PAGEANT - "Education is the future"
Live from The Gambia - Blog Posts February 2008
During February 2008, Pageant members Frances, Lauren, Rosie and Sarah were in The Gambia, visiting and teaching in a number of Gambian schools. They were later joined by Chris, and both he and Frances posted regular reports on theThis page contains a collection of these postings. Chris also wrote his own report, .
Thursday 7 February - Hello from the Gambia!
We arrived safely yesterday after a good flight, despite being 15 kilos over our baggage allowance - luckily we didn't have to pay any extra for it and got all 11 suitcases here ok. We are now settled into the hotel and are busy planning our itinerary for the next 3 weeks, starting with our first art lesson at KMJ nursery tomorrow morning. Wandifa was pleased to see us all as always, and was delighted with his new PAGEANT (personalised) hat! He's looking well and is very much looking forward to accompanying us on all our trips. Here is a photo of Frances, Wandifa, Lauren and Rosie modelling the new PAGEANT caps! We'll hopefully be able to update the blog every two or three days with photos and news of what we have been doing so far, but the internet is not overly reliable, and power cuts are quite frequent as we have just discovered!
Friday 8 February - First lesson at KMJ
(KMJ Nursery is one of the schools where Frances and her mother Tina carried out an art project in 2007.)
After an early start, we had a few problems finding the school as it's positioned in amongst hundreds of identical-looking family compounds, sandy tracks and other buildings. Eventually we arrived, laden with all our art equipment; we took paint, brushes, sponges for printing, palettes, large pictures of animals and palm trees that we'd already drawn, a large roll of brown paper to use as a background for our display, crayons, sellotape and blutac for attaching the finished work to the walls.
We spent the morning with the youngest class (age 4) and started by reading a simple story involving lots of African animals. We then gave each child two pictures of animals to colour with wax crayons. This was the first time these children had ever used crayons so they were anxious at first but soon got the hang of it and really enjoyed it.
We then split the class in half to do sponge printing and painting - for many of the children this was also their first experience of using paints and brushes, but after a demonstration from us they got stuck in! They sponge printed large palm tree leaves and a brightly coloured background. We then sung some traditional English songs including 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes', 'If You're Happy and You Know It' and 'The Hokey Kokey'.The children loved the singing and followed along with the words as well as the actions.
We put up the animal drawings in their classroom which really brightened the place up and added lots of colour to the blank walls. Each child also took their painting home which they were very excited about having something of their own to show friends and family. Ansumana, the headmaster, and the class teacher, Fatou, thoroughly enjoyed themselves and joined in with all the activities. They all waved us off when we left, and the teachers said they were looking forward to our return on Monday!
We took loads of photos and these are just some of them, showing the children having fun doing their drawing and painting, as well as all the equipment we took with us.
Saturday 9 February - Visit to Fatoumata
On Friday night Sarah arrived at the hotel to join the Pageant team. Although she had had a long day travelling she had much more energy than us. Saturday was quite a busy day; in the morning we all went to see Fatoumata at her senior secondary school. Fatoumata is studying science and hopes to go on and study medicine at the university. There are only six girls in her class, nearly all of whom want to study medicine or engineering when they have completed grade 12. The schools classrooms were fairly well equipped with science equipment materials, microscopes, test tubes and Bunsen burners and Fatoumata told us that she enjoyed her studies and doesn't find them too difficult.
Next we visited Isatou's compound were we met some of Pageants sponsored children and gave out presents, mainly clothes games and a football. We stayed and played with the children - two of the children had malaria but they didn't seem too ill as they were well enough to play football! Afterwards we also visited another compound to see other sponsored children and met a gorgeous week old baby before returning to the hotel.
Sunday 10 February - Plymouth-Banjul Rally
On Sunday we drove to the independence stadium to meet Linda, a Pageant member living in The Gambia, working with the education department.
