PAGEANT - "Education is the future"
More visits to Misera BCS
Misera is in the Jarra West District of the Lower River Region, near Soma, a town on an important crossroads where the main east-west road on the south bank of the Gambia River crosses the Trans-Gambia Highway.combines the functions of Lower Basic and Upper Basic, with students in Grades from 1 to 9 and ages ranging from about 7 to 19. Misera is a long way upcountry, so visiting requires a long day and a difficult journey. Despite this, a Pageant team tries to visit the school during the regular February and November trips to The Gambia. This page contains extracts from our .
Upcountry today. It is a long drive and we left the hotel at 5.30 with a packed breakfast (thanks to the kitchen staff for this). Once you get beyond Brikama the road is very good, a new highway that is every bit as good, or indeed better than your average British 'A' road. We made good progress only being slowed down by the numerous police, army or immigration checkpoints, but they were all in a good mood today.
We arrived in good time at Soma. Misera Basic Cycle School is just out of Soma. It is right next to the border with Senegal, so close that I think if one of the students there had given one of the footballs we had brought a really good welly it would have landed in Senegal!
We were greeted by the principal, Mr Modou S Faye. We were soon dignified by the presence of two pillars of the community, the village imam and the village chief. All three are delightful and enthusiastic people. We were there to give the school some money to build a fence around the school (we would call it a wall). The fence serves not only to protect the children, but also to keep out people and the goats, sheep, cows and oxen that wander about.
We also had brought over the first two of many holdalls containing sports kit donated by Haslemere Prep School when it closed. Each holdall contained a full kit of 12 football shirts, shorts and socks, along with 2 match balls and 2 practice balls. 12 eager young students were called for to try them on.
The school also has a large garden so we were able to give them a selection of seeds donated my Manor Green school.
After that we were entertained by Grade 9 girls with a traditional song and dance and some readings and a poem from senior students.
Misera school is in a Fula village.We don't often go to Fula villages and we think that it is very important that we keep touch with villages such as this which are some way off our 'regular' area.
The following photos from Misera were posted by Andrew after he returned to the UK.
When we arrived the head was out visiting the regional office. On hearing we were here he quickly came back on his motorcycle that some teachers in the remote parts can buy at a subsidised rate.
Misera is a lovely school and we inspected the perimeter wall we were paying for. They needed some more funding to complete the wall and will provide us with an estimate. The wall is made of concrete blocks which are made onsite using a mould. Three brickmakers using one mould have already made 3,000 blocks which have been incorporated or were ready to go.
We gave the schoolof a first aid box and refills and some exercise books. Then we had a look at the school garden which is in very good shape. We had supplied some seeds to them back in November.
We arrived at Misera BCS shortly after 8.00 having made a brief stop to check out the scout lodge where Isaac, Yun and Tom will be spending the night. We were met by Mr Faye, the principal who was delighted to see us. He gave us a tour of the school and we were able to see the completed fence (what we call a wall) that Pageant had funded. It is a very impressive structure and Mr Faye has plans for it - more of that later. We were able to see some of the furniture that had come over in the container in the school library. The library there is well-structured and more importantly seems well used. Mr Faye considers it to be the best library in the province. We had also given some bundles of clothes for distribution to the local community.
The school was also currently experiencing a crisis with its water then. It has two wells. The pumping mechanism (hand-pumping) in the large one is broken beyond repair, and a person or persons unknown had dropped an engine in the other one. Why someone would sink so low as to do that is beyond me. However, a new borehole has been sunk in the village which is only a couple of hundred metres away. The school will have access to that and the pipework has been laid. They are only waiting for the connections to be made. We heard later in the day that those connections were made shortly after we left so they now have water; good news there.
Tom, Isaac and Yun then left us to start their two days of helping out generally in the school. We are hoping they will be providing a report of what they did which I will post here. Pippa and I discussed some possible projects with the principal. He would like to render and paint the school's perimeter wall. There would be pictures and teaching aids painted on the wall. The school has a talented art teacher who could organise the painting. He would also like to provide a secure area with shelter for the food vendors who come to the school. Mr Faye will provide some estimates for both of those.
We then suggested a possible project. The idea is to create a new building for use by the school on Mondays to Fridays and by the local community at the weekend. The building would be put to use as a skills centre. We envisage it consisting of workshops for woodwork, metalwork and home science. It would be accessible from inside the perimeter wall by the school community and outside the wall by the local community. Mr Faye very much liked the idea and we asked for a detailed drawing of what he would like together with a reliable estimate.
In November we had agreed a project to render the perimeter wall which Pageant had funded in 2017. The rendering of the wall is almost complete and the builders have done a first class job. When it has been finished the wall will be decorated with educational art by a teacher.
We were pleased to tell Mr Faye that we had agreed to the project to build a technical workshop on the school site. It will be used by the school for woodwork, metalwork and home science, and will be available for use by the local community outside school hours. As soon as decorating the school wall has finished we will give him some of the money to start that project.
We were also shown the school garden which was being worked by students at the time. We were able to see lettuces, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, aubergine, okra and sorrel growing. Most of these will be used in the school kitchens but any spare will be given to the students to take home. The garden was looking good but regular and frequent watering is essential. The school has pumped water from the village borehole to a nearby tap but the supply is sporadic. At the time we were there was no water to the tap so students were carrying water in the traditional way for almost 1 kilometre - see photos below.
We arrived at Misera BCS just before 9am and met the newly appointed headmaster, Mr Ceesay in his office. The previous headmaster has taken a sabbatical to do a university course and Mr Ceesay, formerly his deputy, has been promoted in his absence. The new deputy, Mr Touray, was also there and proved to be extremely helpful regarding the main purpose of our visit. He is the head of technical education at the school and we were coming to see the new building that had been been erected since our last visit - the large woodwork, metalwork and home science classroom block.
They have done a very good job on this building and we were very pleased with it. We discussed the finishing touches that we agreed it needs... a tiled floor for the home science room plus a tiled worktop running the length of the shorter side of the room with spaces underneath for storage; a skim of really good quality concrete for the other two floors to withstand the hopefully heavy use it will get; shutters on the windows for security (two very nice ones have been fitted to the small office windows, so we agreed that similar ones should be made for those in the main rooms). We hope to get the estimates for this work during the next week.
We also discussed the gift of £500 for tools from Battle Rotary club. Mr Touray is coming to Serrekunda this coming weekend, so he hopes to have collected prioritised lists for the various subject teachers and it may be that we can go on a shopping trip with him! We had taken two tool boxes and a few handtools with us as a start for their collection, with which they were very pleased.
There were two requests for further projects - toilets and a staffroom - but we explained that we must finish the technical block before we can start on anything else.
All in all a very good visit... and as we left we passed the new building made to house the food vendors who come to the school to provide lunch for the children...
At Misera BCS we were met by Mr Badjie the principal. The Technical building was completed and some tools for woodwork, metalwork and home science had been provided by a generous donation from. We were there to see if there were any further essential tools they needed. They will put together a list, but said the most pressing need was for some sturdy metal benches to secure tools and work on. They will provide an estimate for this and also for supplying electricity to the building. They would also like to construct more student toilets and a staff room and will provide estimates for these. We then had a look at the school garden which is the best school garden I have seen in the Gambia. It is now securely fenced off which was paid for by an NGO. That agency has said it will sink a borehole in the garden and provide taps so watering will be much easier than last year!