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Abuko Lower Basic School

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Background

Abuko is a community on the southern edge of a densely populated area administered by Kanifing Municipal Council, adjacent to the city of Banjul. Abuko has excellent transport links, being close to the main Brikama Highway. Abuko is probably better known for the famous Abuko Nature Reserve which is adjacent to the community. Pageant became involved with Abuko Lower Basic School [Map showing school location] early in 2005, at the suggestion of Wandifa, who thought that the school needed some assistance. The school was a village initiative and was launched to provide local primary facilities for children, who would otherwise have to travel some 5 km to school. It had been started with just two year-groups of children, Grades 1 and 2, and was using buildings that were once part of the Veterinary College and were then surplus to the college's requirements.

On this page

  • Bishops Waltham Junior School in Hampshire has maintained close links with Abuko LBS since 2005
  • February 2005 Pageant's First Visit to Abuko LBS.
  • November 2005 Pageant visited Abuko LBS again with letters from the children of Bishops Waltham Junior School.
  • February 2006 Pippa and Ian visited again in February 2006, with more letters and some posters from Bishops Waltham Junior School.
  • April 2007 Ian and Pippa ran a Gambian mini market at Bishops Waltham Junior School's Worldclass Fayre.
  • June 2007 Jeannette Mars visited Abuko LBS to meet the children writing letters to her Worldclass children at Bishops Waltham.
  • February 2009 June and Brian visited Abuko LBS and reported on their visit.
  • May 2016 bringing things up to date.
  • the above links are also on Menu 2
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The Bishops Waltham Link

Bishops Waltham Junior School in Hampshire, has maintained close links with Abuko LBS since 2005. This school was known as Ridgemede Junior School until September 2008, so you will find that name used in many of the early news items about Bishops Waltham. A lot of the help they have given to Abuko is through their Worldclass Club which has its own Worldclass webpage. The Bishops Waltham children exchange letters with the children at Abuko, and send them all sorts of things, such as teaching aids and sports kits. The children and staff organise annual Worldclass Fayres to raise money for their projects at Abuko. Pageant has run a stall selling Gambia handicrafts at several of these. You can see photos of Worldclass Fayres and Pageant's stall on Pageant's Bishops Waltham page.

Pageant's First Visit - February 2005

When Pippa and Ian first visited in 2005, there were two classes in progress, both of Grade 1 children. There was not enough accommodation for both Grades at the same time, so Grade 1 was at school in the mornings, Grade 2 in the afternoons, with approximately 100 children in each Grade (50 to a class). One class was learning about the local plants that are sources of food while the other class was doing PE out in the playground.

view of Abuko Lower Basic School from across the fields
general view of Abuko School
Abuko school name board
the school name board
one of the school buildings
some school buildings
another of the school buildings
some school buildings
some school buildings
children in a classroom at Abuko
inside a classroom
a teacher at Abuko school draws some local plants on a blackboard
learning about local plants

Vic and Jackie Edwards, a couple who joined Pageant after meeting Ian and Pippa on a previous visit, also went on this visit, bringing a large quantity of pencils and exercise books for the children. Each child was delighted to receive his / her very own book and pencil - however, there were not enough for all the Grade 2 children who came in the afternoon. To remedy this Wandifa was given enough Dalasis to buy further supplies and took them to the school the following afternoon. Inevitably, the most popular event was the donation of a sweet to each child - and a full quota was left with the teachers for the afternoon children, as well as footballs, pens and other goodies.

children at their desks in Abuko school
children at Abuko school
Vi & Jackie talk to school staff outside a classroom
meeting the staff
kids receiving gifts including sweets
distributing gifts to the kids
 
head teacher and two clss teachers holding some of the gifts
head teacher and class teachers with gifts from Vic & Jackie

The main problem for this school was overcrowding - the furniture that they had was old but sturdy, and the children were to sitting 4 to a desk. The problem would get worse in the following year when another year group arrived.

children sitting four to a desk at Abuko school
photos showing overcrowding at Abuko School
four children per desk




overcrowding at Abuko School
children sitting four to a desk at Abuko school
four children per desk

Another serious problem was payment for the teachers - the two class teachers (both student teachers, hoping to qualify later that year) had not been paid for at least two months. They were both teaching in the mornings and trying to earn some money in the afternoons - they said they were keen to help in the village initiative to provide a local school, but they obviously could not work without pay for a sustained period.

