the Christmas holidays
Whilst Sunrise was closed and no students, small children or
teachers were present, we able to make a start building
Phase 1 of our Lower Basic school (see plans within the
website for more detail and pictures). We have just enough
cash to start work on the foundations, 2 classrooms, toilets
and 2 other staff/library rooms. Clearing the site is a big
deal but this allows delivery of essential cement, sand and
However we needed to lose a little of our Hall space to
allow the erection of barriers to protect students and
children from the building processes. This also gave room
for essential storage.
builder, Eric Whitehead, and his team have also
been able to remodel the front steps of the
steps to create a new entrance way to the school
It was essential that all
this work was completed to allow the school to
re-open for Term 2 of the year.
Week beginning 19th December 2011
Dawn and Tony have judged the
Christmas card competition and found many fine examples of
local views of Christmas, not quite like the European snow
The winner from Nursery 1 (aged 4/5) was this picture from
Ya Astou Mbowe aged 4 ½
Nursery School has
finished now for Christmas since the teachers are off the
Gambia Teacher Training College in Brikama every day during
the holiday to continue their training. Dawn and Paul went
with them one day and were pleased to hear how well our
teachers are doing at the college.
|The winner from
Nursery 2 (aged 5/6) was this picture from Njange Mbye
Njange’s card has
been animated and sent to all our supporters to wish them
Merry Christmas and thank them for their help.
The school is now shut
until Tuesday 10/1/2012 and so is the blog. We’ll catch up
with all the good stuff that GETS and all its helpers do
every day in the New Year. Merry Christmas everyone!
Week beginning 12th December 2011
This week we were
introduced to Mrs Horiza Dibba, who teaches Child
Development to our nursery teachers at Brikama Teacher
Training College. Both Fatou Sanneh and Fatou Cham are
pictured here with this very important lady.
The World Health Organisation appeared
later in the week, this time Jack (their leader) came to
give the Nursery children a measles jab and a vitamin
supplement to help their sight develop properly. I also
insisted that some of the teachers could benefit from the
vitamin supplement and also set a good example for the
children. He chose Mrs Cham first before he got most of us,
including one or two volunteers!
Mrs Jainaba Faal, our Tie and Dye and
Batik teacher brought in some lovely examples of the other
handicraft items that she has been creating at home. These
fine examples of necklaces, bracelets and bags are all
things that we can help the students learn how to make to
broaden the range of skills acquired on their course.
Something for next year perhaps.
By the end of the week the students
were all keen to compare the lovely fabrics that they had
produced with Mrs Faal’s help. Examples are laid out here
before the students took them home to their families.
Week beginning 5th December 2011
This week the
teachers got on with setting examinations to test the Skills
students. These took place in the Hall where it is quite
cool to work and concentrate. Marking followed this and took
up a lot of teacher time. Some engaged students from other
classes to help with the process. Daniel English (one of our
volunteers) and Joanna Mendy (Cookery and Sewing Teacher)
can be seen monitoring the students.
At the end of
the week more gifts of resources came to the Centre, this
time from Debbie and Graham Bradley, from the Isle of Man.
They brought books, DVDs, a video camera, first aid kits and
many other things, many thanks to them.
Sendeng Suso (our
Administrator), also pictured, is to become the expert on
taking videos. Well that’s the plan anyway!
During the week
the Hall was also the venue for a Parent/Teacher (PTA)
meeting starting late in the afternoon. The Agenda was quite
varied and covered areas such as feedback to parents on
Punctuality, Dress Code and Discipline. In fact all the
usual gripes from a school to parents, that I remember. We
also summarised all the work that GETS had either done or
planned to do in Sunrise to help the community. The parents
all appeared very grateful for all this help and said so.
The turn-out was
a little low for the PTA meeting and the parents who came
said that staff should ask those students who weren’t
represented to bring their parents in to school first thing
the following day before they carried on with further exams.
Although I found this approach a little harsh, it seemed to
do the trick. Many parents came in the next day to talk the
teachers and offered to support the school and their
offspring. Exams then continued . . . .
