PAGEANT - "Education is the future"
Yallal Tankonjala - Murals
Yallal Tankonjala is a small village in the North Bank Division, just off the main North Bank Road about 8km west of Farafenni. Yallal Tankonjala Lower Basic School has a US Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), Laura Lyons, working there. The Peace Corps does not provide any money for the volunteers to use on school projects, so Pageant has been able to help with some funding for improvements to the library/resource room. This is all described on.
Wherever you go in The Gambia, you will see walls covered in murals. These are not just decorative, but can be educational as well. They are used within schools to help with literacy and numeracy, and more widely to carry public health messages. Yallal Tankonjala school had a couple of murals which were in need of repainting; a map of West Africa and a patriotic mural featuring the Gambian president.
Laura put a proposal to Pageant for funding to repair the existing murals, and add lots of new ones, both at the school and throughout the village. She identified many potential sites, and had lots of ideas for subjects. Pageant gave £155 for this extensive programme of mural painting. At the school new murals were painted on many of the end walls of the school buildings, and more were painted at various sites in the village. Topics included: gardening and plants; health; literacy and the alphabet; a world map; maths; science & social studies. The murals are highly visible and offer learning and study opportunities outside of the school. So when going to the shop, or fetching water, people can be reading and studying, or at least becoming more familiar with written words. Even when children are playing football, or roaming through the village, they will be receiving important educational and environmental messages.
Laura writes:- "After two months of intense work, Yallal Tankonjala now has 18 bright, colorful, educational murals in the school and the community. Not only is the community a slightly more interesting place, there are now opportunities for residents to read and learn in their own environment. Almost anywhere you are standing in the village, you can see one of the murals. That puts people constantly in view of written words; education is all around.
The process of creating these murals was almost in itself as beneficial as the product; everyone from teachers, to community members, visitors, students, and other Peace Corps volunteers helped out along the way. Sometimes, people would just be walking by and stop what they were doing to help us out. Having such great support from the community got everyone excited about this new educational opportunity, and really inspired students to study outside of school, and parents to encourage their children's education.
The project has only been completed for a few weeks, but we are already starting to see some positive results. Here are some comments I have heard and results I have noticed:
- "The whole system has changed" - community member
- A girl in the Early Childhood Development class who lives in our compound, was reciting the months of the year, in perfect English, while she drifted off to sleep a few nights ago. She is 5 years old.
- "The children used to come here and bring their balls to play. Now, if they come here, they set their balls down, sit, and read and count until they are tired, then they will pick up their ball again." - Samba Jallow, SMC chairman and village Imam, whose compound has the mural with numbers 1-10.
- "These murals will make the children's minds very sweet!" - PTA member
- "You are making my village beautiful!"- Sarjo Bah, village chief
- "I crammed my times tables until my brain hurt!" - neighbour, student in grade 7
- "I stopped at the shop last night, and I saw Ebrima Camara, grade 3. I asked him if he could read the dialogue on the mural at the shop. We took turns acting the part of the seller and the buyer. He could read it all! I think this is a very successful project."- Amadou Jallow, Head Teacher.
- "We should have done this a long time ago."- Kebba Dembala, Village health worker
- Yesterday, I heard a crowd of children singing (shouting) the national anthem after passing by the mural which contains it's lyrics.
- "I didn't know about the other planets before I read this mural. After I read it, Hatab explained what planets are to me. I never knew!" - literate but uneducated PTA member
Pageant has been really pleased to help this up-country school, and we hope that we can co-operate with the Peace Corps again if similar opportunities arise. For more about how Pageant works with Peace Corps Volunteers and the schools they work in, please have a look at.