The latest news from
GETS in Gambia


 Week ending 29th March 2013

Late last week we also had one of our regular but important PTA meetings.
All the teachers were joined in the Hall by Helen, Dawn and Paul plus our local school inspector (or Cluster Monitor), Mr Jarju, who often attends these meetings.
Also present was our good friend, ex-Head Teacher and local educational advisor, Mrs Chow.
 Many parents came, as usual, to hear a lively discussion about how the school was operating.



We had a visit this week from Adey Hanrahan and his wife Jill. Adey is the Commanding Officer of a Sea Cadets group based in the NE of England. He hopes to bring up to 30 cadets to Sunrise next year, subject to all sorts of formalities to help us improve things a little more as part of their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme. The exact details of how this will work are under discussion now.





  Adey and Jill can be seen here with the skills students making Macaroons in the Bantaba. Johnny Walker is also pictured, with Angela Longi-Sarr somewhere in the background. As usual everyone seemed to have a good time and the food disappeared quite quickly.


Later we caught a picture of Jill Hanrahan sitting in class with the Mrs Cham’s Nursery children, the youngest in Sunrise. The children were mostly able to concentrate on the lesson.


As in any UK school, the Sunrise Centre has broken up for the Easter Holidays. Term 3 starts again on the 11th April. The blog will also start again at that time.

Week ending 22nd March

On Monday we were pleased to welcome Helen back from her holiday. She had been to the wedding of two of our supporters, one of whom is her nephew. Our congratulations go to the happy couple, Richard and Emily Scorer, seen here on the beautiful island of St Lucia.

Lower Basic classes have to have two assessment tests each year, so this was a busy week for our new Grade 1 Lower Basic class. We used the spare classroom and they did tests in English, maths and integrated studies. We were pleased with the results when we marked the tests.

  On Thursday there was loud cheering as the girls from the skills classes played football during a break.

On Friday it was the Lower Basic's turn to go to Katchikally and the beach. There are some very serious faces here as they watch the crocodiles basking in the sun by their pool! Perhaps they are thinking of the song, "Never smile at a crocodile!"

The Lower Basic building continues to grow - almost ready for the roof now.

Week ending 15th March

Mr Mbye, together with the nursery and lower basic staff, came to Sunrise for a training session with Dawn at the weekend.

Paul and Dawn went up to Timbooktoo, in Bakau, to order the text books which will will be needed for the new Lower Basic class starting in September - English 2, Mathematics 2 and Integrated Studies 2.  Paul also bought two useful books - a book about The Gambia Law of Taxation and also, since VAT is now payable in The Gambia, Income Tax and Value Added Tax, Act 2012.


The main event of the week was the nursery outing.
Both the evening before and early in the morning the staff, helped by some of the skills students ,were busy preparing food for everyone. Here is Mrs Cham cooking the benachin.

Then 54 nursery children plus 9 adults all squashed into the bus and set off to Kachikally crocodile pool.

The children looked at the crocodiles laying around the pool, making sure they did not go anywhere near them, but the teachers went to where they were allowed to stroke the tame crocodiles.

Mrs Cham being brave!




After this they all went to the museum where Mrs Sanneh told them about some of the exhibits from different tribes.

Some of the children would not go anywhere near this "monster", but they were not frightened by the straw man.

Then on to the beach where a kind fisherman let us use his shelter for some shade from the hot sun.

This shelter was also a good place to eat the lunch cooked by the teachers.

The parachute proved useful both for sitting on during lunch and for playing games.

But the highlight of the day was of course, sitting and splashing in the sea!

Week ending 8th March

On Wednesday this week we were visited by Joyce Turner from Kent. The Rotary Club in her area, South Foreland, recently held a shuffleboard evening which raised £525 for Sunrise and she brought more gifts for Sunrise with her, including two wall clocks for the classrooms.

When we had our original nursery school in Bakoteh, Joyce spent three weeks helping the teachers there so she was welcomed with great delight by Fatou Cham. In return Joyce was delighted with exhibitions of cultural dance from children in Fatou Cham's class, Nursery 1.

Joyce, her Women's Institute and other friends have also given money towards our feeding programme so she was anxious to take photos of the children having their mid-morning snack to show everyone back home.

Enjoying their snack at break time


Steve has been with us a few weeks now, doing lots of odd jobs around the centre so we caught him up a ladder this week, painting the walls.

Steve's wife flew out to join him this week and visited us on Thursday. Often when she comes she helps the skills students but we found her working with a group of children from Nursery 2 on this occasion. You can see Steve on the ladder in the background!

