PAGEANT - "Education is the future"

Pippa's Gambian trip, 15-29 November 2005

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26 November - 'Cleaning your environment' >>

Friday 25 November - Siffoe Lower Basic School

Another day, another school but not such an early start for Siffoe, which is just before the border with the southern part of Senegal. We set off after breakfast, accompanied by Brian and Ann, two Pageant members staying at the Atlantic first stop, pick up Momodou, our assistant Gambian agent for Siffoe. To our great pleasure, Momodou had his new bride, Isatou, with him she was keen to come along for the outing and to meet up with Momodou's family, most of whom live in Siffoe village.

newlyweds Momodou and Isatou

Momodou and Isatou

Brikama craft market is on the way to Siffoe and it is here that the great majority of Gambian wood-carvers work and have their stalls. We stopped briefly to take a carved frog that croaks(!) to one of the wood-carvers, to see if he thought it was worth trying to copy for the tourist market. Pippa had found the frog in a craft shop in Bristol and thought that the idea might be one that would appeal to the Gambian craftsmen she was right an enthusiastic group gathered and we left them discussing what other animals might be carved in a similar manner. We look forward to a market full of frogs etc in February...

On to Siffoe, to see how the large 5-classroom block was coming along. Well, it had progressed quite a bit since our last visit, but there is still a fair bit to do to finish it. All five classrooms have their roofs and windows, the floors and verandah are completed for three of them and none of the doors have been hung, although they are all there. They are using the three most finished classrooms already, even though they do not have doors, blackboards or any paint on the walls. Pippa, the headmaster and deputy had a forceful, but still amicable, discussion along the lines of no more project money until this building was properly finished. There is sufficient money in their account for them to finish it, so they have promised that it will all be ready for our February visit where have I heard that before?! Some money for classroom furniture was left with Kemo to put in the bank, so that at least some of the rooms could be equipped when they were finished. Kemo has strict instructions that this money is NOT to be used until the buildings are ready, so we hope that this will act as a spur... The school is in desperate need of a new kitchen, so we hope that they will prove that they are worthy of this as we would like to consider it as a future project.

three  villagers who did much of the building work, deputy & headmaster, Kemo & Momodou

discussions with the headmaster and his deputy about the building work

three  villagers who did much of the building work, deputy & headmaster, Kemo & Momodou

discussions with the headmaster and his deputy about the building work

We then adjourned to the shaded area outside the headmaster's office and were entertained by a number of the older children singing, dancing and an excellent drama about the evils of men who entice young girls from their studies with promises of money and nice clothes, only to leave them in the lurch when they fall pregnant. The schools do not pull their punches in their little plays, we find many of them address such tricky topics as unwanted pregnancy, casual sex leading to AIDS, the need to call on proper medical aid rather than the old traditional witch doctor and so on. The children here are all primary school age, but they seemed to be perfectly well aware of what they were enacting.

Siffoe School 'song & dance'

Siffoe School drama

Siffoe School 'song & dance' and drama

gifts of seeds footballs and writing materials 1

gifts of seeds footballs and writing materials 2

gifts of seeds, footballs and writing materials


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After having donated some gifts seeds, footballs, writing materials we left the school and drove the few hundred yards to the compound of Momodou's father (he is the Koranic teacher for Siffoe School).

Here we had the great pleasure of unpacking one of Ben's solar panel and lantern systems. This compound houses many school-children and there is no mains electricity in the region, so it seemed to be an ideal recipient for this gift. The excitement amongst all the children was so great that it was difficult to actually see the lantern at all... eventually, having discussed the siting of the solar panel with Momodou, Kemo connected the lantern to the panel and it obligingly lit instantly, amid gasps of wonder! Ebrima, a boy of about the same age as Ben, accepted the gift on behalf of the compound. It seemed that nothing could have given this family greater pleasure.  Read more about how Ben from Warnham School raised the money for these lanterns.

We had also taken some clothes, games and toys for the many children a large quantity had been sent on the container and these were received with great joy - a batch of jumpers, knitted by a friend of Vic & Jackie, was extremely popular and all of them were donned instantly! It seemed strange here were we Brits, sweltering in sleeveless T-shirts in the heat, and the children were happily putting on (and keeping on) high-necked jumpers!

everyone gathers to see the lantern

connecting the lantern to the solar panel

everyone gathers to see the lantern

connecting the lantern to the solar panel...

and the lantern lit instantly

Ebrima accepting the lantern on behalf of the compound

...and the lantern lit instantly

jumpers knitted by a friend of Vic & Jackie

 jumpers knitted by a friend of Vic & Jackie

Ebrima accepting the lantern on behalf of the compound

We left the family compound and drove back, calling in to Brikama market for a bit more of Sandra's Christmas shopping, and arrived back at the hotel in time for tea and a sit in the sun by the pool quite a quiet day, really...

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26 November - 'Cleaning your environment' >>


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