The latest news from
GETS in Gambia


Week ending 20th July 2012

 Looking back to the previous weekend, many of the skills students attended a 3 day trip to Albreda. Mr Saihou Darboe (our new Tie & Dye and Batik skills teacher) organised the trip with support from Mr Ali Bah (English and Maths Teacher), who went along to support. The adventure started with a series of local minibus taxis (Locally “Geleh-Geleh”). One to the ferry port at Banjul then one of the other side of the river etc. This always takes some time hence the extended trip.

They stayed Friday and Saturday nights in the local school where good friends were made.

 This is a trip that is regularly made by Tourists to see the sights and the “Roots” museum associated with West African slavery, including the prison island, now  known as Kunta Kinteh Island (formally James Island), near Albreda and Juffereh villages, North Bank. This whole story was made famous in the Alex Haley books and TV programmes that feature a story about a slave and his plight (Kunta Kinteh), reputedly from that area of The Gambia.




 The final week of school is always filled with mixed emotion. Some students looking forward to the holidays, some starting a new career and others not too sure of what happens next in their lives. Looking forward for the staff, it’s business as usual for the Watchmen (but much quieter) and the Nursery Teachers are back at Teacher Training College again but the others will be on holiday.

Sunrise School ran just for 4 days this week because the Muslim festival of Ramadam started on Friday. End of term lunch was the same as in all schools, I guess, except for the menu and that Gambian usually eat from a common plate, with their right hands!


School starts again in late September, opening early for registration. We still have lots of places not reserved by parents. This is pretty normal as most leave things until the last minute. 


We’re advertising places for Lower Basic in Class 1 since we’re confident that we can get the new building ready in time to open. The building is waterproof now so that work can continue regardless of the weather, as long as the workers can get to site!


The blog will be on holiday now, restarting in late September with news about our new term  . . . .


Week ending 13th July 2012

This is the penultimate week of the school calendar and lots of unusual activities take place in many schools after exams have been completed. However seeing the skills students play good quality, very energetic football, during a very humid hot day in a Gambian school certainly rates as beyond the norm.

Also quite unusual was the sheer level of attention that the skills students paid to some of the nursery children who put together some lovely stories during some free time in the Hall one day last week. Pictured here are Abdoulie Jallow and Kumba Baldeh narrating stories.


  The Charity and all the school are very grateful to Amie Williams, who joined us this term as a volunteer to help as a classroom assistant in the Skills Training area. Amie is sponsored by the generous donations from Angela Longoni-Sarr and Johnnie Walker and is proving a really useful member of the team, mainly helping with cooking and serving the daily mid-morning snack for all students and staff at the centre. Thank you Angela and Johnny. When Angela and Johnny holiday in the Gambia, Amie helps run their holiday home in Brufut, where she has worked for some time now.












Week ending 6th July 2012

 The container from the UK arrived at Banjul docks on 23rd June. It had to be out of the port by 3rd July or we would have been charged storage fees. Plenty of time, you would think, but this is Gambia!

As a registered educational charity we were able to obtain a customs duty waiver. To get this, Helen had to go to the Regional Education Office in Kanifing and wait for someone to stamp  some documents, then take them to the Education Offices in Banjul where the documents were stamped by the Permanent Secretary for Education. This could have taken months, but fortunately Mrs Chow was able to help with this.

After spending forty hours driving 240 kilometers back and forth to Banjul every day and spending on average 5 hours each day at the ports sorting out the paperwork, on Friday 29th June, Helen was able to escort the container to the school - a little worried because the direct route to the school via Amsterdam had been closed for several weeks due to re-surfacing but at 6 p.m. in the evening the container finally reached Sunrise.   

Luckily Helen was able to persuade some of the builders to stay behind to off load it.

Helen deserves a medal for the time and trouble she took battling officialdom to ensure that the container arrived safely at Sunrise, with minimum expense to the charity!


Work is progressing well on the building of the Lower Basic School. The roof is nearing completion and the tiling is due to start next week.

n 30th June and 1st July, students and staff attended a workshop at Sunrise Centre. The activity was supported by the Global Fund to fight against  HIV/AIDS and TB which also aims to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality in The Gambia.

The skills students were busy taking their 3rd term exams this week. The academic year is due to finish for the summer break on Friday 20th July. School is scheduled to re-open on Monday 24th September 2012.

Week ending 29th June 2012

  The graduation ceremony for our third year skills students was held this week. 25 students successfully completed the three year course and passed the final exams.


