Pageant Workshops in Practical Microscopy
February 2010 - Kathy's Blog
Royal Microscopical Society (RMS)
Vice President's Award Winner 2009
In February 2010, Pageant held its first Microscopy Workshops in The Gambia. They were designed to pass on essential know-how, as well as supplying basic microscopy equipment to schools which did not have any. The workshops were made possible with a grant from the Royal Microscopical Society, donations of both money and equipment, and generous discounts from many suppliers.
The Pageant team in The Gambia was Pippa and Ian Howard, Kathy, Andrew and Ian Groves, Anne Jackson, Peter and Katherine Evennett and Bob Skipper. Pippa and Kathy were practising microscopists and Peter a retired University lecturer in microscopy. All three were Fellows of the RMS. Anne and Katherine were retired science teachers, and Bob a scientist, microscopist and a colleague of Pippa's at ERA Technology. Following the workshops, some of the team stayed on for Pageant's normal programme of school and family visits. Kathy posted news about the workshops and visits on ourA collection of these posts follows:
Kathy's post 22 February:
40 schools in total were invited to the workshops, with 2 teachers from each school. We had to get 124 microscopes plus lots of small pieces of equipment out here for them. This meant absolutely huge amounts of luggage. Fortunately Thomas Cook had given us enough excess baggage allowance so when we got to Gatwick at 4.30am we got through check-in fairly easily. We were met by Wandifa at Banjul. It was really good to see him again.
Each workshop took place in a school, so we had to transport all the equipment in a taxi minibus. It did all fit - just! We arrived at each school at 8.30am to set up and the workshops finished at about 4pm. Two ran in an organised timetable and two were more Gambian time. The workshops were hard work as the standard of teachers' experience varied a lot, but they were very enjoyable and I think the teachers gained quite a bit - at least I hope they did. They were very happy to be given a large holdall containing microscopes and extra stuff that we microscopists like to use, for them to take back to their own school for science lessons and hopefully a science club.
The school on the North Bank meant a very early start to catch the ferry. Something I was looking forward to as I didn't get to see the North Bank on my last visit. I really liked it and would like to return. This is my second visit to the Gambia and I see it with different and better eyes. I also really enjoyed meeting our kids we sponsored and doing a market shop followed by a good lunch at Billys and a swim at the hotel.
Today (22 February) we are going down towards Brikama. Anne and I are visiting a school in Jambanjali which is linked with a school in Ipswich where a friend of Anne's teaches. Pippa is visiting children further on below Brikama. In the afternoon we are hoping to visit Wandifa’s compound even though his wife has just had their second son (really just yesterday!)
Kathy's post 23 February:
Today (22 February) a reasonably early start to drive down to Jambanjali Basic Cycle School. Greeted by the teacher of the Grade 5 class that were linking with an Ipswich school. We also met the Principal, a very experienced and nice man. Some of us went to the classroom, but Pippa, Ian, Wandifa, Peter and Katherine left us to go to a few nursery schools further on.
The children in the class were just finishing letters to the kids in Ipswich. The standard of English and writing was very high, especially when you think that they are only about 11 years old and learning a new language. We showed them a short movie of the children in Ipswich and then filmed them saying hello and also singing a good song. We had a few rehearsals first.
The children and their teacher were really delightful and full of fun. The biggest laugh was when they tried to teach us Mandinka. They thought our pronunciation was very funny and I think it probably was! Afterwards they gave us a bag of oranges as a gift. We will try to get them juiced in the morning for breakfast.
On the way back we stopped off a few times at schools or to meet up with families to arrange the school fees. We then were all invited to visit Wandifa's compound where we met up with his family and saw the new baby. He was so cute and small but really lovely looking. He was fast asleep but had been keeping them awake during the night crying a bit. We cooked a good lunch and everyone enjoyed seeing the family again and having fun with some of the toys we had taken.
Arrived back at the hotel very hot and dusty. My face looked like a beetroot, and the pool was very good at cooling us down. Also in time for Happy Hour - Hurrah!
Kathy's post 24 February:
"Beginning to wind down to going home. Last evening during Happy hour Katherine won at Bingo. Her prize was any drink from behind the bar as long as it was a small beer!
The picture here shows Pippa and Ian's bedroom during a packing session for the workshops- we did this 4 times.
Went to KMJ Nursery School this morning and deafened by the children singing! Very impressive though and so many smiling faces. Had to dig and push the minibus out of deep sand just before we got there.
Visited a compound where some children we sponsor live, and saw some, although the rest were at school. We had seen them a few days ago so it was a settling up visit but good to see them again.
Back to the hotel where Pippa and Ian met Mr Jallow the headteacher from Barra Essau to arrange some work in the school and give him a spare extra microscope. We have 3 left over from a school that didn't show and one spare. We had decided that there were 3 very outstanding teachers/schools in the workshops we could give an extra microscope to, and Barra Essau was one. Mr Gitteh from Bakalarr school had also come to visit, so it was nice to meet him again.
At the hotel you couldn't even get cool in the shade it was so hot. Noticed a few very sunburned people around the pool. We went to Linda's in the evening and out for dinner. Restaurant ran out of gas so we were there a long time waiting for food. It was very nice when it did finally turn up. Tomorrow is a rest day hopefully and a short boat trip if we can, then back to pack for leaving on Thursday.
A very full two weeks for me and three for Anne and Pippa. Very glad we came and did this but the amount of organisation Pippa and Ian did had to be seen to be believed."