Monday 21 November - Schools on the North
Monday morning came rather too soon – the
alarm went off at 5.15 am so that we could get down to the docks in
time for the first ferry. We had arranged an early breakfast and had
done our packing for the trip to the North Bank the night before, so
we were all ready for the taxi to collect us at 6.15am as arranged.
However, as so often happens in The Gambia, things did not proceed
quite as planned...
Kemo and Lamin (our North bank assistant agent)
arrived more or less on time, but the taxi never arrived at all! So,
we managed to get a local driver to take us down to the dock and we
crossed on the ferry as foot passengers – this sounds quite simple,
but we took with us a large, heavy box containing five Olympus
microscopes for Essau School, footballs and other materials for
Jurunku School, a solar lantern and panel and children's clothes for Lamin's family compound, art materials in case we saw Ousman,
several litre bottles of water for the trip and a few pencil cases
and exercise books for sponsored children. Travelling with that
amount of luggage on the Banjul-to-Barra ferry is not to be
recommended! However, with Kemo and Lamin carrying the
heavier boxes and the help of a couple of friendly Gambian lads we
made it to the taxi area in Barra on the North bank and eventually
found a taxi willing to take us on our rather tortuous journey.
Lamin and Kemo at the
the Banjul-to-Barra Ferry
arriving at dawn
First stop – 'Gambian breakfast' for Kemo,
Lamin & the driver – this consists of 'tapalapa', rather like a
small French baguette, with mayonnaise and something that looks like
brown sauce! Sandra and I declined this (we had breakfasted in the
hotel) and took some photographs of the local scenery – pigs and
goats in the street and so on.
<< pigs in the street
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Next – Essau SSS (Senior Secondary School).
Here we gave the school a badminton set for the Sports Department
and the five Olympus microscopes plus instruction leaflets and
notebooks to a delighted Head of Science and an
American Science teacher who is working there for two years
voluntary service. We had met the latter on our previous visit and
were pleased to find she was still there to assist in setting up the
microscopes. We also met Abdou, a recently sponsored student, and
gave him his 'welcome to Pageant' kit.
Abdou - a sponsored
student at Essau SSS
the Olympus microscopes
being unpacked at Essau SSS
No Ousman, as he was doing the afternoon
school shift that week – never mind, we would catch up with him on a
So, off to Jurunku... this is quite a long
journey, first of all about 12 Km along the tarmac road towards
Kerewan and then a similar distance down small sandy tracks back
towards the river. The whole journey takes about an hour and a half
– but it seems longer! The sandy tracks wind between the groundnut
fields and through tiny villages – Lamin's guidance was essential!
You can see further details about Jurunku School on these two pages
When we arrived all the children were waiting
for us at the edge of the village, jumping up and down, waving and
singing – they then proceeded to lead us to the school and crowded
round the taxi trying to be the first to help us out, carry bags,
hold our hands ........... what a welcome!
We were welcomed to the Headmaster's office –
a new headmaster this year – and were then shown round the improved
classrooms. It was then time to visit the current project – the
school garden. This is an area within the boundary of the main
school compound – it was heavily overgrown and it has now been
cleared of all the bushes and undergrowth. A wall around the growing
area has been started, but work has been going slowly because it has
been the groundnut harvesting season and everyone has been busy in
It was suggested that a local mason should be
employed to work on the wall to speed the work along, rather than
depend entirely on volunteer labour from the villagers – we felt
this was a reasonable suggestion and said we would discuss it with
Jon Quinnell, who is the fund-raiser for the Jurunku projects.
wall under construction
at Jurunku School garden
Jurunku children with
the 'seed banner'
back to top of
We then adjourned to the shade of a large
mango tree and were introduced to many of the school PTA committee
members, including the women's committee. We handed out the gifts we
had brought – footballs, school uniform, writing materials and a
large pack of seeds for the school garden. As the garden was not yet
secure, the women's committee agreed to make a part of the village
garden available to the school, so that the seeds could be sown
there and looked after by the children as part of their studies.
Planting in the school garden will start as soon as the wall is
finished and there is a suitable water supply available. Once again,
the school was asked to make a list of the most wanted tools, so
that these could be supplied from the Harvest Festival donations. As
ever, the donations of seeds were extremely popular and everyone
wanted to be in the photographs – the newly repaired 'seed banner'
was much admired!
After a delicious lunch of rice, vegetables
and fish, which appeared as if from nowhere, the children sang and
danced for us, with some of them playing some small musical
instruments we had brought with us – Kemo organised
this very well and even did a short dance for us himself! He also
persuaded the headmaster to dance, to great applause from the
children. We gave a Pageant pencil-case to a recently sponsored
child and took photographs of three more children who had been
recommended for sponsorship.
the music makers and the
a sponsored child with
her Pageant pencil case
some children who would
like to be sponsored
Then it was time to go – we said goodbye to
all the children, who then worried us hugely by running along beside
the car to see us off. We were not going far – only to Lamin's
family compound – and when we got there many of the children were
there before us! There was only time for a very short stop at the
compound, as the taxi driver was already fretting that we had stayed
too long at the school – we left our gifts and promised to stay
longer next time. Off again, back along the sandy tracks to the
tarmac road, to Barra and the ferry back to Banjul. We eventually
arrived back at the hotel, hot and dirty, but very pleased with our
After a shower, a Julbrew or two and a small supper we felt strong
enough to get things ready for the next day...