Week ending 20th July
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
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.
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
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
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
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
As a registered
educational charity we were able to obtain a customs duty
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.
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.
was able to persuade some of the builders to stay behind to off
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.
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.
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
Week ending 29th June
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.
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.
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
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
Daniel English, a
volunteer with GETS, was thanked for his help with maths and
English classes throughout the year.
students had a party to celebrate in the evening - we are told
it was an enjoyable night for everyone!
ceremony ended with a note of thanks on behalf of the students
by Caroline Jatta.
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
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
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
applicants, Mbacho Jallow, pictured below, was appointed.
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
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
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.
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
This week Skills Year 3 cookery students
were presenting their work to staff and the invigilator, Mr
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
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
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
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
started with breakfast and juice
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
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
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
Week ending 4th May
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
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.
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
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
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
Everyone got stuck in
to help make posters, with bright colour painting and potato
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
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.
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.
pictures were all taken around the residential area of Kerr
Seringe, where Tony lives.
Week ending 6th April
The Sunrise Centre is closed for Easter
holidays this week and next, so there is not as much news as
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.
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
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