The guest speaker for the occasion was Mr Ebrima Mbowe, an educationalist consultant presently a volunteer with the United Nations Organisation. Among the other guests were Mr Sohna, a principal at Nemasu Senior Secondary School, Mrs Chow, a retired head teacher and school inspector,  Sulayman Saidy, the head teacher of London Corner Nursery school and the Alkalo of Bakoteh sent a representative.


The ceremony began with prayers, followed by a song of welcome from all the skills students at the centre. This was followed by speeches from Mr Nuredeem Mbye, the Sunrise Education Director and Helen Touray, the Sunrise Centre Director.


The guest speaker, Mr Ebrima Mbowe, spoke about the role played by skills in building a nation.


The students presented two short plays, one about the importance of skills and another about teenage pregnancy.


Two of the successful students receiving their certificates from Mr Ebrima Mbowe.

Certificates of appreciation were also presented to Joanna Mendy and Bubacarr Diallo for making all the graduation gowns and mortarboards, plus approximately 500 Sunrise uniforms for the next school year - with help from the skills students.

Daniel English, a volunteer with GETS, was thanked for his help with maths and English classes throughout the year.

The students had a party to celebrate in the evening - we are told it was an enjoyable night for everyone!

The ceremony ended with a note of thanks on behalf of the students by Caroline Jatta.

We are very pleased to be able to say that following their work experience about 70 per cent of the students graduating have been promised employment in restaurants, hotels and sewing workshops and factories.

Week ending 22nd June 2012

The new compound wall, built to improve security within Sunrise has now been completed. The wall is about 60m long and around 2.5m high so this is a significant piece of work. It has a gate at the centre that can be opened, on special occasions, to allow the whole compound to be used for large public gatherings. This was a condition set upon GETS by the local civic leaders when the wall was built, since the land that Sunrise occupies is a public amenity. This is not an issue for GETS as it will generally be used by the community outside school hours.

 The funds to build the wall were given by the Trust “Association Femme d'Europe” who accepted an application from GETS as a registered charity, for funds for this project,  as part of its mission to improve facilities in the Gambia by improving safety and security within the school area. GETS is very grateful for this support.


We continue to race to complete our first phase of building of our Lower Basic School. The first 2 classrooms, 6 toilets, library and new office are due to be completed before opening in September 2012. We are advertising places to the local community now to fill each class of 28, wherever we have vacancies. Most Lower Basic places will go to our current Sunrise Nursery 2 children, aged 6.

 The rains are not far away now. There have been 2 big downpours already. This is causing a little nervousness amongst our builders who are trying to complete the metal work for the roof to allow the corrugated metal roofing panels to be fitted in good time. This allows work to continue internally, whatever the heavens decide to pour on the structure. The other critical waterproofing is to render (they call it plastering in The Gambia) the external faces of the block-work to allow painting. Windows will also help to keep the rain out of course but are a lower priority at this time. 


We are continuing to seek further funding opportunities to begin our Phase 2 works in our Lower Basic School complex. We have a number of applications under way but we are also hoping that our many supporters can continue to help us with donations. We estimate the costs to build the 4 further classrooms planned to complete the school will be £23,000. To turn the extra classrooms into a working school we also need to buy books and equipment but this can come a little later. There is still a lot to do.

We have also recruited our first 2 members of staff for the new school. We have been lucky that one of our nursery teachers, Mrs Kaddy Jawara, has recently returned from maternity leave and taken up the new teaching position. Our nursery classroom assistant, Mama Nabaneh, has agreed to move to the new school to support Kaddy.

We then looked for a new classroom assistant from amongst our year 3 skills students to take Mama’s place in the nursery, as Mama did a year ago. After interviewing the applicants, Mbacho Jallow, pictured below, was appointed.

 We have also been very lucky to have retained 2 great nursery teachers. Mrs Fatou Cham and Mrs Fatou Sanneh.  They are pictured here on the left with Kaddy and Mama playing “pass the baby” with Kaddy’s new baby Bubacar.

Week ending 15th June 2012

GETS helps many students in The Gambia, in addition to running the centre at Sunrise. This week congratulations go to 2 of these students.



Omar Beyai graduated after completing his Grade 12 examinations at Muslim High - he now has to wait until October before his examination results are posted. Omar has been sponsored by Jamie Harwood.



Stephanie Gomez was confirmed in the Christian Church and took her first Holy Communion on Sunday 10th June. Stephanie is aged 8 and is sponsored by Christine Newman, her husband Steven and their son Joseph.











