Our first visit to The Gambia was in
February 2000, and was just a holiday to get some sun during the
winter. It takes just under 6
hours to fly to Banjul, the capital, and wall-to-wall sunshine at ~ 35°C
is guaranteed. Wonderful!
We enjoyed the
holiday and returned the following year - this time we were braver and
ventured further afield. We asked our hotel guide, Kemo, to take us to
a school which was not on the tourist route, and so did not receive
regular gifts from visitors. Kemo took our request
seriously and took us
across the river to the poorer, Northern side of the country, where we
discussed which school we should visit with the assembled taxi drivers in
the small town square.
They chose Bakalarr [MAP]
And so - we were hooked...
The headmaster was astounded to have
visitors and showed us round.. We discovered that the school did
not have a single sheet of paper or spare exercise book in stock, the
total games equipment was one deflated football, many of the floors were
of sand, the roofs leaked, the few bits of school furniture were warped
and peeling, the kitchen was in a terrible state.
There was no perimeter fence, so traffic could just drive across
the school playground and the school garden was also unfenced. We felt we should try to do something
June 2001 - We sent a filing
cabinet packed with paper, pens, pencils and other craft materials for use by the
school, but a considerable part of it went astray due to
being insufficiently labelled. We learnt a lesson from that...
October 2001 - We made an
unheralded visit to the school to see how they were getting on.
The headmaster was very cross with us for
not letting him know we were coming...
January 2002 - We packed up a large number of
boxes of materials for the school and for Kemo's village - this time we
labelled everything carefully and sent packing lists out before the
containers were unpacked. This lot arrived safely!
February 2002 - Next visit to Bakalarr: -
having been ticked off by the
headmaster last time for not letting him know we were coming, we
arranged a mutually convenient date beforehand, via Kemo.
August 2002 - We packed up some more boxes of
materials for the school and for Kemo's village of Jarreng [MAP]
- we again labelled
everything carefully and sent packing lists out before the containers were
unpacked. One box from
this lot went missing, so we have still not cracked this problem
October 2002 - this time, we visited Bakalarr
without warning again, hoping to see the children in class using the
things we had sent - however, this was not to be!
The children were once more sitting
under the trees ready to give a presentation - this time to the Area
Education Representative who was making a visit to assess the need of the
school for funding of major repairs to the oldest school
October 2002 - Three schools,
including Bakalarr, were each given a school microscope - partly sponsored
by the RMS. No electricity,
so a small tilting mirror was provided to enable sunlight to illuminate
The members of the EMUS
(a professional microscope user
group) have agreed to sponsor
prizes for the best drawings of things seen under the microscope - one
prize per year group for each school.
October 2002 - We visited Jarreng Basic Cycle School
- Jarreng is Kemo's home village - mainly to meet Kemo's family and
of our sponsored children. Jarreng school is in much better condition than
Bakalarr, but they
are very short of materials.
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