Week beginning 28th November 2011
This week began with Sue Nelson and Libby May coming to
bringing even more needed
resources for the Centre, teachers and
to add to
all that Dawn and Paul
Webster brought the previous week. The photo shows
Libby, Sue and Dawn trying to sort out the store cupboard at
Sunrise to accommodate all that we now have.
We also took
delivery of 32 much needed brand Adult Numeracy
textbooks for the skills students. These were
obtained via the Gambian bookshop, Timbooktoo.
Together with some teacher support packs, this
was a very generous donation from a Trust fund.
Other items, including a Netbook PC are also
part of this donation.
Later in the
week Tony caught some of the students posing
with their tie and dye practicals in the Hall at
Sunrise, working with Mrs Faal - or so they all
GETS is not just
about working in Sunrise. We were able to
support a football match and take Libby May to
deliver Telford United football
by Libby's employer, Capgemini) to an Upper
school in Kiti
village (near Brikama). GETS provided the match
ball and refreshments at half time. The Head
teacher, Mr Drammeh, was really grateful for all
the gifts. The final score was sadly 1-0 against
the Kiti school team. Libby also provided other
clothes for the Kiti Nursery school and GETS
provided some spare resources for the Kiti
We were also
able to deliver a Christmas time gift from a UK
company (PB Design) who kindly sponsor the Bah
Family. The head of family, Mariamma, and her
children, Isatou and Mo-Lamin were all keen to
be pictured with the rice, oil and other gifts
bought with the money that was sent by the
company. The oldest child, Alhagie, sadly missed
out on the picture, for he stays in Brikama
during term time with relatives as
he attends Brikama Methodist Academy.
Week beginning 21st November 2011
programme provides all the nursery children with a mid
morning snack of a filled sandwich and a drink that they all
seem to enjoy.
Just as a reminder that we are in
Africa (lest anyone has forgotten!) we've included a picture
of some other little monkeys eating their mid morning snack
of mango. he forest ares near the Senegambia hotels are full
of wildlife. Today we saw vultures and many other birds,
monitor lizards, a ground squirrel, red colobus and vervet
monkeys, all in a short walk OUTSIDE the monkey park.
smallest of our children have been thinking
about Christmas this week,
making painted masks and also making painted
sandals to wear.
|The bantaba keeps the sun off the cookery class
as they make doughnuts. We all try them, they
This week has seen yet more school
holidays - Thursday was a public holiday for polling day in
the Presidential Elections and Friday for result's day
Week beginning 14th November 2011
This week has been very eventful, as
is every week.
brother and extended family came this week (Peter Scorer,
son (Richard), Richards partner (Emily), Emily's mum and Dad
(Ann and Colin Birch) and Emily's brother (Dan). We are
extremely grateful that they seemed to bring nearly one of
everything from our internet wish list for the centre.
season is fully under way in The Gambia now and many people
are writing to tell us of their visits and asking how they
can help. Although there is much to do this is sometimes
hard to answer in advance. When they arrive at the Centre,
the priorities and opportunities are usually much clearer!
We were also pleased to
have another visit from Miriam Schneider, a German lawyer,
who is holidaying in the area and loves to help put
something back into the community where she is visiting.
We hope to see Miriam again soon.
Our fabric collection is
mounting up. These are available for
purchase. We have a local price (just about the
cost) and a tourist price (which gives a small
profit for school funds).
|Week beginning 7th November 2011
The students were all due back in school
on Thursday morning, after the Tobaski holiday, but
sadly only about 50% returned. We
guessed that their parents had not returned from
visiting their home villages in the provinces. 3 of the
students that we asked told us that they travelled as far as
Basse (far inland within Gambia), Cassamance (South
Senegal) and another to North Senegal. An extra complication
is that the Presidential nominations' day clashed with the
return to school and maybe some
parents and children believed that it was a public
The kind donators of the money for
our Watchman's Hut (Chis Rice and Helen Lee from Brisbane,
Australia) came to the centre this week, along with Sheila
and Nick Plaister. The photo shows Chris and Helen with
Dembo Saidy, one of our watchmen, outside the new building.