Phase 2 of the Lower Basic is progressing steadily. On the upper floor of Phase 1 an opening has been knocked through  to allow the builders easy access.

The walls of the upper floor grow taller every day.

Our school gets bigger and bigger!

Week ending 1st March 

Tracy Hill from Newcastle came to visit Sunrise this week. with her son, Christopher. They brought us some colouring books, pens, crayons and black bin liners and spent some time in the classrooms helping out where they could. Christopher wants to do some fund raising at school and they have taken lots of photos and some items to be used for display purposes. 

Muhammed Saidy Khan's photo was on our webpage of children asking for sponsors. He has found a sponsor through that page and you can see the delight on the faces of Muhammed, his father and his aunt (his mother is dead).

The overlocking machine donated by Tools with a Mission has proved extremely useful. Fatou Nyassi is busy using it in the picture below.





The builders were making the second floor of our Lower Basic Phase 2 this week. It was amazing to watch the men on the ground shovelling up the dry sand and cement mix  and throwing it up to the builders above who were waiting to spread it evenly before watering it to turn it into the concrete floor.


The bricks were handed up one by one - not thrown!


On Thursday Helen flew off for a well deserved break .She has gone to see her nephew get married - in St. Lucia!

Dawn and Paul are at Sunrise during her absence.



 Week ending 22nd February


Things were a little hectic last week. We lost 2 days to Bank Holidays, had 13 special visitors and an Ebbeh Day (like a school fete) on Friday. The special visitors were 10 students and 2 staff from Bishop Heber High School in Cheshire, plus Maxine’s husband. They came to The Gambia for a week, especially to see us at Sunrise (well mostly!).  

They brought with them a wonderful cheque for £3,500 that they had spent the year fundraising.


Around £1,500 was raised at a Christmas Fayre, and the rest was raised by bag-packing, school discos and cake sales. This will all go towards completing our building work on the Lower Basic School. Maxine Beech is seen above holding the cheque with our Education Director, Nurudeen Mbye. They also brought all sorts of resources for us to use.


The students presented the cheque at the whole school assembly.



Our visitors, all sitting in the front row were (from left to right) Richard Beech, Will Hopkin, Ed Huxley, Lucy Hobson, Alice Charlton, Evie Maddocks, Pippa Bindin, Charlotte Curry, Alex Williams-Day, Jemma Beckett, Rachel Jones, Maxine Beech and Gillian Leeke.


As part of their visit, students spent time observing and taking part in classes. Here Lucy Hobson, Alice Charlton and Gillian Leeke (a maths teacher from the Heber school) are listening to Mr Bah teaching English.



The Sunrise students gave a cultural show to the visitors, with some audience participation.  Elizabeth Loppy is below showing Richard Beech how to dance “the Mandinka way”. Elizabeth is sponsored by Maxine and Richard Beech.



The Heber students got an opportunity to create their own tie & dye with Mr Darboe and the skills students. They are pictured here in the Bantaba proudly displaying their finished materials.





Facebook followers will find many more pictures of the adventures of the Bishop Heber students in The Gambia this week.






On Wednesday some of the skills students very kindly invited the Heber students and staff back their compounds to see what family life is like in the Gambia.


Pictured here are Richard and Maxine Beech with their sponsored students Batou Sanneh (left) and Elizabeth Loppy (right). Haddy Sanyang (centre) is sponsored by Lucy Hobson.



Lucy Hobson with the student she sponsors,

Haddy Sanyang, a 3rd year skills student at Sunrise




 Rachel Jones was thrilled to meet her 2nd year sponsored student, Fatou Ndong.


The Heber students also had  a go at cooking, Gambian style. Will Hopkin, Pippa Bindin and Ed Huxley are making chicken bennachin with Mrs Mendy to feed the visitors at lunchtime.




Mrs Sanneh’s nursery class were treated to a production of ‘Peter Pan’ with the puppets donated by the Heber students. The cast from left to right were Alice Charlton, Alex Williams-Day, Jemma Beckett, Rachel Jones and Lucy Hobson. I’m not too sure who had more fun with this, there is also a video for review!




The centre was full for the Ebbeh Day on Friday, allowing all the children from the local Bakoteh community to join with our Sunrise Centre students in an afternoon of eating, dancing and having fun. Evie Maddocks, Alex Williams-Day and a couple of local children pose for the camera.