Abuko school caretaker
the caretaker
Abuko school class teachers
class teachers

The State Education Department was supposedly helping with a new building, but at the time there was little evidence that anything would be ready for the following September. Pageant sent about 35 small (i.e. child-sized) chairs to help with the seating problem in the container which arrived in April. Pippa and Ian planned to go back later in the year to discuss further assistance. Before they left, Ian and Pippa met the ladies who provided the small lunch-time snacks for the children - another example of community effort - and the children of both classes sang them a selection of songs, ending with the Gambian National Anthem. It was a memorable visit, sure to be repeated.

the Abuko dinner ladies
the Abuko dinner ladies
the Abuko dinner ladies
the Abuko dinner ladies
the Abuko dinner ladies
singing the Gambian National Anthem
singing the Gambian National Anthem
Vic and Jackie handing over the spectacles
Vic & Jackie handing over the spectacles

In addition to the gifts for the school, Vic and Jackie had organised the collection of a considerable number of pairs of spectacles through their local optician, Optical Express. These were distributed by medical assistants to people attending up-country health clinics. Pippa later received a letter of thanks from Bakary Congira, a Clinic Assistant working in Basse, Upper River Division, in which he says "On behalf of the Association GFPA Branch staff in Upper River Division and the beneficiaries I wish to thank you for your kindly support in the offer of lens (spectacles). The beneficiaries are thanking and praying always for your good gesture... We thank you very much and hope for more support."

Pageant Visit November 2005

Pageant visited Abuko LBS again during the 2005 Autumn trip. The school had grown from 2 to 3 grades, about 300 children in all. We gave them seeds and explained about the tools. We also gave them a folder of letters, photographs, drawings, poems and so on, that had been sent to Abuko by a group of children from Ridgemead Junior School, to start a link between children from the UK and Gambian schools. The Abuko children (and teachers) were thrilled with the folder and promised to write letters in return. We were delighted to receive a packet of letters from the Abuko children a few days later - these have been put into another folder together with photographs to send back to Ridgemead after our return to UK. The good, sturdy double desks and seats sent out in the latest Kamino Redcoat container consignment were being used in the Grade 3 classroom - the children using them said they were the best desks in the school! Thank you, Bramley...

Abuko children with their seeds
Abuko children with their seeds
Grade 3 and the desks from Bramley School
Grade 3 and the desks from Bramley School
Abuko children  with the folder from Ridgemead Junior School
Abuko children with the folder from Ridgemead Junior School
Abuko children  with the folder from Ridgemead Junior School
Abuko children with the folder from Ridgemead Junior School
Abuko children with the folder from Ridgemead Junior School

Pageant Visit February 2006

Pageant visited Abuko LBS with another folder of letters, drawings etc. from Ridgemede School, and took photos of the 27 Abuko children who are writing in reply.

Abuko Deputy and Head with folders from Ridgemead School
Abuko Deputy & Head with posters from Ridgemead School
Abuko Deputy and Head with posters  from Ridgemead School
Abuko Deputy & Head with posters from Ridgemead School
Abuko Deputy & Head with posters from Ridgemead School
Some of the Abuko letter writers (1)
One of the Abuko letter writers
Some of the Abuko letter writers (2)
One of the Abuko letter writers
Some of the Abuko letter writers (3)
One of the Abuko letter writers
Some of the Abuko letter writers

Pageant mini-market at Bishops Waltham Worldclass Fayre

In April 2007, Ian and Pippa went to Ridgemede Junior School (as it was then called) to run a Gambian mini market for the children and their parents. Jeannette Mars suggested they took a selection of Gambian craft items for the children to examine (and possibly buy) and this suggestion met with enthusiastic approval from the pupils.

children passing the Pageant stall
children passing the Pageant stall
the crowd gathers
the crowd gathers
Ian explains how to play Mancala
Ian explains how to play Mancala
which one do I like best
which one do I like best

The Pageant stall and a raffle of two paintings with Gambian themes raised a total of 305.50 in just under an hour.