  More pictures this week of Mrs Mendy and Sunrise students during their Year 3 practical work. They look very happy with their work and also because they are coming to an end of the exam time, when tensions and stresses are the same everywhere for the students involved.

The dish that they have been producing is Seafood fried rice. It looks great!

Earlier in the term I captured  this picture of Mrs Mendy with Mbacho Jallow, Fatou Saidy and Marie Koloko displaying some of the work that Sunrise students had produced to show the range of their sewing skills. Materials that had been tie and dyed from white cloth has been turned into many different products, including; shopping bags, hair ties, purses, pencil cases and gym bags. These went back to Germany to be sold to support another charity raising funds to support Gambians.


Week ending 8th June 2012

This week Skills Year 3 cookery students were presenting their work to staff and the invigilator, Mr Karamo Chareh.

Mr Chareh is Head Chef at Ocean Bay, one of the 5 star hotels in Bakau, near Cape Point. This is a beautiful setting for a great hotel, just around the corner from mouth of the river Gambia.

The students looked a little nervous when they presented their work for checking but they need not have worried. However all went well through the testing processes. Members of staff tried all the dishes and seemed to survive unscathed. Perhaps it was due to a strong constitution!




Rising at the front of Sunrise is the building that is the new Lower Basic School, well above the perimeter wall. The pictures show that we have reached above the lintel height on the upper floor. In fact the gable ends are starting to show the position of the roof. It’s going to be a race to complete the roof before any substantial rains fall, due quite soon.



This extra height has also allowed us to test the pressure of the local water supply. The bad news; there isn’t enough, as we expected.

We will need to adopt our Plan B here and erect a water tower and a storage tank to provide water for toilets etc. We hope that the pressure at night will be sufficient to fill up our tank each night for use next day, without expensive pumps. However we also need extra cash for the water tower, since the budget hadn’t included this.












Week ending 1st June 2012

In The Gambia our 3 year skills students began their final exams. Some of the students are shown here, working well spaced out in their classroom, in silence of course. It is quite warm later in the day so this takes place in the morning, like all our classes to avoid any extra pressures.



Later some of the other skills students had a chance to watch one of the GreenTech videos in the Hall. GreenTech were featured in the blog recently as the local company who have been developing cooking stoves for burning fuel briquettes made from peanut shells.









In the UK we were at Paul and Dawn’s house, near Newport (South Wales), watching in awe the experts from Fox Removals. This is the second time that GETS should say thank you to this company who have given us specialist support, all free of any charge (except for drinks and biscuits of course!). The task set them was to pack 100 desks & chairs plus several cupboards & many other useful things into a 20 foot container being shipped to Gambia.

All being well, the shipping process takes about 1 month to complete (including a 3 week sea voyage) and Helen should  have enough things to equip our new lower basic school and replace the “tired” furniture in our nursery.

The removal team from Foxes and school equipment came free of charge to GETS, but it is through a very large, generous donation that we were able to fund the shipping costs to get things across the water to Africa. This sends about 50% of what we need to support Sunrise, in terms of equipment, but we need to repeat this whole process in the next couple of years to finish the whole school.

Week ending 25th May 2012

The key event this week was the Sunrise Sports Day. We invited the London Corner School (about 60 pupils and the teaching staff) to join us in a competition with the Sunrise Nursery classes. They arrived on a bus from their school about 1 mile away, near Serrekunda. Helen administers the school on behalf of a Scottish Charity, from St Augustine’s church in Dumbarton.

We were worried about the rain storms in the area that brought early heavy rains over the previous weekend but luckily they stayed away and the sandy surrounds within Sunrise had quickly soaked up the puddles. We also had electricity all day which is a bit of a record recently.

The day started with breakfast and juice

Some coaching was required for quite a few events for the children, like how to run in lanes (drawn in the sand). 


The children quickly caught on and the runners took their places for the 1st event, the 50 metre race. Some other events on the day were – a lime & spoon race, obstacle race, a balloon race which was delayed due to the balloons bursting in the searing heat, tug of war (first students then staff), rice sack race and musical chairs.



Beef benachin was served up for lunch, prepared beautifully by the cooks from London Corner and after the rest a few more events before we closed the day at 4pm.



Which school won? Well in Helens words “I’m sworn to secrecy so not able to say which school won most of the events except a great day was had by one and all – there were no winners or losers. The students were very competitive and took defeat well. The staff on the other hand were all very protective of their students and the slightest dispute about the winner of an event caused great animated debate (all in good spirit of course).”