Week ending 15th February

Sub-Saharan Africa sometimes (actually mostly) suffers from the impacts of being next to the Sahara. It is hot and generally everything that hasn’t just been cleaned recently is covered in a fine film of sand. This makes our cleaner (Marie Correa, pictured) one of the most important people at Sunrise. She comes Monday to Thursday and leaves the classrooms and hall looking pristine.

The students are also responsible for keeping their work areas clean. They are pictured here cleaning the cookery area of the Bantaba.

 We regularly have assemblies and in the combined Lower Basic and Nursery school assembly, a youngster leads the children in a chosen song, often with actions. In this picture you can see the children getting ready to sing, led by Alfusainey Bah.


Later we watched the children as they enjoyed their PE lesson, instructed by Mrs Sanneh and Mbacho, taking advantage of some shade from a tree in the playground.

On the other side of the school, the new building has reached the first floor, where the concrete for the ring beam has been poured and is settling before the builders begin to work on the floor that also forms the downstairs ceilings. Leaving all this to set is essential, before any load bearing is possible above this level. The builders still have some things to finish off so we are hoping that they won’t be away from the school for too long.

Steve Humphries is back in school doing a great job with his paint brush. Although he hasn’t brought his wife out to help too, yet, we know that she will find it hard to stay away from working with the students, helping them with their reading and writing.









Week ending 8th February

This week we had more visitors coming to see how we were doing at Sunrise, as we are still in the Gambia’s fine weather period when many tourists visit.

Alan Pickles, who has been coming to The Gambia for many years, supporting GETS and many other projects, came to see us and Sendeng (pictured), in particular. Alan has helped Sendeng throughout her education, organising her sponsorship, so that she can be a great help in running the charity's office at Sunrise. Sendeng’s latest training course is in Microsoft IT products and she has just completed her exams, last week. Sendeng is currently sponsored by Vee Delaney & Eileen Renwick. Alan also dropped off some resources for Sunrise which included jumbo chalks.


We also welcomed Barbara and Barry Young from Macclesfield. They visited Sunrise last year and came again on Tuesday. They were delighted to see the progress on our new Lower Basic School, bringing us “minties” for the children.  We were delighted to find that when they arrived home they also sent us a big donation. Thank you both for your support.





We are planning (see planning committee picture) our next “Ebbeh Day” (a bit like a school Fete), on the 22nd Feb. This is a very successful even that we run at least once a year, allowing the older students to come and enjoy food, music and dancing. We prepare all the food at Sunrise but we usually buy in a DJ and very loud music. It always produces a few good pictures . . .  to come.

Although we do lots of other things as well, it is important to remember that children are learning in school every day. Pictured is Mrs Cham with Elmer, a story about a patchwork elephant. The elephant used to be The Gambia’s National Emblem. Elephants were once plentiful in The Gambia but they have moved away to other areas, as the human population grew and the climate changed. The children love it when the teachers introduce new resources such as this. Also pictured are some of the Nursery children patiently(?) waiting for their parents to collect them after school.

Week ending 1st February

Each week we have a staff meeting in the Sunrise office, usually on a Wednesday after school. It is great that our newly built office can accommodate all the staff for this meeting nowadays. Amongst the hot topics this week was the Gambian government's requirement for all civil servants to move to a 4 day week, avoiding the Muslim holy day of Friday. All schools were also included initially. We consulted both parents (via a PTA meeting) and the teachers before re-jigging all of the timetables and agreeing to implement a 4 day week at Sunrise. The children don’t miss out on any hours of school due to longer days. A later press release exempted schools and some other groups but having already announced and implemented the change, on a trial basis, we are continuing the 4 day week until the end of this school year, at least.

We have had new visitors to Sunrise this week, Tom & Ruth Maxwell. Having spotted our charity through the “Stuff your Rucksack” web site advertising. they came and gave us a donation and brought us some goodies to help resource the centre. Thank you.


This week we didn’t have the support of our administrator, Sendeng Suso, due to clashes with her exam timetable in order to complete her IT course in Microsoft Office products. Instead we were very lucky that Denise Green, who now lives locally, stepped in to help Helen. Denise brings considerable experience to the office and we welcome her support.


One of the important changes that we made in implementing the Lower Basic School curriculum was to introduce formal teaching of the Quaran. Our teacher, Mr Saidy-Khan is seen here in full flow working with the children during one of the 3 lessons each week, writing in Arabic on the Blackboard.

