The latest news from
GETS in Gambia


We're building again -  more classrooms for Nursery and Skills Training.  Thank you!
Week ending 19th December 2014

Over the weekend some of the staff were called to a Life-skills workshop. Although this clashed with several other things happening at the same time, Mrs Fatou Cham, Miss Mbacho Jallow and Mr Saihou Darboe all attended one or more days. Topics covered included HIV and Malaria awareness.

 One of our volunteers, Ina Bakker, has been quietly working at Sunrise for nearly one month now. She has been helping our sewing teacher (Miss Marokey Bojang), who works part time. Ina has helped in many ways, producing many garments including some Christmas decorations. Ina also brought the lovely alphabet blanket for the children in Nursery that Madam Fofana and Nursery Teachers are displaying. The children made cards that say “Thank you”. Thus far Ina has evaded the camera but this won’t last!


  Later in the week, Denise photographed Marokey showing off a lovely dress that had been put together as part of one of the skills practical exams.

Since it was the end of term, we had lots of extra activities, including the usual drama workshops. The picture shows a group of Skills Students amusing the Lower Basic school children in the Hall. Topics covered by these dramas always have moralistic content. The person in the centre of the picture is our head boy; Momodou S Fatty. A new school council will be elected next term since the Year 3 Skills will be going to their work placements.

Thanks mostly to Mr Bah and Mr Darboe we have found placements for all the students, despite the reduction in tourism this year, due to the Ebola scare. Ebola is not in the Gambia so this seems a harsh punishment for all the people involved in this important sector of a  developing poor country.

Week ending 12th December

This week was going to be the last week for our long time friend and Administrator, Sendeng Suso. She is leaving at the end of the week to begin a new career. Very exciting for her and a bit sad for all of us at Sunrise. GETS have know Sendeng for a long time now as she was a sponsored student, so helping her to complete a really good education has meant she is able to advance her career. Our loss but someone else’s  gain! 

We have been preparing for Sendeng’s leaving, firstly by our friend and volunteer, Denise Green, coming to help us in the office again. She is pictured here getting lots of hand-over information from Sendeng. We are delighted to have Denise back again after her trip around the world!

 Sendeng also brought in some great resources given to GETS by her friend and supporter, Alan Pickles. Alan runs a school project in a Senior Secondary school “up river” at Farafenni, on the North Bank, and has worked with GETS for many years. Also pictured being handed to Madam Forfana are resources given to us by supporters (old and new respectively) Peter Corrance and Emma Tabb. We are always delighted to get these kind gifts. Thank you.

 We had the first “surprise” fire practice of the new year. Some children and teachers had been taught about what to do last year but some were new to the routine. The time to evacuate the whole school to the entrance gate was just 5 minutes. The school inspector had just arrived to see how we were doing generally and was able to watch a very disciplined fire practice evacuation. Not something often seen in Gambian schools, I understand.


Funny how many things you see Gambian women carrying on their heads as you travel around the country. Firewood, food, water, clothing, so it should have been no surprise to see Amba Ndow, from Skills 3, carrying the school bell on her head early one morning.


The school extension work is well under way now with sub-walls being built and concrete mixing (all by hand) starting to make the foundations of the Nursery Reception area. All this work is thanks to support from the Winchester based Catholic Church Charity, Covenant with The Poor.

The builders tend to work in shifts in the hot sun which answers many questions about why “only half appear to be working . . . . “ that are often asked.

At the end of the week we all said good bye and good luck to Sendeng. Presents and cards from staff and children were given and Mrs Cham presented Sendeng with a card from some of the children. Even one or two parents who came into school that day ended up with tears in their eyes. This all showed the immense amount of love and respect that everyone felt for Sendeng. We will really miss her.














Week ending 5th December

This week Fatou Sanneh from Nursery 2 was able to give out woolly hats, mittens and glove puppets, thanks to a kind gift from  Mrs P Merrott of Winterbourne Gunner near Salisbury. This was done as prizes for the best work. Although it seems warm in The Gambia to people from Europe, the local people find the nights very cold at this time of year (<20 deg C).

Tony delivered to Ali Bah some seeds that he’d managed to buy on the very busy Barra ferry. This takes locals and tourists to the North Bank of the Gambia and possibly onwards to North Senegal. It is easy to buy all sorts of things on this ferry, though it is always packed to the very top of every space inch. The seeds will bring a chance to replace some that failed to germinated, probably due to the moisture and heat before they were planted.

