( Pageant News 22 December 2004 )
Bakalarr Basic Cycle School [MAP] has a number of new projects,
the most important of which is a new building. Previously, the
headmaster had a very small office sandwiched between two classroom
blocks and the deputy head had a desk in what was no larger than a
big cupboard on the other side of the school. There was no staff-room
for 35 teachers, no secure storage space for equipment and
materials, and no designated rooms suitable for teaching
Science or Home Science to the required level. A library had been
started, but was squashed in around the walls of one of the
classrooms. Work started on the construction of two classroom blocks
in April 2004. On our visit, we were delighted to see the two
new classroom blocks that had been completed by the State Education
Department, using funds provided by 'Future In Our Hands'. The new
classrooms have been built to a high standard and are light and
airy, with well-made desks for the children and a table for the
Future In Our Hands
was founded in Oslo in
1974, and is active throughout Africa and the developing world.
There is also a branch in the UK.
In The Gambia, they have a particular interest in the construction
of school buildings, school kitchens and providing furniture for
schools. They operate in conjunction with several NGOs such as the
World Food Program, the European Development Fund and Unesco.
the new classroom block
inside one of the new
The headmaster, Mr Gitteh, has a new office
in this building and there is also a
small storeroom for materials. Bakalarr is now almost unrecognisable
as the school we found on our first visit in February 2001 and it is
very rewarding to see how the improvements have given such an boost
to the attitude of both staff and students.
Our visit was just a few days
after they received the toys donated by the Bramley Nursery School
in Surrey, and we were able to see the children starting to play
with their new toys.
children at Bakalarr
Nursery Class enjoying some of their new toys
There is also a video clip of this,
which you can
access these clips through the
Clips Index page.
During our visit we arranged the hand-over of funds for three
1 A multipurpose court (The Gambians call it a lawn, but it is made
of concrete!) for basketball, volleyball, tennis and badminton. The
area for the court had been pegged out and levelled by the time we
arrived and the first lorry-load of gravel arrived while we were
the sandy central area
pegged out and levelled in preparation for the new multipurpose
a load of gravel
the court under
construction - January 2005
2 An area of concrete outside the now
greatly improved nursery classroom for the children to be able
to ride their new tricycles etc. - the sand is too soft for them to
be able to pedal the bikes easily.
children in their
refurbished nursery classroom >>
3 A dedicated home economics classroom - this has been financed by
donations in memory of one of our members who sadly died last year.
Her family asked for donations to be made to Pageant as she was so
concerned for the Gambian children and was one of our earliest
supporters. We understand from Mr Gitteh that the classroom should
be ready for our next visit in February 2005, complete with a
locally made plaque in Joan's memory - as her daughter wrote to us,
"as a knitter and seamstress, (Joan) can look over the girls as
their guardian angel!"
Dutch connection - SEIG
On our return home from The Gambia in October we found an email
waiting for us from a Dutch couple, Wim and Dorothé van Dijke. They
had seen our website as a result of surfing the net for references
to Bakalarr, as they also wished to help the school. Since then they
have visited Bakalarr themselves and have arranged solar powered
lighting for one of the classroom blocks and Mr Gitteh's office,
given the school a laptop and a quantity of consumable materials and
funded some improvements to the well. We look forward to seeing the
results of their generosity in February.
Check out their website.
This is in Dutch, but the pictures (click on the Fotopagina
link at the left) are
self-explanatory. Their photos of the children and the welcome
ceremony are vivid reminders of our own experiences.
We are hoping that we can persuade Wim and Dorothé to spread their
endeavours to some of the other schools that need assistance and
look forward to meeting them in the not-too-distant future.