PAGEANT - "Education is the future"
Albreda Lower Basic School
Albreda (also known as Albadarr) is a historic town in the North Bank Division of The Gambia. It is located on the Gambia River, about 25km upriver from the ferry terminal at Barra, so it's further along the road from Bakalarr, where Pageant's work in The Gambia began. It is effectively a twin village with Jufereh, and Sika is just 4km further along the road. Albreda may have been established as early as 1520, and became a French trading post in 1681. It is at the centre of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, associated with Kunta Kinteh and the slave trade.  Albreda has a Lower Basic School in one compound and Upper Basic and Senior Secondary Schools together in another compound, the SSS part having been started very recently. Teachers from Albreda UBS attended Pageant's Microscopy Workshops at Barra-Essau UBS in 2010. Pageant's current involvement is just with Albreda Lower Basic School.
October 2014 - Pageant's First Visit
Pageant first visited the school in October 2014. About two years before, the huge and very ancient 'cotton tree' in the grounds came crashing down. Fortunately the headmaster heard the tree groaning and cleared all the children out of the school, so no-one was hurt. Yankuba (6'6" tall) is standing beside it to give some idea of scale. In the background you will see some roofless classrooms, with nature slowly reclaiming them. Also the school kitchen looked like it was on the point of collapse. The school was obviously in need of considerable help.
It was decided that Pageant would provide the funds for a girls' toilet block. In October 2014, there was only one toilet block for the entire school - boys, girls and staff - and the head-master said that this was his top priority as he was continually having to stop the boys 'peeping' at the girls! Other problem areas were a new kitchen (which had been started but not completed due to lack of funds), rebuilding a large classroom block and turning the old 'batik house' into living accommodation for some of the single teachers.
January 2015 - The Ruined Classroom Block
Increasing numbers of pupils at the school and insufficient accommodation has meant that they are currently running a two-shift system. This is not good for both teachers and children. The school would like to rebuild the derelict classroom block to provide three additional classrooms. This would enable a return to a normal school day, At present this building has no roof, cracks in the walls and is slowly being taken over by nature.
Pageant members Catherine Marriott and her Aunt Janet visited the school in January 2015 and expressed an interest in raising the estimated £2,000 for getting the classrooms back into use. The timescale for the rebuilding plan would depend on how quickly funds could be raised, but the hope was that work could be carried out during the early part of the 2015 summer break, while the children are away, but before the rains come.
February 2015 - The New Toilet Block
During our February trip Ian, Pippa, Kathy and Andrew visited the school again (on a Saturday), and were pleased to see how far the toilet block had progressed. The headmaster apologised that the doors were not in place - they were, he said, ready... and just as he spoke they arrived, being carried towards the building by some of the pupils who were eager to help, even at the weekend. By the time we left the school all six cubicles had their doors on - excellent! The headmaster is the gentleman in the stripy robe in the fourth photo below.
February 2015 - The New Kitchen
The old kitchen had been sealed as being unfit for the preparation of food and the main structure of the new kitchen was complete, including the storeroom. However, there were no internal fittings such as brick stoves, chimney, doors or windows, nor counters to prepare and serve food, We asked for an estimate to complete the work as this seemed to be the top priority. The Headmaster came to the hotel with the prepared estimate before we left Banjul and we were able to give him the funds straight away as the sum needed could be covered by a very generous donation by Andrew from a charity account to which he contributed before he retired. We hope to be able to report on the completed kitchen before long, as Wandifa will soon be going to the school to check on progress and take some photos.
This is a very impressive head teacher with a clear vision and strong determination to improve the school. We will try to help him with the teachers living accommodation as well, as it is difficult for him to keep good teachers when there is nowhere nearby for them to live. During our visit he had very kindly provided a lovely breakfast of bread, salad and corned beef fritters as well as tea and cold fizzy drinks - they have so little but are really pleased to share what they do have.
April 2015 - Toilet Block and Kitchen Completed
Carol and Richard visited the North Bank on Wednesday 15 April with Wandifa, and sent back photos of the completed girls' toilet block and new kitchen. The first two photos show the toilet block with doors fitted. There are three cubicles on each side of this building. The new kitchen has two 'stoves' into which large cooking pots are fitted. There are holes for wood to be inserted at the front, and a single chimney for both stoves, which has been decorated with broken tiles. The floor is fully tiled and there are tiled work surfaces and a serving platform.
The last photo shows Wandifa handing over the funding from Pageant for the next project. This will be to turn the old Batik House into staff quarters for single teachers. The Batik House was where students used to make small batik items for sale at a local tourist shop to raise funds for the school. Unfortunately this has been discontinued, so the building is no longer used.
July 2015 - Work Starts on Rebuilding Classroom Block
Wandifa handed over the first payment for the Classroom Block Rebuilding project in early June. In July Yankuba visited Albreda LBS with the second installment and took the photos below showing the progress being made. The derelict classroom block had been cleared of debris, and rebuilding had started. The third payment for this project was made in late August, There was every hope that the classrooms would be ready for the Autumn term.
Conversion of the old batik workshop into staff quarters was further along towards completion. The building has been re-roofed, and a veranda added. Work is now concentrated on finishing the inside of the building, and painting both inside and out has yet to be done. Four rooms should be ready for the intake of new junior staff in September.