Our thanks should go to all the staff and volunteers (including some parents) from both schools for the planning, preparation and support, skills students from Sunrise for their help controlling all the children before, during and after events, also to the local pharmacy for the after sun lotion to treat Helen’s sunburn and last but not least the students who provided the fun filled day!



Week ending 18th May 2012

Just like in the UK the Nursery children enjoy the concept of Golden Time; when they work well they get to choose their own activities. They are involved in a complex game, just as 3 young girls would be anywhere.


Outside 5 of the boys are practicing for next weeks Sports Day with a sack race. There are plenty of rice sacks available in the Gambia, since it is a staple for all Gambians. The sacks always get re-used for something so they are usually in demand carry a cost to acquire. Some of the other Nursery children are watching and cheering. Everyone loves sports, even though it is very hot, as usual. The typical daytime maximum temperature is about 32 deg C in May!


  Our building projects continue with good progress. The new Wall is pretty much complete except for the new metal gate



While the Lower Basic School floor has set and is ready for the walls of the first floor to be built up.







Week ending 11th May 2012

Friday 11th May saw the skills students clearing the school ground in preparation for the nursery sports day on Wednesday 23rd May. Caroline Jatta, a 3rd year student is seen here posing in her creative cement bag hat!


More uniforms were produced this week. We need more than 350 altogether if every place is filled in the new year, since each student gets 2 tie and dye uniforms.

This is a mammoth task, since as well as tie dying the white cloth (seen here with Mbacho Jallow and Fatou Bojang), we will also need to sow the fabric to the right size and shape! This all takes a lot of time but it does give our skills students the kind of volume work that they should encounter in the outside world, if they work in the fabric industry.



The builders have been mixing concrete this week in huge quantities.

This is for the foundations for new wall, that we are using to fence off the new school and also for the very important floor that divides the new school ground floor and first floor. This obviously needs some time to cure before the upstairs can be started.

The shuttering for the flooring and associated props are starting to be put in place in this picture.

Week ending 4th May 2012

This week’s blog has an apology; I have realised that I missed including a lovely picture taken during the Easter holidays when Chris and Georgina Matthew came to Sunrise to look around the school and see what we were achieving. Without the children present we sneaked into nursery and tried out some of the tools of the trade, good old chalk and individual chalk boards.

 Another thing that has arrived in recent weeks is Sendeng’s certificate for passing her  IT course. Sendeng Suso is our Sunrise Office Administrator and she has been sponsored through GETS for many years before we finally employed her. Sendeng’s previous sponsor, Alan Pickles, also helped her to afford to do this MS Office course, in which she achieved a credit. Well done Sendeng.

  I went with Helen to find out about the latest recycling ideas in the Gambia. One of the important exports from the country is what is known locally as Groundnuts (a.k.a. Peanuts). One clever company (GreenTech) has come up with a way of burning old groundnut shells, thereby reducing to need for wood to cook and reducing de-forestation. Costs look to be similar or better than traditional wood fires since the fire gets going much quicker and their simple and efficient cookers also remove much of the smoke. The groundnut shells are simply squeezed into tubular brickettes. We are considering adopting these cookers and fuel into the schools that we support in order to to help this initiative.


This week we had a good turnout from parents for our regular PTA meeting. There was a lot of lively discussion and debate on many subjects, including the costs of running the school and payment of fees, student discipline and the newly elected School Council. The council is made up of  2nd Years Skills students who will be in office until the time in the 3rd year when they go out to work placements. Then the teachers will ask for new volunteers and new post holders will be selected. Just as in the UK, these students will help to improve the many aspects of running a successful school. The local Language Prefect would be unusual in the UK but in schools in The Gambia, the use of English is encouraged at all times and it is only too easy for students to slip back into a local language.

See our Student Council

Week ending 27th April 2012

The Trustees have been debating exactly what the uniform colours should be for next year. We are trying to keep the cost down whilst improving the quality (not unlike how we try and run the whole school really). The final result is this tie and dyed material produced within the Sunrise Centre, shown in the picture with Mr Darboe and Fatou Saidy.

  Our golden yellow will be the Nursery colour and for our new Lower Basic school, planned to open in September 2012, we have chosen red.  The skills uniform will be a mix of golden yellow and red.

The clothing colours and patterns were produced by our new Tie & Dye and Batik Teacher, Mr Saihou Darboe, shown here with Mbacho and Binta Jarju wearing the new skills material.