We forgot to include some of our important visitors to Sunrise last week; Father Kenny Macaulay and his wife Linda. They visited Sunrise on a flying visit after going to the School in London Corner, sponsored by the Church Charity from Dumbarton in Scotland, where Linda and Kenny are both Trustees. We also had one of GETS Trustees (and Secretary), Sue Nelson visiting with her father, John Birkin on the same day. They are pictured under a tree that will shortly meet its’ demise when our next building work starts.

We are now officially building our Nursery Reception classroom! Work has started delivering materials and the builders are making blocks in the school. Much more to come of course . . . .

More visitors were welcomed on Thursday. Two groups arrived pretty much together and were shown the work and progress made in Sunrise. The first group was Pat Taylor, with her husband Geoff and daughters Tori and Jenny. Pat’s family sponsor Jankey, who posed for a nice picture with the group. They were able to reflect on our work since last year when all (except Tori) visited. I’m delighted that they planning to sponsor another child in need of help, Isata Sey in Lower Basic Grade 2.

We showed Emma Tabb and boyfriend Connor around on their first visit to Sunrise. They sat in Nursery 2 with their teacher Fatou Sanneh during an assessment and observed the quality of the children's work. Connor is a chef and was interested in our Cookery teaching. It’s great that they want to help the Skills Students through Sponsor a Class and I’m hopeful of Connor swapping recipes with Alimatou Jammeh in future!  Emma also brought resources for which we are delighted, thank you.



We also had a visit from Batou Sanneh, who came to ask Tony to take home presents for people in the UK who helped her with her schooling, two years ago. Batou is now working in her second job, near Bakau, after securing a position after her work placement from Sunrise. It is good to see Batou and to hear that things are going well. She certainly appreciates what her sponsors did for her.

Friday brought another busy day. Mufti Day is where all the school is allowed to wear other clothes instead of uniform; generally Tribal dress. We took pictures of some of the best dressed students and children.


Lower Basic 


The 2 older students pictured, Jarra Konteh (left – Mandinka) and Kaddy Jarjue (right – Fula) won extra prizes and a certificate for their efforts.















Week ending 28th November

One of our supporters, John Birkin, is currently on holiday in The Gambia with Tony and Sue Nelson. John is Sue’s father and has never visited the country before, so we have asked him to write this week’s blog. John sponsors a student, Florian Gomez in Lower Basic 3, and was delighted to have the opportunity to meet her. Such meetings are obviously rare, but add a valuable personal touch to the relationship.


One of the challenges at Sunrise is the establishment and use of a school library. There are many books and resources all ready to be used. Should they be read and studied simply in the library? Should they be available to the students on loan and, if so, how are they to be logged in and out? These may seem trivial problems to those used to UK lending libraries, but careful thought is needed in setting up a system which will be simple for the students (and the librarian, if one is needed) and robust enough to stand up to the wear and tear of fragile books and possible e-readers in a culture that is simply not used to such things?







Lower Basic 3, as part of their Integrated Studies, have been learning about methods of communication, starting with very early methods such as drums, smoke signals, the horn and the flute. The different means were explained clearly by Mrs Cham then four groups took it in turns to act out roles. Later lessons will move towards more modern means of communicating, but the significance of the early methods was made clear as part of Gambian history and culture.

 During this week Sendeng also caught up with Mrs Alimatou Jammeh’s cookery class, practicing making twirls, biscuits, tarts and cakes.

Quite a fine collection for taste testing also makes for a fun end to a day’s cooking.

Week ending 21st November

Nursery 2 class have been learning their numbers. They have just started to explore the number 8. Their teacher, Fatou Sanneh, played counting games with them, such as 7 little Sunrise girls standing in a row – another one joined them and then there were 8.

They also practised making the shape of the number in a tray of sand.

Marockey Bojang, our sewing classroom assistant, has made some lovely braided bracelets. Over the years we have accumulated a colourful variety of silks and yarns and this is a great way to use them.




Here Marockey is showing one of the students how to make the bracelets. We hope to bring some back to the UK where they can be sold to make some money for the school.



The student making a bracelet here is Aminah Hanfa, a 17 year old girl who has recently joined Sunrise Skills Centre along with her brother Yahya aged 15. They came here from Birmingham in the UK but have lived in the Gambia previously. Their father was originally from Bangladesh.