The cars from the Plymouth-Banjul rally were being auctioned there to raise money for two charities - ASSETT (helping small businesses across the country) and the Gambia national Olympic committee (helping Gambian athletes). We were hoping to buy one of the rally cars to use as a Pageant car - the cars were fascinating. One was made to look like a cow with horns, spots and a nose ring; another had no reverse gear and there was even one with no working engine. The one we were bidding for was the red 4x4 driven by the Titans which in the end was sold for an amazing D167,500 - double what we were going to pay. However we were very pleased it sold for so much money.
Linda invited us to her house for lunch - we had pizza in her beautiful garden and had a tour of her amazing house.
Monday 11 February at KMJ
Monday - today was another day doing art and crafts at KMJ. We were with a slightly older class this time (age 5), which included Mohammed Lamin, one of the sponsored children. They coloured in fruit pictures taken from the book "Handa's surprise", painted their own pictures to take home and sponge-painted another palm tree. We sung songs with actions again which the children really enjoyed and understood better than the younger ones. Afterwards we were invited to the namingceremony of a week old baby whose name was to be Mariama. We were pleased to miss the sacrificing of a sheep but got to try some of the traditional food and see the water with local herbs in that were put on the baby's head like a christening. On the way home we stopped at a school in Banjul, Campama Lower Basic, where we will be teaching on Thursday and Friday, to visit asponsored child there. We then returned to the hotel.
Tuesday 12 February at KMJ
We spent this morning at KMJ with nursery 2 (age 5-6). The children spoke better English and were more appreciative of the art lesson. Firstly they drew their own pictures with crayons to take home.
This was followed by symmetrical shapes where the children painted half the shape and folded it to make a symmetrical shape. The main excitement was the masks - each child had a mask which they painted and were then able to put glitter and feathers on to. They thoroughly enjoyed painting and wearing the masks. We then did songs and games including over-and-under with a balloon. After KMJ we visited a school, Latrikunda Lower Basic to see a sponsored child before returning to the hotel. Later in the afternoon we went shopping in the Banjul market to buy some of the gifts purchased through the Pageant gift token scheme. This included cooking pots, mosquito nets and serving bowls.
Wednesday 13 February - Last day at KMJ
Today was our last day teaching at KMJ. We had the older class (age 6-7) and did similar activities to yesterday. Firstly each child drew their own wax crayon picture which they thoroughly enjoyed. Their English was very good and they knew quite a lot of the songs we sang. The masks were again a big success as you can see in the photos. When we had finished we gave out prizes for the children who we believed were the most enthusiastic and hardworking during our visits. They each received a small drinking flask and a chocolate coin. We gave Ansumana some presents - a folder, some file dividers and a game which he loved. The teachers expressed their thanks to us and said how much they enjoyed the days we were there and learnt lots from us. They said they hoped we would be able to visit before we go home for a small party to thank us.
We visited a sponsored girl called Sandy at her school Abuko Nursery School. We then had a relaxing afternoon at the hotel
Thursday 14 February - Campama LBS
Today we taught at a different school, Campama Lower Basic. We were quite excited at going to the new school and were looking forward to meeting the children (roughly English year 6). Firstly we did some mental arithmetic using maths cards. One side of the card had a question and the other side of the card an answer. A child would say their question on their card and then which ever child had the answer on their card would stand up. It took a while to get the hang of it but by the end they were very good. Although we were surprised to find the boys more encouraged than the girls they all did well when given the chance.
After this they drew their own wax crayon picture, which they loved. We also did symmetrical shapes like we had previously done at KMJ. We played games with them and sang songs including Alice the Camel and the children sang to us as well. (Read more about)
In the afternoon we went to visit schools to see children sponsored by Pageant members. We went to Kings Kids Academy where the children greeted us with poems and songs. () We also went to the Hotel School, Nusrat Senior Secondary, Rosekali Upper Basic and New Yundum Lower Basic.