  Between lessons I caught this snap of Sarjo Jammeh, carrying her new textbook (produced free of charge by Unicef and The Gambia National Youth Council) called “Healthy Relationships for a Better Future”. This is a life skills course that Mr Darboe is qualified to teach. It covers many subjects that are particularly important to young people including HIV and AIDS.

Later I found that Mr Darboe had been trying out the new skills Tie and Dye colours by re-dying existing uniforms, which students wore for this photo later that day. The picture shows just how bright the new colours are (most of the girls are in the new colours) and the hot Gambian sun made this all possible within the morning.

Week ending 20th April 2012

 Our visitors from last week (Angela and Johnny) came again this week to meet and work with the students from Skills and Nursery children.  They also brought their Gambian friend Amie, who works for them as a maid.

As well as this we had a further 4 helpers from the Baldwin family (Richard, Sue, Kate and Jenny).

Everyone got stuck in to help make posters, with bright colour painting and potato printing.

They also helped the nursery children make clay models (mostly pots) and papier-mache models (more pots) using techniques practiced in many schools, but not so often in The Gambia.



Our helpers then worked with the skills students making flap jacks and coconut cakes. Thanks to all of our helpers, the food tasted wonderful!

Both Angela, Johnny and the Baldwin’s have helped support Gambians over many years and I hope that they will be enthused by what we are doing at Sunrise to continue to support us. Angela wants a number of our pictures to encourage people in her UK home village (North Dalton) to help us as well. This would be great.


As it is the start of a new term we have many students sponsored by GETS supporters (more than 50) coming with their families to collect cheques for school fees, cash for travel and food for the final term of the school year. This runs exactly like the UK school term system. The picture shows Bubacarr Jallow and Amie Jammeh with their mother leaving Sunrise with money for Term 3.

Week ending 13th April 2012

This week the school remains closed for the Easter Holidays but that doesn’t stop our steady flow of visitors. Helen met Angela Sarr and her partner Johnny who came to bring many things including knitting wool, kindly sold to Angela with a heavy discount to support our charity by a shop, local to her home.



When we were in school we also met up with Marie Korea, one of our most important employees and particularly in a school on the “edge of the Sahara” where sandy dust by the bucket load is the order of the day. Marie is our school cleaner.



Since it is a bit quiet this week it worth reflecting on just how beautiful the flora and fauna is in the Gambia. With over 500 species of birds visiting or living here and many exotic plants, the Gambia is always colourful. The wonderfully predictable warm weather,  plentiful water supply and location within Africa all make the Gambia a great resort for plants, birds and humans alike.








These pictures were all taken around the residential area of Kerr Seringe, where Tony lives.

Glossy Starlings




Little Egret


Beautiful Sunbird

       Week ending 6th April 2012

The Sunrise Centre is closed for Easter holidays this week and next, so there is not as much news as usual.


However, the centre has been used by Gambia contingent of the Medical Research Council (MRC), based in Fajara. They have hired the centre all week to undertake a survey of members of the Bakoteh community to study the incidence of Tuberculosis, as part of a much larger study with The Gambia.

The MRC Team Leader was  Dr Semeeh Omoleke, a Nigerian professional who undertook some of his training in Glasgow (Scotland).  The team of x-ray technicians,nurses and Doctors worked to survey the community. People found to have ongoing problems would be referred for further treatment, free of any charge, by MRC.

Later in the week we were joined by Vicky and Tony Longton. They had been at Sunrise previously in Feb 2012 (with their daughter Sophie), bringing us resources, but had returned to deliver lots of bright and clear photos of the pupils and students that they taken and had developed. They left these with us to hand out to the children in the photos to take home to show their parents. Some of the children will not have pictures of themselves so this will be quite a treat.


  You will have seen the photos showing the progress as our Lower Basic grows steadily nearer completion. Desks and chairs will soon be needed for the completed classrooms.

A new school was being built at Blaenavon in Wales, and GETS were kindly offered the desks and chairs no longer needed by the schools moving into the new building as they were having brand new furniture.

This posed the problem of transporting this furniture to storage before shipment to Gambia. We have to give a big thank you to Fox removals who agreed to transport it all from Blaenavon to where we could store it until shipping was arranged. They loaded up at Blaenavon and unloaded at the other end - free of charge as a goodwill gesture to GETS. We are very grateful to Fox removals for all their help!


The furniture is now all stored at Dawn and Paul's house, but hopefully will soon be on its way to Gambia!