PAGEANT - "Education is the future"

Campama Lower Basic School


Campama Lower Basic School is located in Banjul City. [map showing location of the school] It is a large school with around 900 students. Pageant first started helpng Campama LBS in 2007, when it was in a poor state of repair and desperately in need of help.

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Pageant's First Visit - February 2007

During Pippa's February 2007 trip she handled what must be Pageant's fastest ever school project.

About three days after Pippa had arrived Wandifa came up with a tale of great distress - he had visited a school in Banjul with another UK couple staying in our hotel and they had all been appalled at what they had seen. 'Pippa', he said, 'I cannot believe such conditions exist in a Banjul school. Please can you visit it and see if you can help them?'

"We set off on Friday morning - Kemo had not visited the school before, either, so neither of us knew what to expect. We found Campama Lower Basic School to be an originally reasonably well-built school that had been allowed to fall into complete disrepair in certain vital areas, the most urgently needed repairs being to the toilets.

These had originally been built as flush toilets, but both the water supply and the drainage had failed completely. This had resulted in the children having to relieve themselves either on the floors of the toilet blocks or in corners of the school grounds and the school caretaker was beside himself with distress at his inability to keep the school clean.

one of the broken toilets at Campama LBS
one of the broken toilets

Assistance had been sought by the newly appointed head teacher and her deputy, from both the State Education Department and from the Port Authority (from which aid for Banjul schools is apparently sometimes forthcoming), but they had been turned down and told to do what they could with what remained of school fees after essential items had been purchased! This meant that the toilets would stay as they were for the foreseeable future unless outside help could be found.

<< Campama Headteacher, Mrs Ndey Jatta Camara and Deputy, Mr Modou Jasseh
Campama Headteacher, Mrs Ndey Jatta Camara and Deputy, Mr Modou Jasseh
Campama Headteacher, Mrs Ndey Jatta Camara and Deputy, Mr Modou Jasseh

Having inspected the school as a whole and the toilets in particular we asked for an estimate for the cost of repairing both blocks of toilets (16 in all) and were given the estimate that had been submitted to the authorities - this was roughly 800, including new washbasins, repairs to all the cisterns and pipework, new drains and all labour. In this instance Pippa made a unilateral decision and phoned Ian to ask him to bring the extra money with him when he came out next Tuesday.

The plumber was contacted and we met with him a few days later (Friday) and agreed that Kemo would go with him to buy the materials on the Monday morning and that he would start work immediately. He was as good as his word and the repairs to all sixteen toilets, including an underground repair that did not come to light until after work had started, was finished before we left The Gambia. On our final visit all sixteen toilets were checked - they all flushed, they all drained, the taps for the new washbasins all worked and the caretaker was (he told us) the happiest man in Banjul! He said he thought the plumber was a very good man and that he had done the extra work at no extra cost because of the help given to the school by outsiders (us).

plumber and his two appretices
plumber and his two appretices

Another aspect of the school that we felt deserves assistance is furniture - Grades 1 and 2 each have two classrooms, with an almost complete lack of any seating and very few desks or tables. The photographs above show the better-furnished Grade 1 classroom - Kemo is pointing out a small plank laid across 2 broken concrete blocks that has been used as seating. Most of the children have to sit on the floor.

classroom at Campama
classroom at Campama
Kemo points out the plank
Kemo points out the plank

During our stay we commissioned a local carpenter, who has made furniture for several of the local schools, to make us a sturdy bench & desk unit which would seat three Grade 1 children - this is the standard seating for a Lower Basic School.

He produced a well-made unit, the cost of which was just under 40, pictured here. (We could not find any Grade 1 children for the photograph, so this child agreed to sit at it for us, but he (Grade 5) is rather on the large side!!)

We would like to provide enough of these units for all four classrooms - this means 19 units per classroom (about 57 children per class!), giving a total of 76 units in all, which means we need to raise about 3,000."

<< the new desk unit
new desk unit for Campama LBS
the new desk unit

The crew of Bandit, who took part in the 2007 Azores and Back Ocean Yacht Race, named Pageant as their chosen charity and raised 265, and this purchased seating and desks for 20 children. Read more about Bandit and AZAB 2007.

Pageant's Second Visit - October 2007

Pippa and Ian visited Campama LBS in Banjul several times during the two weeks of their October visit to The Gambia and saw a lot of progress since their first in February.

"On our first visit, we donated a complete set of football kit (VERY popular with both boys and girls, they said they would share it!).

boys in their football kit
boys in their football kit
girls in their football kit
girls in their football kit

We had also arranged to have desk and seat units made for both Grade 1 classrooms, which meant making 36 units in all, each seating 3 children. We negotiated the price with the carpenter we had identified on our previous visit, and also authorised a bit more plumbing work in the toilets, carrying on from where we had left off in February. We paid them for the materials and agreed to pay the rest on completion of the work in each case.

carpenter gets cash to buy materials
carpenter gets cash to buy materials
plumber gets cash to buy materials
plumber also gets cash for materials

We also delivered a large package of letters written to the Campama children by the children of Manor Green Primary School in Crawley - these were accepted with great enthusiasm by Mrs Jatta, the Campama Head-teacher, who said she would make sure that replies would be ready for us to take back to UK at the end of our trip.

