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Pippa's Gambian trip, 15-29 November 2005

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22 November - A day of microscopes >>

Monday 21 November - Schools on the North Bank

Monday morning came rather too soon the alarm went off at 5.15 am so that we could get down to the docks in time for the first ferry. We had arranged an early breakfast and had done our packing for the trip to the North Bank the night before, so we were all ready for the taxi to collect us at 6.15am as arranged. However, as so often happens in The Gambia, things did not proceed quite as planned...

Kemo and Lamin (our North bank assistant agent) arrived more or less on time, but the taxi never arrived at all! So, we managed to get a local driver to take us down to the dock and we crossed on the ferry as foot passengers this sounds quite simple, but we took with us a large, heavy box containing five Olympus microscopes for Essau School, footballs and other materials for Jurunku School, a solar lantern and panel and children's clothes for Lamin's family compound, art materials in case we saw Ousman, several litre bottles of water for the trip and a few pencil cases and exercise books for sponsored children. Travelling with that amount of luggage on the Banjul-to-Barra ferry is not to be recommended! However, with Kemo and Lamin carrying the heavier boxes and the help of a couple of friendly Gambian lads we made it to the taxi area in Barra on the North bank and eventually found a taxi willing to take us on our rather tortuous journey.

Lamin and Kemo at the Barra Ferry

the Banjul-to-Barra Ferry arriving at dawn

Lamin and Kemo at the Barra Ferry

the Banjul-to-Barra Ferry arriving at dawn

pigs in the street

First stop 'Gambian breakfast' for Kemo, Lamin & the driver this consists of 'tapalapa', rather like a small French baguette, with mayonnaise and something that looks like brown sauce! Sandra and I declined this (we had breakfasted in the hotel) and took some photographs of the local scenery pigs and goats in the street and so on.


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Next Essau SSS (Senior Secondary School). Here we gave the school a badminton set for the Sports Department and the five Olympus microscopes plus instruction leaflets and notebooks to a delighted Head of Science and an American Science teacher who is working there for two years voluntary service. We had met the latter on our previous visit and were pleased to find she was still there to assist in setting up the microscopes. We also met Abdou, a recently sponsored student, and gave him his 'welcome to Pageant' kit.

 

Abdou - a sponsored student at Essau SSS

Abdou - a sponsored student at Essau SSS

the Olympus microscopes being unpacked at Essau SSS 1

the Olympus microscopes being unpacked at Essau SSS 2

the Olympus microscopes being unpacked at Essau SSS

No Ousman, as he was doing the afternoon school shift that week never mind, we would catch up with him on a later trip.

So, off to Jurunku... this is quite a long journey, first of all about 12 Km along the tarmac road towards Kerewan and then a similar distance down small sandy tracks back towards the river. The whole journey takes about an hour and a half but it seems longer! The sandy tracks wind between the groundnut fields and through tiny villages Lamin's guidance was essential! You can see further details about Jurunku School on these two pages - Jurunku and Progress at Jurunku

When we arrived all the children were waiting for us at the edge of the village, jumping up and down, waving and singing they then proceeded to lead us to the school and crowded round the taxi trying to be the first to help us out, carry bags, hold our hands ........... what a welcome!

We were welcomed to the Headmaster's office a new headmaster this year and were then shown round the improved classrooms. It was then time to visit the current project the school garden. This is an area within the boundary of the main school compound it was heavily overgrown and it has now been cleared of all the bushes and undergrowth. A wall around the growing area has been started, but work has been going slowly because it has been the groundnut harvesting season and everyone has been busy in the fields.

It was suggested that a local mason should be employed to work on the wall to speed the work along, rather than depend entirely on volunteer labour from the villagers we felt this was a reasonable suggestion and said we would discuss it with Jon Quinnell, who is the fund-raiser for the Jurunku projects.
 

wall under construction at Jurunku School garden

Jurunku children with the 'seed banner'

wall under construction at Jurunku School garden

Jurunku children with the 'seed banner'

 

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We then adjourned to the shade of a large mango tree and were introduced to many of the school PTA committee members, including the women's committee. We handed out the gifts we had brought footballs, school uniform, writing materials and a large pack of seeds for the school garden. As the garden was not yet secure, the women's committee agreed to make a part of the village garden available to the school, so that the seeds could be sown there and looked after by the children as part of their studies. Planting in the school garden will start as soon as the wall is finished and there is a suitable water supply available. Once again, the school was asked to make a list of the most wanted tools, so that these could be supplied from the Harvest Festival donations. As ever, the donations of seeds were extremely popular and everyone wanted to be in the photographs the newly repaired 'seed banner' was much admired!

After a delicious lunch of rice, vegetables and fish, which appeared as if from nowhere, the children sang and danced for us, with some of them playing some small musical instruments we had brought with us Kemo organised this very well and even did a short dance for us himself! He also persuaded the headmaster to dance, to great applause from the children. We gave a Pageant pencil-case to a recently sponsored child and took photographs of three more children who had been recommended for sponsorship.
 

Jurunku children making music

Jurunku children dancing

the music makers and the dancers

a sponsored child with her Pageant pencil case

Jurunku children seeking sponsorship 1

Jurunku children seeking sponsorship 2

a sponsored child with
her Pageant pencil case

some children who would like to be sponsored

Then it was time to go we said goodbye to all the children, who then worried us hugely by running along beside the car to see us off. We were not going far only to Lamin's family compound and when we got there many of the children were there before us! There was only time for a very short stop at the compound, as the taxi driver was already fretting that we had stayed too long at the school we left our gifts and promised to stay longer next time. Off again, back along the sandy tracks to the tarmac road, to Barra and the ferry back to Banjul. We eventually arrived back at the hotel, hot and dirty, but very pleased with our day. After a shower, a Julbrew or two and a small supper we felt strong enough to get things ready for the next day...

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22 November - A day of microscopes >>

 

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