We still have a couple of improvements to make to the design
of the hut to keep more sun and rain out and let more air
Although the sun remains hot the children can still run
playing games. At all ages the boys love to play with a
investigating playground equipment for the
Here are some examples of locally made
|Week beginning 31st October 2011
This week has been disrupted a bit by
school holidays. Tuesday was a holiday for All Saints' Day
and as we are preparing for the feast
of Tobaski, the school will close on Thursday and re-open
next Thursday morning. This will allow staff and students to
travel to their family homes to enjoy the feast. There are
many rams at busy junctions all over the Gambia waiting for
purchase as the main ingredient for this feast.
Rams for sale at Abuko
workers from Kick Polio Out of Africa visited
the school on Monday, during their Bakoteh area
campaign, to give polio vaccine and vitamin A
supplement to all children under 5 in Africa.
This is a part of a huge effort to eradicate
Last week we
had a picture of one of our ex-skills students, Mama Nabeneh.
Mama is 21 years old and graduated in 2009. She lives near
to Sunrise in Bakoteh and has always wanted to be a school
teacher so she welcomes the role that she has as classroom
assistant. Mama said that her best subject at school was
English, and she is putting that to good use.
Daniel English, was using an unusual approach this week. I
heard the sound of the UK pop group Coldplay (Song - Yellow)
playing in class. On closer inspection he was using the
lyrics to help the students to fill in the missing words
that he'd left off the blackboard. This helped with their
spelling and pronunciation. They had great fun with this,
lots of singing and drumming showed that they all knew the
a visit from our first tourists of the season to
see the Sunrise Centre. Jamie, Doug and Garth
with their friend Lamin and taxi driver are
shown in the photo.
One of our goals is to get the tourists and
their taxi drivers to come and see a local
school in action. Sunrise is quite near to many
of the hotels so it would be great to have them
come and see us, and maybe help with a donation.
|Week beginning 24th October 2011
This week Helen had to go to the other school that she
administers for a Scottish Charity, from St Augustine’s
church in Dumbarton. This school
is London Corner, near Serrekunda and has 90 nursery places
covering ages 3 to 6.
When we arrived the lunch food was being prepared, cooked on
charcoal open fires in large pots. Today it was Domada. The
effectiveness of recent improvements to the chimney system
to remove smoke from cooking were debated.
delighted to have a new volunteer begin to help at Sunrise
this week, he says -
"My name is Daniel English and I come from Wicklow in
Ireland. I arrived in the Gambia about 7 weeks ago and plan
to stay for about a year. Among other things, I will be
helping Mr Ali Bah with Maths and English lessons once a
So far, I have been really impressed by the friendliness of
the teachers and the enthusiasm of the pupils. They are all
attentive in class and all seem to do their homework, a
little different from my school days!
I am looking forward to trying to make some contribution to
the great work being done at the school and education centre
and hope to meet any of you who decide to come and visit."
A classroom at London Corner Nursery
Mr Saidy, the Teacher
in Charge at London Corner, helping to make papier-mache so
that the children could build models.
Here is Mama Nabeneh in Sunrise,
wearing her new teacher's uniform. Mama was a former skills
student who has come back to help as nursery classroom
working hard to complete all the feedback to the fantastic
people who sponsor over 50 children, all administered by the
office in Sunrise. She hopes to complete this in the next
couple of weeks.
Friday is dress-down
day (or dress-up really) when most can wear their best
clothes, it is holy day for Muslims.
The photo shows the nursery teachers looking very smart,
singing and clapping in the shade outside their classrooms.
|Week beginning 17th October 2011
This weekend we had another storm to
refill the dips in the sandroads with water. I don't know
how the children manage to keep their clothes so clean! The
picture shows the road to the Sunrise Centre. Sunday's
temperature was shown as "felt like 43 deg C", just before
the storm, and it really did!
has been a bit better of late and one day we had power for a
whole school morning! The teachers celebrated by letting the
children use the DVD player and TV. The small ones watched
Nursery Rhymes and the big ones enjoyed David Attenborough's
Blue Planet in their English lesson. Helen topped up the
Cashpower meter (pre-paid electricity) with 5,000 Dalasi's
worth to keep things going.
