an ethical gifts programme and we had some money for this to spend on garden tools. Yankuba and Abdoulie went into the shop to negotiate and buy (they would get a better price) and returned with three spades and four cutlasses (we would probably call them machetes). They are fine sturdy tools which will be put to good use.

Our final call of the day was to a mission in Wallingara. We were trying to find a young man whom we had lost track of. The mission’s leader said that the young man had left school, packed up his belongings and left without a forwarding address. We don’t think there is much else we can do here.
Back to the hotel and tomorrow we will pay our second visit to Gambia College and take some microscopes for storage there. We will visit a few school and on the way back call in at the airport to collect the Christ’s Hospital students who will be arriving.




 

Day 8: Mo’s last day

As it was Mo’s last day we made separate morning and afternoon trips from the hotel.
In the morning we went to Nusrat SSS where we have a number of sponsored children. We spoke at some length with the principal who seems very able and has a very dry witty sense of humour. We met with all our students who were there that day, but we were especially pleased to meet Ancha who achieved the best possible results in her Grade 9 tests. An “Excellent” in all subjects and we have heard that she got the best results of anyone in The Gambia. Congratulations indeed to her and Pippa presented her with a prize in recognition of her success.

We also met with Muhammed who is an amputee. Muhammed is not a Pageant sponsored student; he is sponsored by another UK charity called Legs4Africa who are helping him with his education. They wanted to have details of the fees, if any and other costs as they have little experience of The Gambian education system. We were able to get the information they need from him and the principal.

We then returned to the hotel to say our farewells to Mo. She has been great over here and we will miss her. Pippa also took this opportunity to speak to Jerreh whom we will need as a second cab driver for a few days. When the students from Christ’s Hospital are over they will be doing different things from us and we are also planning to go upcountry to Misera BCS with them. We will leave them there overnight with Abdoulie and possible Yankuba so they can have two full days there. The rest of us will return on the same day with Jerreh.

Out again for the afternoon. We started at the Gambian Technical Training Institute (GTTI) to see Faks. Faks is a very able entrepreneur. As well as his daytime role as Head of Automotive Engineering at GTTI, he is also the proprietor of Humanity Nursery and has over 800 egg-laying hens. He is also raising some turkeys, presumably for Christmas. He ploughs the profits from the egg-laying back into the nursery school.


Faks and Pippa sorting out college fees

We were there for a couple of things. Pageant has a number of sponsored students at GTTI. There were some fees to sort out which we duly did. We have also agreed to fund a project at Humanity Nursery. Faks wants to build a multi-purpose hall there. As the name suggested it will be used for a variety of purposes, but principally Faks wants a secure area where the food for the children’s midday meal can be prepared and eaten.  We arranged with him to go and see him at the nursery next week when we can give him the first instalment of the money.

We finished our day at the SOS Lower Basic School which is situated in the Hermann Gmeiner children’s village, which is an Austrian charitable foundation with children’s villages worldwide. It used to run the schools there but has withdrawn from that aspect. We were there to see briefly Amie who is David and Regina’s sponsored child and some other Pageant sponsored children there.

Photos to follow




 

Day 7: The north bank

An early start had us in the van at 5.15 for our day on the north bank. The hotel had kindly provided us with a packed breakfast and we headed to Banjul Port. The north bank is very different from the south bank; it is much less developed and considerably poorer. The only practical way to get to the north bank is by ferry and in the past that has been slow, infrequent and unreliable. Things have changed for the better here, though. There is a brand new ferry that is considerably bigger, faster and quieter that the old ones.

We arrived in good time and were on the ferry just after 6.20. It was uncrowded and the sun had yet to rise. A sea mist hovered above the river. With barely an engine murmur the ferry departed and 25 minutes later was berthed at Barra, the north bank’s port. Our taxi for the day was waiting for us and again we had something of a surprise. It seemed to be a decent car. The ones we have had in recent visits have been old, noisy and somewhat unreliable. All six of us and the driver fitted quite snugly into the car and off we set.

Our first call was to be at Albreda LBS. To get there the car drove along tarmacked roads for about 5 miles, then turned right onto the North Bank Road which is made of ridged compacted sand in which there are countless potholes. The drive to Albreda takes about an hour on that road and we had a driver who went too fast for such a bumpy road. The sounds of parts of the underside of the car hitting the road surface were all too common for my liking.

Nevertheless we reached Albreda safely and met the Headteacher Fafa Jobe. We know Fafa well and have carried a number of successful projects there. He had some ideas for projects. The school has water, but it stops at a tap just inside the school gage. He would like to extend the water by running a pipe to the school kitchen which had been built a few years ago. This would involve running a pipe behind a classroom block, and entering the kitchen at the rear. He would also like a sink and some shelves/units adjacent to this. He would also like to do something with the old school kitchen which is now derelict and wants to convert this building into staff quarters for the female staff. Albreda is so remote that it is difficult to recruit staff who can live within reasonable travelling distance, so Pageant in the past has already paid for the conversion of one building into staff quarters

Fafa will provide us with estimates for the work he would like doing. He then told us he was retiring from the post of Headteacher on 31 December having reached the state retirement age. To ensure the smooth running of the work, the school’s long standing deputy head will manage the project. We have known him too for some time. He was one of the first students to go on one of Pageant’s microscopy workshops a number of years ago. We will miss Fafa.

After a short stop for refreshments we went to Baccary Saidykhan’s compound in Juffurah, a short drive from Albreda. Bakary is Wandifa’s eldest brother and we have visited there many times. His children have at some time all been Pageant sponsored students.

We then set of for the return drive to Barra, taking a diversion on route to go to Bakalarr. This involves a drive along an even bumpier sandy track with even more bumps and scrapes on the bottom of the car. Bakalarr School was the first school Pippa and Ian visited when they started coming to The Gambia. It was also the first school helped by Pageant all those years ago. The site now houses both a LBS and a UBS. The person who was head of the school at that time has moved on and we had hoped to meet the new principal, but unfortunately she was out of the school that day. Nevertheless we met the vice principal and some of the senior staff, one of whom had been there when Pageant first went there.

We then started our drive back to Barra. The consequences of all the bumps then materialised. The car’s engine overheated. We stopped at a village tap and the driver discovered the radiator had been damaged and was leaking. With the assistance of Yankuba, Abdoulie and Wandifa the engine was cooled by using copious amounts of water and refilling the radiator. This got us back to Barra which included a short diversion to the Amazing Grace Nursery school where we have a sponsored child. At Barra we were lucky and just managed to just catch a ferry back to Banjul. When we got there, unfortunately our car had a punctured tyre and there was a delay whilst the wheel was changed.

It was Mo’s last evening as she was returning to the UK the following day, so we all went to a local middle-eastern restaurant for an excellent Meze for dinner.

Photos to follow soon

13 November 2017

 

Blog update

I have now been able to add some photos for the the first few days. Watch this space for the blog of our trip to the north bank

Andrew