The garden plots have now all been planted up and the seeds are growing quickly in the lovely climate here.


Week ending 14th November

We are delighted to announce that we have now got plans in place to begin building our Nursery Reception class. We have been working with the Winchester based Catholic Church Charity, Covenant with The Poor and they have confirmed that their fundraising will completely cover our costs. Thanks to another very large gift we can also fund most of our other plans to this building season. More of this will be found in our Term 1 newsletter.

This children have all been asked to stand in a line to show the boundary of our new Reception class, together with essential storage and toilets that we are almost ready to begin building.

Tony interviewed our latest new teacher, Fattoumata Darboe, to get a little more information about her background for our web pages about the Sunrise staff. Fatoumata’s family come from the Kiang Region of the Gambia. This is not far from the coast in terms of distance but Bintang Balong, a large water way, has always meant that it is much more isolated to travellers. More information can be found by clicking on the names of the teachers in our page about our Lower Basic Staff.



All over the world children seem to play the same sort of games to test each other and have fun. At Sunrise they are no different. The boys sometimes play fight and the girls often chase each other around the hall and outside areas at break. The picture shows some of the Lower Basic girls playing a squeezing game on one of the school benches, shrieking and hooting with laughter as alternative children were squashed!

Tony also caught up with our cookery teacher showing the Year 1 Skills Training students how to fry food well. They were making fish pie using charcoal burners, cooking outside. The kitchens where the students hope to work are usually covered and they will cook with gas but in their homes this kind of cooking is the norm. The results - delicious.

Week ending 7th November

We have had the pleasure of having two great volunteers in Sunrise for nearly a month now. Ruth McMeechan and Rita Granger were (are) maths teachers who came to help us. During their time at Sunrise they have done many, many different things both in and out of the school, with Rita trying many things for the first time. Some went well and others were a learning experience for them. Rita’s hair was treated to a local arrangement that proved rather tiring at times so first thing in the morning Sendeng showed her how to put her braids up to reduce the load on her scalp.


Later in the week Tony went to see the progress in the library sorting through the masses of boxes that came in our container before the summer break. Ruth and Rita are pictured showing the progress that they’ve made. The room is not quite finished due to some hidden “stuff” but the camera is great at high-lighting the good bits!


 Our Cookery Teacher, Alimatou Jammeh, continues to work hard to teach the skills students all about the bar and restaurant business. She is pictured here showing the students how to dress a table. They then all had a go, producing many interesting results.



We are still getting one or two of our externally sponsored students visiting. This time Fatou Mbye came to get money for her Apple Tree Uniform and then returned to proudly show it off. Fatou has not been well and missed some school last year. She has just started at Apple Tree where the fees are not cheap and we hope that the move from her previous school works for her.

We always collect the tie and dye cloth for the uniform to keep it safe until it is sewn later in the year. Our Education Director (Madam Kaddy Fofana) is pictured here with all the new materials ready to make the teachers' clothes. We are storing them securely where they can’t get lost.

Week ending 31st October

Bato Sanneh, one of our ex-students came into Sunrise to receive a birthday present that her friend, Maxine Beech, had sent her. Maxine helped Bato stay in school by sponsoring her education. Bato is eternally grateful for the chance that Maxine has given her. She has now moved from her first job into another in Bakau, as her experience in the Bar and Restaurant industry grows. Bato is seen here receiving her present from Sendeng, our office administrator at Sunrise.


Sometimes the children in Sunrise are just too small to write on the blackboard so the teachers lend a hand! Mbacho Jallow teaches Nursery 1 and was working with the class on their numbers. The little girl, Jankey Secka was showing the class that she knew how to write the number 3. She was also very clear about what the number meant too. Jankey is just 5 years old.

 We were delighted to meet up with Angela Longoni-Sarr and Johnnie Walker at Sunrise last week. They came to say hello and see the sports floor that they helped raise the money to build, with help of the Air Cadets from Driffield. The kids all enjoyed posing for pictures with Angela and Johnnie. Tony took them around the site to explain what the plans looked like for our next building projects. These building projects (Nursery and Skills Training expansion) are just going to the planning department now and the nursery extension will start soon after their approval!

 The garden plots are moving ever closer to planting. This is managed by Mr Bah again this year, supported by the skills training students. Other children will learn about gardening during the year by growing things in pots, as they did last year.