Jeannette Mars visit June 2007

Jeannette Mars visited Abuko LBS to meet up once more with all the children who write letters to her Worldclass children at Ridgemede and to take them a special gift of 'Mr Majeika' books. The money for the books was raised by some of the Worldclass children themselves, by running a stall at the school for Pageant - we felt that this should be used to buy gifts for their Gambian friends.

Another very special event was the sponsoring of one of the Abuko children by Jeannette and her family, complete with presentation of his named Pageant pencil case. This makes a total of six children at Abuko LBS who are being sponsored by Pageant members.


a signed football and the Mr Majeika books presented to the Headteacher, Mr Sima (seated)
a signed football and the Mr Majeika books presented to the Headteacher, Mr Sima (seated)
Alfusainey with a new teddy and his Pageant pencil case
Alfusainey with a new teddy and his Pageant pencil case
Alfusainey & Jeannette
Alfusainey & Jeannette
a group of children sitting at their new desks
a group of children sitting at their new desks

June & Brian's visit February 2009

Perhaps it is not wise to tell the Pageant webmaster your holiday plans. My friends, June and Brian, told me that they were going to The Gambia on holiday for the first time. In no time at all they had volunteered to take a consignment of textbooks. They were staying at the Atlantic Hotel. so they could conveniently hand over the textbooks to Pippa and Ian when they arrived later. As well as the textbooks, they also took pens, pencils, seeds, toothbrushes etc. donated by their family and friends. During their stay they contacted Wandifa, who took them to visit Abuko LBS. Here is June's account of their visit:

It was a very interesting trip made even more fun by the rather ancient taxi which broke down every time the driver slowed or stopped. He then persuaded anyone hanging around to push start the car for him! We gave him a good tip for the entertainment!

We were given a tour of Abuko LBS by the Deputy Head (the Headmistress was at a meeting, but we met her later). We were greeted by the children and one class sang us a song, when suddenly two little boys rushed out to the front, did an impromptu dance and then rushed back to their seats after a 'look' by the teacher!


Wandifa (in red shirt) and the Deputy Head
who showed us around the school


Wandifa (in red shirt) and the Deputy Head who showed us around the school
Wandifa (in red shirt) and the Deputy Head who showed us around the school
Class of 7 year old children welcoming us with a song and impromptu dance
Class of 7 year old children welcoming us with a song and impromptu dance


Girls playing football during their games session
Girls playing football during their games session. They play separately from the boys. When they play against each other, the boys have their hands tied behind their backs!

The children were delightful and very well behaved. We were impressed with their ability to learn, with sometimes three to a small desk and with different levels of ability in each class. Also we were surprised to learn that due to the shortage of schools the children were divided into two shifts - morning and afternoon which meant that some teachers worked from 8.am until 6.30pm. There are still a lot of children who do not attend school as their parents cannot afford to send them. We learned that the Government build the schools but they rely mostly on donations and charities to supply them with essentials. Hence Pageant are doing an invaluable job. Everyone we met was very friendly, helpful and proud of what was being achieved - and quite rightly so.

We were also very impressed with the productive vegetable garden, which the children learn to cultivate themselves - I would imagine a very necessary practical skill.

Two younger children belonging to one of the teachers who accompany her to school and amuse themselves while she teaches
Two younger children belonging to one of the teachers who accompany her to school and amuse themselves while she teaches
Our taxi at the school which refused to start and the children had to bump start us
Our taxi at the school which refused to start and the children had to bump start us

May 2016 bringing things up to date

Over the years since Pageant's first involvement, the Gambian Education Department has built a large new Lower Basic School at Abuko and the numbers of children attending it have increased greatly. Pageant still has some interaction with the school from time to time. For example, one UK school that sponsors a boy attending Abuko LBS, financed the gift of a geometry set and simple calculator for all 48 children in his class AND their teacher. Other small projects have included seeds and tools for the school garden and improvements to the school kitchen (and aprons for the cooks!)

new school buildings
new school buildings
new school buildings
new school buildings
new school buildings
geometry set and simple calculator for all 48 children
geometry set and simple calculator for all 48 children
geometry set and simple calculator for all 48 children
geometry set and simple calculator for all 48 children
geometry set and simple calculator for all 48 children
painting the school kitchen
painting the school kitchen
new aprons for the cooks
new aprons for the cooks
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