Week ending 25th January

An important event took place on Saturday of this week; the annual First Aid Training for all the staff at Sunrise and London Corner Nursery School (that Helen also administers for the Scottish Charity based in Dumbarton). Many “injured” patients were bandaged up and made to feel a little better, I think. Mrs Cham (pictured) practiced her CPR skills on a hi-tech dummy device. along with all the other trainees.


The First aid training came from another Scottish Charity “First Aid 4 Gambia”. Bill, Fiona and their two Gambia trainers freely give training throughout more than 50 schools in The Gambia, deep into the upper river areas. See their web site for more details -
They  left us after replenishing first aid stocks that we have consumed since their visit last year.

The Training was of high standard and all who attended took away the important key messages and a course certificate.



Later in the week we had a visit from Denise and Paul Green, who have recently moved to The Gambia to retire. After a look around they both enjoyed joining in with the Physical Development lesson that nursery were having, in the play area under a shady tree.

I also caught up with Abolie Darboe, our building foreman, applying the finishing touches to the re-enforcing bars that will be part of the concrete ring beam structure that holds the upper and lower floors of the new classroom area together. On a hot day working in the full heat of the sun can be hard but it all seems to be progressing despite this.

On Fridays we are treated to a fashion show, particularly by the female members of staff, since they all wear their African dresses on the Muslim holy day. However this is about to become a tradition that will be phased out. See next week's blog . . . . .


Week ending 18th January

  On Monday one of our supporters, Garth Isaac, came to Sunrise with some new visitors who were keen to look at what was happening in Sunrise. For Ian Ward, his wife, Gill and son, Michael, this was their first time in the Gambia. They were planning to do some of the tours to more remote areas. Garth sponsors brother and sister Milton and Diane Gomez, both at Deeper Life School near Kotu.

One of our sponsored students, Elizabeth Mendy, came to the office to collect her school fees from Helen. She attends St Therese's Upper Basic School and is working hard to improve herself. She is sponsored by Liz and Jim Cronin.



  This week it has been quite hectic going out to visit all the skills students in their work placements. This is quite a challenge as the locations are spread far and wide. Mr Ali Bah (English and Maths) came with me to visit the students working in tourist spots, local bars and restaurants.
The following day I took Mrs Joanna Mendy (our Cookery and Sewing Teacher) out to visit all the students working in tailoring businesses. Pictured here is our student Elizabeth Loppy with her employer Mrs Scott (from Scott Creations in Serekunda), proudly displaying some of the children's dresses the she has made. These are obviously only worn on very special occasions.

I also took a picture of the four students working at Salif Fashions with their work on ladies high-end fashions. Edda Bass, Fatou Dibba, Ndey Jaiteh and Haddy Sanyang were all very proud of what they were achieving.

First prize for the skills students is a job that runs on from after they graduate, following their hard work in successful work placements. It is great when an employer gives us good feedback on progress and in nearly all cases this has happened again this year. Most employers said they would “recommend our students” and several will be staying, probably. However for Fatou Jatta (nicknamed “Baby J”) there is even better news as she has already been offered a permanent job at a local restaurant, Serreh Mawdeh, in  Brusubi.

Week ending 11th January

The 7th January was the first day back at school and the holidays were over. This was endorsed by the Cluster Monitors visit to make sure that we were all back (teachers and pupils) and the second term was under way. During the Christmas period life was busy, as ever. A wedding had taken place in our Hall and used the kitchen, Mrs Mendy (our cookery and sewing teacher) made sure that her friends looked after everything.


This was also the first Day for Pa Mustapha Njie, a sponsored also  student in Sunrise Nursery 1. Tony Bound and Erica Wren, who previously sponsored another family member, have offered to help this little boy so that he might afford to attend school. He has a brand new uniform (made at Sunrise) but looks very nervous here.


Helen and I met up with Liz and Jim Coyle who wanted to start a new sponsorship for Joanna Sowe. We caught up with the whole family (Joanna is busy looking at Jims pictures) at a local cafe at the Westfield Junction, chatted, took pictures and enjoyed watching the world go by.




  Later in the week we also met up with Dave and Mary Robinson, from Manchester, who came to visit us in Sunrise. They sponsor Cecelia Mendy and Isatou Bah. They took a tour with Helen and I grabbed their picture as they passed by our spare upstairs room. Potentially a library or staff room or first aid room or probably all three!

Although the evenings and morning in Gambia are a “little” cooler at this time of year, the days remain hot. But this doesn’t stop the nursery classes enjoying activities outside.

 We also had another visit from a local mother hen with her brood of chicks. She seems to have joined the school and has the same command over her group of chicks as any of our Teachers.