A big part of this week has been made up of Tie and Dying white bazin material into appropriate colours for next year's uniform manufacture. Almost every wall at Sunrise was covered with small cloth; golden yellow for Nursery, red for Lower Basic, Gold/Red for Skills Training and green and yellow for the teaching staff. In fact one or two students went to places that the other students couldn’t reach to make sure that the cloth dried quickly in the hot sun. We were all a bit nervous watching Yahya Sarr climbing the walls.


Having produced all the materials it is important to be very clear on sizes and numbers. With nearly 480 pieces of cloth of different colours and sizes it is important to get this correct. The costs are well over D100,000 (Dalasi) now and our Madam Kaddy Fofana, our Education Director always makes sure that all is correct!

 On the news every day the countries affected by Ebola are linked under the geographic area called West Africa. This area contains countries like Senegal and The Gambia that have no problems with disease, but unfortunately this news is keeping many people from travelling here from Europe and is likely to cause significant effects on families that are supported by the tourism sector. The loss of income and subsequent poverty that may follow will be very hard to deal with.

We now ask all visitors, school pupils and parents to wash their hands as a precaution against the spread of Ebola. The deadly disease is quite a long way from The Gambia and we hope it never comes any closer but the education ministry have asked schools in The Gambia to do this as part of the governments precautions.  At Sunrise every day the children line up to wash with detergent and in clean water, delivered by the school caretakers.

Week ending 24th October

This week we were pleased to welcome two new supporters to Sunrise; Quintin Hampton and Pete Steele. Quintin and his wife Diane came to live in The Gambia in 2009, Diane sadly died very suddenly last October whilst visiting the UK. Quintin has now picked up the pieces of his life and come back to live in the compound that they had made their home. Diane had wished to support GETS when she returned to The Gambia last year and Quintins good friends Jean and Pete Steele helped carry out Diane’s wish by collecting cash in her name for GETS from all their friends, relations, local church groups and the many groups that they were able to target. They brought a total of £1,500 to add to the Sunrise funds, for which we are extremely grateful. The picture shows Kaddy Fofana (Education Director) receiving the cash from Pete with Quintin looking on.

 Everything grows rapidly in The Gambia at this time of year. The ground is still moist after the rains and the high humidity helps move things along. The caretakers have been clearing the weeds that spring up all over the school compound and the students have been working within the garden to make it fit to plant seeds. The sorrel plans have been spared the clearing since they about to produce the flowers that are harvested to make wonjo juice.




 Tony brought some finished materials for the students to tie and dye. They had great fun with colours and designs and of course posing for the pictures afterwards. They worked to colour place mats and scarves that we might sell for use as Christmas presents.




A visit to London Corner School, run by the Scottish Charity based in Dumbarton allowed Tony to see how Amie William was getting on. She has moved to the school in position of Classroom Assistant, working today with Betty Mendy with the oldest Nursery children. Amie continues to be sponsored by long-time GETS supporter and fund-raiser, Angela Longi-Sarr.









Week ending 17th October

We are always delighted to see volunteers at Sunrise, especially from experienced teachers such as Rita Granger and Ruth McMeechan. Rita has been working with our Skills Training department, particularly in cookery with Alimatou Jammeh and Ruth is mostly working  with the Lower Basic classes. They travel each day a mile or so from their accommodation to the Sunrise Centre on their bikes, travelling on a mixture of sand and tarmac roads.


We were also delighted to have a visit from our friend, the old Education Director, Nurudeen Mbye, who swapped ideas with Kaddy Fofana, our current Education Director. Nurudeen is working hard to advance his career as a Lawyer in the Gambia.



  We are still sorting out school fees and taking applications from parents and students who are struggling to find funds to pay these fees. One such youngster is Fatou Singhateh in Skills 2, she lives with a family locally because her father died and her mother has 5 other children. We hope that we have found someone in the UK who will pay the small cost to keep her in Skills Training at Sunrise, about £10 per month.

Our new sports floor is regularly used now by many of the classes. Lower Basic Grade 3 were caught on camera with their classroom assistant, Sulayman Jobe, joining in with the highly competitive game. The girls were skipping at this time.

Week ending 10th October

Although the rainy season is almost at an end, there have still been several thunderstorms and heavy showers. This street seller has many big puddles to avoid as he makes his way along the road leading to Sunrise, whilst cars try to avoid using roads like this until they know how deep the puddles are!