Friday 15 February - Campama again
On Friday we did a lesson with the other grade 4 class at Campama; first we did the maths game again and then they did their own colouring and painting which they really got into. We found this class slightly quieter and better at listening than Thursday's class, and so they finished their work more quickly, leaving more time for games and songs! We played 'Over and Under' again with the sponge balls, and some other ball games which were fun and were met with great enthusiasm! We were all very sad that Sarah had to leave us to go back to school in England; thank you for all your help and energy (we miss you Sarah!!!) However, Chris joined the PAGEANT team that evening which was good.
Saturday 16 February - Visits to sponsored children
Today we went round visiting family compounds which included lots of sponsored children. They all received presents from their sponsor's which they loved. We played lots of games with the children, football and catch with the new balls they were given, pairs , snap and dominoes. We saw a mixture of poor and smarter compounds - one had a television - and ate some specially picked mango at Wandifa's compound which we visited last. All the sponsored children we saw today will be be joining us tomorrow for a big shopping trip and beach party! We are all looking forward to it a lot!
16 -18 February - catching up - from Chris
Catching up a bit here. As the girls say, we visited several compounds a couple of days ago. Everyone we visited was so gracious in receiving us. This is a particularly lovely shot.
Yesterday, I slobbed in the morning but when the kids all arrived it was all action. We played beach footie. The Gambian lads are quick and skilled, but sand and size helped me. I played for the girls team who tended to swarm round rather than pass. Shades of Thisbe for me in defence.
The girls jumped the Atlantic breakers and were surprised by a big fish but no one was eaten.
Frances meanwhile lounged luxuriantly on the beach (how long before she spots this?).
Tomorrow, we are off up country for two days and have get up at some unearthly hour to sample the delights of the ferry. I think I'm pretty much packed and have been putting in ineffectual training on the volleyball court in preparation.
Tuesday 19th February - Bakalarr
We were up at 5am ready to catch the Banjul ferry across to the north bank. We were really lucky to get on the first ferry as it's done a first come, first served basis as so it was a bit of a squeeze. Accompanying us on our trip were two drivers, Fax and Foday, Wandifa and Yankuba (20) whose home village is Jarreng where we were heading later on our trip.
Our first stop was Bakalarr Basic Cycle School. We were welcomed with a huge breakfast and dancing which we joined in - Pippa has a video which will probably be posted when we're home - arghhh!!!!!! We saw the latest improvements to the school buildings and saw the progress that had been made with the new staff accommodation block. ()
After a short (!) ceremony we gave out the gifts that we bought for the school. These included a new football strip for the senior team, footballs, badminton sets, skipping ropes, art equipment and science kits. We then visited two of the local Artemisia gardens - a plant which can help to cure malaria.They had been planted in different ways to see which would be the most successful. Once this has been established, cuttings from the plants will be transferred to different villages. ()
Next we drove to our small guest house in a village called Albraeda - our huts were really nice, however the electricity wasn't working so we had no lights or fans. That evening we visited the village of Sika where Bakary Gitteh, the headmaster of Bakalarr lives and where the PAGEANT loan scheme has been running for several years. We were greeted by more than a hundred people singing and dancing. We sat to watch traditional dancing and eat and didn't arrive back to the guest house until half past one very shattered!!
Wednesday 20th February - Jarreng
After four hours sleep we were loudly awakened by Ian crashing down the door of our hut. Without being able to see, we packed up back into the minibus for a six hour journey to a remote village called Jarreng.
We travelled half the way on the north bank and then crossed back to the south bank - the reason why we don't do the whole journey across the south bank is because the roads are impassable! The roads were still very bad in places, and it was very bumpy which meant a few banged heads!
We arrived at Jarreng Basic Cycle School to see all the sponsored children there - Frances' sponsored
girl, Fatoumatta, ran across the school yard as soon as she saw us!