Fatou Cham and
Fatou Sanneh spoke to Dawn Webster, their UK Nursery
advisor, on Skype, to give news about teaching progress.
They reported that revision has been necessary with the
youngsters after the summer holiday, prior to moving on with
this year's nursery curriculum - no teacher will be
surprised to hear this! Dawn will refresh the nursery
teachers, from Sunrise and London Corner schools, with a
training session in Jolly Phonics when she comes next month.
Our Maths and English teacher, Mr Ali
Bah, has been teaching rounding and estimating, prior to
starting to work with calculators.
Our cooking and sewing teacher, Mrs Joanna Mendy, managed to
acquire additional local cooking stoves for only D150 (less
than £3.50 each) from our local welder man, who has a
workshop next to Sunrise.
Joanna is now
working hard with the students to make new brown uniform
skirts since the local supplier doesn't have some sizes
Finally don't let anyone say that it is all hard
work out here in Africa. I caught Helen trying
top quality ice cream in the local tourist area.
It looks great!
|Week beginning 10th October 2011
We have found a great new skills teacher, Mrs Jainaba Sanneh
Faal. She will start helping the skills students with Tie
and Dye and Batik, but she can also teach basket weaving,
soap making and jewellery making.
Sad news this week was that the
father of one of our night watchmen (Dembo Saidy) died. The
Muslim funeral is a very rapid affair and Dembo has had to
travel quickly to his family home to the east of Brikama.
The other watchman will work extra shifts to cover him.
Mr Batchilly has malaria this week
and is at home. The disease is very common in this area at
the moment. A course of tablets or injections over about a
week helps to minimise this horrible illness.
We have had a new cleaner (Marie
Correa) making a huge difference to the school, making the
school feel better to live in for everyone. She has worn out
three local mops now and we're trying best quality Addis
ones to see if they survive the pressure!
We continue to use Skype a lot to
communicate with the UK and have used it put the skills
teachers together with Erica Wren to offer advice and
guidance, mostly on English and Maths. Dawn Webster has a
call booked with the nursery teachers next week to talk to
Mrs Jainaba Sanneh
Tony has been
taking more pictures, including this one of Mrs Joanna Mendy,
teaching sewing in our new Bantaba and some more pictures of
our nursery children.
Nursery 1 lining up - visitors from
earlier this year
are bound to recognise Alfusainey!
Mrs Fatou Cham with Nursery 1 ready for
a PE lesson
Story time with
Mrs Fatou Sanneh and Nursery 2.
One of last year's graduates from our skills centre
is now helping in the nursery classes.
Week beginning 3rd October 2011
Helen has been busy meeting children
who are sponsored by GETS members as they bring in their
last term's report and are given a cheque, payable to their
school, for their school fees for the coming term.
Our nursery and skills classes
started this Monday, after the worst of the rainy season,
although the roads remain wet and the rains continue,
filling the potholes in the roads. Helen's little car got
stuck in the mud and water came up to the boot level -
the car is still drying out!
Lack of electricity makes things
difficult, but we've bought new batteries to improve our
local power alternatives.
Tony took this picture of some of
the skills students wearing their new uniforms - the tops
were all made by last year's students in the tie and dye
classes and then tailored by the skills students in the
Two of our successful
first year students have their second year sponsored by a
GETS member, as their families could not afford to pay their
|Our tie and dye
teacher, Mr Fayenkeh, left at the end of the summer term to
attend to his family business, so this week Mr Batchilly and
Tony will be interviewing candidates to replace him.
Congratulations to Kaddy Jawara, one of our nursery
teachers, who had a baby boy on 23 September - both are
Our other two
nursery teachers, Fatou Cham and Fatou Sanneh are back with
us after their summer teaching course at Gambia college.
Many maintenance tasks and some
building improvements are scheduled.
We've planted a mango
and an orange tree, for shade, and we are busy clearing the
site of all the rubbish that has accumulated over the summer
holiday - this is Gambia!