This academic year we now have Grade 1, 2 & 3 Lower Basic classes using the three downstairs classrooms. As the years go by the three classrooms upstairs will house Grade 4, 5 & 6 as the present students move up the school, but at the moment they have other uses.
One room is used by Mr Bah for teaching maths and English to the skills students until we can build them an extra classroom for these subjects - a future project.
One room is used by Augustina Onyinye Ugbana, our new Christian Religious Education (CRE) teacher, seen here below with the four Christian pupils in Lower Basic Grade 1. The rest of Grade 1 are Muslims and are taught in their classroom by the Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) teacher.

The other spare classroom upstairs is being used to store the chairs, tables and other school furniture that came in the last container, until we need to furnish a Grade 4 classroom next September.
First Aid for Gambia asked if they could store some of their spare equipment at Sunrise until they find a new home for it and, fortunately for them, we were able to find some space in the crowded room.



Here are Nursery 2 lining up for the breakfast we provide for the nursery children, their teacher handing out the rolls filled with savoury spaghetti and hot dog sausage, whist Susan Jarju was handing them a drink of juice.

Paul saw these Nursery 1 children engrossed in their puzzles.

Tony and I were walking past Nursery 2 when we heard the children singing about ducks.

After they had sung "One little duck with a feather on his back, he led the others with a quack, quack quack", their teacher, Fatou Sanneh asked them if they knew what a feather was. They all looked blank so she started to draw a feather on the blackboard, laughing because she was wondering how she should draw a feather!

Week ending 3rd October

School opened on Monday 29th September.

Our education director, Kaddy Fofana, sitting at her desk ready for the challenges of the new term.

We have a new teacher in Lower Basic Grade 2 - Fatoumata Darboe.

A short week this week as Thursday and Friday were school holidays to allow everyone to travel up country to celebrate Tobaski with their families at the weekend.

  One of our skills students who graduated this summer joins Mama as a Lower Basic classroom assistant- Sulayman Jobe.

Susan Jaru will now prepare the mid-morning breakfasts for the students and staff.

She was also one of our graduating students this summer, but between shopping for and cooking the food hasn't had time to sew her Sunrise uniform yet!

Weeks ending 25th September

When Paul and I arrived on 15th September we were met by Gibbi, our watchman/caretaker, with the news that the other two watchmen had left, so two more had to be found.








Pa Modou has already taken up his duties and a third watchman will start next week.

Potential new students and their parents have been coming into the office to collect and return registration forms for Sunrise Skills, Lower Basic and Nursery classes. We have many more applications than we have places, so have to choose the best. Below I am explaining to a nervous potential skills student that although we ask the new skills students to do a short maths and English test, the tests aren't very difficult.

Mbacho and Bubacarr were busy handing out uniforms and material for making them.

  During the last two weeks external students have also been coming to the office to collect the cheques for their school fees. These external students are sponsored by many different individuals with an interest in helping Gambians, whom they have met whilst visiting The Gambia, get a good education.

The first to come with their mother to collect their cheques were Amie and Bubacarr Jallow, who both attend Deeper Life School.

They were quickly followed by Ida, whom many will know as she works in the Kairiba ice-cream parlour. Her daughter finished Grade 6 this July, so has chosen to go to Gambia Methodist Academy for her Upper Basic and any further education - here she is modelling her smart new uniform!



30th August 2014

 30th August we had the GETS Charity AGM, held this year in Lichfield. Many of our supporters met with the Trustees to supervise the formal business of review and forming a new 2014/5 team to run the charity.

This year we said “thank you and good bye” to Julie Limbrick (pictured), one of the founding members of GETS many years ago. Julie has stepped down from her job with the Trustees having worked hard and given words of guidance to the Trustees over many years on very different subjects; from IT to children’s hardship.

The attendees all gathered around a banner showing our latest initiative, launched last year, “Sponsor a Class”. This is now growing the income of the charity with people coming forward to help our work in The Gambia, even though many have never visited us. In fact the web site has built enough confidence for people to contribute hard earned cash to educate disadvantaged Gambians, from as far away as America and Bratislava, in Slovakia.

 Thanks go to Chris and Steve Humphries for organising us this year in their home town.

 Look out for more issues of the Blog as our school and charity office open up in time for the next school term, due at the end of September.