Afterwards we drove into Jarreng village to meet the children's families and to give out sponsorship money and gifts. This was also the first time Chris had met the boy he sponsors, Yusupha, and they got on really well! We found all the children well and they were all very pleased with their gifts. We also gave out the PAGEANT gift token items which we bought earlier on during our stay, to the people whom Yankuba thought needed them the most. The mosquito nets went to the pregnant women, and the cooking pots and serving bowls to the poorest families. We were given lunch at the village before we set off back to our guest house. After a few mishaps, including a puncture (luckily a new tyre only cost D160 which is about four pounds!), smashed wing mirror and cows falling in the river, we arrived back ready for bed.
Thursday 21st February - Jurunku
We woke up in the daylight today for a change to drive to Jurunku Lower Basic School to see sponsored children and make plans for a new kitchen there - the people were very welcoming and friendly. After leaving Jurunku we headed home, again getting the ferry across the river which took about half an hour. And that's our trip up country! We've posted photos of us meeting sponsored children, in the minibus which we hired for the whole trip, and the people in the villages receiving their presents. ()
Friday 22nd February - Chris's last day in the Gambia
My first experience of Banjul market. The craft area is tucked away in a warren of stalls behind the main market street. The girls have done this before; Lauren and Frances take charge of negotiations and fetch us a keen price.
Pippa, Ian and the girls still have a packed programme of visiting over the next few days and it is with considerable sadness I cannot join them for this. We say our farewells and I get my final bits and pieces together while waiting for the transfer coach to the airport. The fundamental question, 230 dalasi left - is this enough to buy lunch? One toasted sandwich and a Fanta later I'm down to 60 dalasi. I give a miserly 10 dalasi note to the bag loader on the coach keeping 50 dalasi for a bottle of water after immigration.
The plane is late arriving and I chat with several groups who have visited schools on trips organised by hotels or are doing something ad hoc to help. Several others have not stirred from the tourist ghetto.
We take off 75 minutes late. I am feeling very tired now; we touch down at about 23:30. I make the last train out of Gatwick with 7 minutes to spare and crash out at home after a shower at 01:50.
An amazing trip with amazing people. As a sign off from this Blog here is the only video I took to give you an idea of what Gambian roads are like. We are driving on just dirt track here - disintegrating tarmac is far worse... [You will need to see the]
My experience has been of many Gambians who are stoical, gracious and welcoming. It has been a privilege.
Friday 22nd February - Back in Banjul
In the morning we visited the market with Chris as he's mentioned to do some shopping (and bargaining!) as it was Chris' last day and he wanted to buy some presents. Later we went to visit the girl who Lauren and her family have decided to sponsor. Her name is Fatoumatta and she's in grade 2 at a very nice school. Lauren took her a school bag filled with goodies including a purse, hat, pens, board games, dominoes, a small handbag and sunglasses. Fatoumatta was extremely excited to meet Lauren and was delighted with her presents. Her English is excellent and we're sure she'll do well at school as she enjoys it very much. We then visited another family compound to meet two sponsored children and their family. We returned to the hotel quite early in time for Wandifa to attend 2 o'clock prayers. We also got back just in time to say goodbye to Chris. In the afternoon we joined in with a sand painting class which was fun. We then had a lovely evening meal out with Linda and a sponsored Gambian woman called Mary.
Saturday 23rd February - Family Compounds
Today was a long day as we drove to 12 different family compounds and shops visiting lots of sponsored children. They were all very well and pleased to see us. They each received their final batch of sponsorship money for the school year, exercise books, pens, pencils, and in some cases, presents from their sponsors. One of the girls we met early on called Isatou came round some compounds with us which was great because she (as well as us) really enjoyed spending girlie time together! Tomorrow we are going to take another group of children out shopping to Banjul market, and out to eat as well, before hopefully going up the Independence Arch, from which you can see the whole of Banjul and beyond!
Sunday 24th February - Shopping & KMJ
First of all, apologies for the last instalment of our blog being so late - we ran out of time to type it up in The Gambia and since our return we've all been working back in our normal jobs! But here it is...