During our first week two of the pallets we had packed in UK arrived, so we arranged for them to be delivered to Campama and unloaded them on the Friday afternoon. (That sounds so easy - in actuality it took many phone calls, visits to the port and a great deal of frustration before they were delivered!) We, Wandifa and a couple of the Campama teachers unloaded the pallets and stacked all the small items according to their eventual destination. Eight desks and 32 chairs had arrived on these two pallets - i.e. half the chairs and one quarter of the desks from Bramley School - the rest having been loaded on the following ship.

the chairs arrive
the chairs arrive...
the desks arrive
..and the desks
prize bag being modelled
prize bag being modelled

Among the smaller items on the container were a large number of school bags containing a variety of goodies, sent as a gift from Manor Green School. We suggested that they should be given as prizes for good work at the end of each term, as there were enough of them for one to be given to every class at the end of each term for a year. One of the girls agreed to model a bag for us, and was rather reluctant to give it back!!

The delivered desks were enough for half of one Grade 2 classroom, as the Gambian children would sit 3 to a double desk, rather than 2. We arranged them in one half of the classroom, where they were promptly occupied by the head teacher, deputy, a couple of other teachers, the caretaker and a couple of the PTA committee members! They pronounced them to be very comfortable...

staff and PTA members trying out the furniture
staff and PTA members trying out the furniture..
Grade 2 children trying out the furniture
..and then the kids

On our next visit to Campama Ian inspected the plumbing work, which was progressing well, and we collected a large pack of letters written by the Gambian children in reply to those we had brought from UK. We discussed the school furniture, which was expected to be completed by the time we were due to leave and visited the Grade 2 classroom where by now the children were using their new desks. We assured the rest of Grade 2 that the remainder of the desks and chairs would be with them before too long.

the new desk units in the Grade 1A classroom
Grade 1A class with their new desk units
the new desk units in the Grade 1B classroom
...and Grade 1B

On our last morning I went with Wandifa to Campama for our final visit of the trip. Wandifa had left us the previous afternoon with the assurance that he was going to the carpenter's workshop and was going to stay there until the furniture was finished and would make sure it was delivered to the school before I arrived! Sure enough, it was there... all 36 units, arranged in three rows in each classroom, and painted as I had suggested... in each classroom one row was in red, one in blue, one in green, laid out as in the Gambian flag! They looked really great, the classrooms were so much brighter and the children were absolutely thrilled. They had gone home from a classroom where they had either been sitting on concrete or at broken-down desks with holes in. Now they were sitting at bright new desks - I told them that, as depicted by their flag, some were sitting in the sunshine (red), some were in the river (blue), some were on the land (green) and they could compete to see which colour did the best in class.

The PTA chairman and a couple of committee members were there to see the new furniture and were as excited as the children. The chairman told me that these children had never had anything to be proud of before, but now they had and it made them all so happy. Both he and headteacher Mrs Jatta said they could not believe that people from UK had been so kind to these children in their school.

the PTA Chairman >>

the PTA Chairman
the PTA Chairman

The carpenter and the plumber were both paid in full for all their hard work and we congratulated Fansu, the carpenter, in particular for managing to get all the desks completed and in school in such a short time. All in all, a good couple of weeks for Campama - and, as I write this, I have just heard that the other pallets have been unloaded from the ship and should be at Campama tomorrow, 13 November."

We have the following people to thank for funding the Campama desks:

3-child desk & seat sets funded by Number
Brian Howard Mayoral Fund 2006-7 23
Bandit - AZAB race 8
Steve Pitman's half marathon 2007 3
general Pageant funds 2
Our heartfelt thanks to you all.

Frances & team with some fun lessons - February 2008

During February 2008, Pageant members Frances, Lauren, Rosie and Sarah visited The Gambia, and taught various subjects in a number of Gambian schools. They kept us up-to-date by posting on the Pageant News Blog, and you can see their collected posts here. The following section covers their visit to 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.

a lesson at Campama LBS

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.

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!!!)"

Container unloading - April 2008

Over the years, Pageant has sent many containers to The Gambia packed with items such as classroom furniture, microscopes and football kit - all donated by UK schools and businesses. For more information have a look at our web page 'How things get to The Gambia'.

A vital part of the process is unloading the container in The Gambia and distributing the goods to schools and other recipient organisations. Campama LBS is an excellent location for this. It is not too far from the docks, has a large compound which heavy lorries can access, and plenty of room to accommodate all the people and vehicles needed to unload and distribute the goods.

The Pageant team arrived at Campama LBS at 9am, but there was no sign of the container. It was still stuck in the port, so off went the Pageant team to sort things out. It took nearly all day to locate the container, get it inspected and then get all the necessary signatures. The lorry carrying the container finally left the port just before it closed at 6pm! You can read the full story in the original blog post.

"We arrived at Campama at 6.20pm where our team of unloaders (who had been waiting since 1.30pm) were ready for us. Unloading started in daylight....... and finished in moonlight at about 9pm! All the headmasters were then responsible for their own materials which were eventually cleared from the school at about 9.40pm. Back to Linda's where she took one look at us and poured us both a large Julbrew! After a pizza and a bottle of red wine we felt a lot better, and so relieved that we had achieved what was, after all, the main purpose of our visit!"

container being unloaded at Campama LBS

Nursery class and some shelving - October 2009

Pageant normally visits The Gambia in the spring and autumn of every yesr. During the October 2009 visit, Pippa and Ian went to Campama LBS to see the new nursery class and help to erect some shelving, which had come over in the latest container load.

Pippa took some photos of the new nursery class and discussed work done since our last visit (tiling the verandah and part of the kitchen floor) and future improvement plans.

Meanwhile Ian was directing the assemply of the shelving, with Wandifa, Abdoulie and Yankuba providing the muscle, assisted by a number of eager Campama pupils

Campama nursery class
Campama nursery class
Ian and team assemble the shelving
Ian and team assemble the shelving
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