PAGEANT - "Education is the future"
Schools & colleges re-open after Covid shut-down
(Information correct when published 26/11/2020)
The General Situation
No country in the world has escaped the Covid 19 virus. The pandemic reached it's peak in The Gambia in early August, with 301 cases in a single day, with 14 deaths 2 weeks later associated with this peak. New cases have now dropped to an occasional single case every few days, and there is as yet no sign of a second peak. Over the whole course of the pandemic there have been 3726 new cases and 123 deaths. The Gambia has a population of 2.28 million, so this is 163 new cases and 5.4 deaths per 100,000. For comparison, the UK has had 2340 new cases and 85 deaths per 100,000.
The huge difference could only be partly explained by lower levels of testing and incomplete reporting. Despite this, the UK government still advises against all non-essential travel to The Gambia. Tourism is the biggest industry in The Gambia, and the pandemic has hit the country particularly hard. Around 50,000 Gambian workers have lost their jobs, and there is no furlough or other such scheme to support them. Large sections of the population are now living in poverty. A phrase often heard is "Hunger will hit us before COVID 19".
Gambian schools and colleges have re-opened
Although the number of cases of Covid-19 in The Gambia has thankfully not been particularly high, its schools and colleges had to be closed down for several months as a precautionary measure due to the pandemic. However, we are pleased to say that they are all back up and running now. Secondary schools - both Upper Basic and Senior Secondary - re-opened on 14th October and nursery and Lower Basic schools on 28th October. The schools are doing their best to instigate good hand-washing procedures but, as you can probably imagine, social distancing is just not possible in most schools.
Colleges and UTG (the university) also re-opened on 28th October and are doing as much as they can remotely, but of course many students do not have the facilities to receive study materials online, so they are coping as best they can.
Pageant's team and their work
We have managed to find what seems a secure way of sending funds from our UK bank account to our Gambian account - not as easy as you might think it should be, but after a couple of false starts all seems to be well now and our Gambian agents have been busily distributing sponsorship payments for the past six weeks or so.
Linda elected to stay in The Gambia for the whole period of this pandemic and so has been able to oversee the withdrawal of funds from the bank and sorting out all the payments with our Gambian guys.
We are deeply indebted to our whole Gambian team and are taking this opportunity to say a big public THANK YOU!
How students are coping
Gambian students at all levels have missed about half of a year's education. Private schools, which tend to have better off students, have managed a certain amount of online teaching. However, for the vast majority there has been no teaching at all. There would be huge logistical problems in having all students repeat a year, or in adjusting the national curriculum to catch up on the missed lessons. Nearly all students have moved up a grade as they normally do, with teachers left to decide how they will handle the situation. The exceptions are several Senior Secondary School science classes where it has been deemed necessary for the students to repeat the year. You will appreciate that any poor student who cannot attend school now will be doubly disadvantaged.
Sponsorship urgently needed - update 3 December 2020
Pageant has now updated the list of students needing sponsorship. We have moved students already on the list up a grade, even though this might not have happened in all cases. There are also many 'new' students. These were all sponsored previously, but have not received any money from their sponsors this year. We appreciate that in these difficult time, UK sponsors may have been unable to pay for both health or financial reasons. Meanwhile, Pageant has kept these sutdents in school with payments from our Emergency Sponsorship Fund. Please do your best to help all of the students on our list, either byor making a donation to our