Sunday was one of the best days of our trip! Like last Sunday, we took 12 sponsored children shopping in Banjul market, and gave each child (and Wandifa) 250 Dalasis to buy whatever they wanted. We then took them to a local restaurant, Billy's, for lunch, which they thoroughly enjoyed (chicken and chips!). We gave out prizes for the two best shoppers - earrings for the best girl and a wind-up torch for the best boy. They were then desperate to come back to the hotel beach for a drink and swim in the sea; some of the children had never been in the sea before so they were extremely excited. Rosie and Frances got pulled in fully clothed while Lauren was left in charge of the little ones. Pippa played a game of pairs with a group of the children, whilst the rest of us tucked in to a big bag of chocolate coins!
The baby that Frances is holding in this photo is Pippa Gitteh, Bakary & Mariama's youngest daughter. She is a real cutie.
In the evening, we'd all been invited to a thank you cocktail party at KMJ nursery (where we taught in the first week). This was even more fun than we expected - we arrived to see a big 'Thank U PAGEANT' banner on the wall, and lots of seats around a long table decorated with flowers! All the teachers were there - Jai, the headmistress, Ansumana, the administrator, Ousainou, the accountant, and the class teachers; Fatou, Tumani, Mamadi. Ansumana's family also joined us for dinner and after a bit of dancing we were presented with lovely presents and a certificate each to say thank you! The teachers said they had learned a lot from us and that they had really enjoyed our visit, and we said how much we had enjoyed ourselves there and that we're definitely hoping to come back next year!
Monday 25th February - Lazy Day
On Monday we had an exceedingly lazy day at the hotel whilst Pippa and Ian had a mad and very long day visiting loads of schools, including Brikama, Siffoe, Jambanjali, Banyaka, and loads of sponsored children to give out almost all the rest of the sponsorship money. Back at the hotel, we treated ourselves to a pedicure, and watched the best entertainment of the trip (water aerobics in the hotel pool!)
In the evening, we took some of PAGEANT's older sponsored children out for dinner which was really fun as we were all similar ages and had lots in common!
Tuesday 26th February - St Augustines, Sinchu Baliya & Campama
On Tuesday we visited lots of schools including St Augustine's where we gave a trekker microscope (see picture) and lots of sports equipment including basketballs and football kit. They were so delighted with all the gifts especially the football kit as they had been renting kit for their tournaments. We visited Sinchu Baliya LBS where we saw huge improvements that had been made to their classroom blocks - the scouts had painted all the outside walls and were in the process of renovating the insides. We also visited Campama where we did several days teaching earlier in our stay to agree plans for 2 new standpipes for the school yard.
In the evening, the PAGEANT team enjoyed a lovely meal in the beautiful surroundings of Ngala Lodge Hotel in the company of Linda - it was a great way to round off a fantastic visit and celebrate all our hard work!
We all had an amazing time in The Gambia and were looking forward to seeing everyone back home but were very sad to be leaving! We are already making plans to return next year! We three girls would like to say thank you to all the Gambians who helped us along the way, especially Wandifa who looked after us so brilliantly and was an absolute star!!
Thanks for your company and all your hard work, girls....
This is just to say a big thank-you to our intrepid threesome for all their hard work with the schools, for getting all the news up on the blog during our trip and for all the laughs we had during our various Gambian experiences in February. We really enjoyed having you with us - my main fear is that the Pageant webmaster will now expect this sort of news update on EVERY trip....
This is a photo of you all on our last evening, when, for a change, we were all clean and tidy! Do come again - it won't be the same without you.
PS Our thanks to Sarah and Chris, too - they may only have spent a week each with us, but they both made their mark. We hope they each enjoyed their first Gambian trip - we did!
Dave the Webmaster would like to say a big thank-you to Frances, Lauren, Rosie, Sarah and Chris for their hard work in The Gambia, and for keeping us all up to date through the.