When Mae made her first visit to The Gambia, one of the villages she went to see had their children being taught in the open-air, no school building. They were sheltering from the oppressive heat of the sun under a mango tree. The teacher was pointing to a piece of “flotsam” - blackboard - tied to a fence, and the children were writing in the dust/sand with a twig!. The teacher would check the children’s work, then smooth it over ready for the next lesson.
We are still coming across this situation today, as per the photo to the left. Some villages have proper built schools, but no furniture, or teaching aids, so the pupils had to write in the dust/sand, until we supplied them with exercise books and pencils, as per the next photo, but they still had no desks or chairs and had to sit on the floor.
The third photo on the left shows the inside of one of the above twig schools. There is a certain amount of furniture, and it does afford some protection from the sun, but it is not a good place to be during the rainy season.
Some village schools have started nursery classes, and those which don’t have sufficient classrooms have got over the problem by putting up an extension comprising of poles in the ground to which they attach raffia mats as makeshift walls and roofs - see 4th photo.
To date we have built 17 schools, and renovated numerous others. There are still many villages to be visited and as yet we don’t know what awaits us with regard to the amount of help required. Our priority is actual teaching aids - pencils, exercise and text books, chalk, rubbers etc. - and desks and chairs. The majority of what we supply is donated to us, but we still need monetary donations for things we have to buy.
The government does pay to have some schools, but they only provide the shell as the picture opposite shows - this replaced one of the above twig structures. The problem with these builds is that they are only built with mud blocks, and the first rain fall would reduce them to a mound of mud. Therefore it is up to charities like ourselves to take on the completion and provide a roof (usually corrugated steel) give all the walls a cement screed, and lay either a concrete or tiled floor.
We quite often come across schools which are in a very bad condition, and in desperate need of repair and refurbishment. It is for this kind of work that we need the cash in order to buy cement, doors, windows, and paint. On occasions we have had parties from the UK come to The Gambia to undertake the work during their holidays. Quite often they have also arranged for materials to be shipped from the UK, in one of our charity containers. The group seen here are from Stoke-on-Trent, and they refurbished the “Mae Winterton Nursery School”, at Maka Farafenni. Part of the refurbishment was laying a tiled floor, tiles and adhesive donated by H&R Johnson Tiles Ltd.,and Norcross Adhesives. The team are:
Back: Ian Watson, Sue Watson, Morro, Billy Burns, Njogu Bah.
Middle: Brian pointon, Chris Abbotts, Mick Farmer.
Front: Sandra Porter, Margaret Burns, Di Farmer, Jackie Surtees.