The latest news from
GETS in Gambia



We're building again -  more classrooms for Nursery and Skills Training.  Thank you!
Week ending 24th July 2015

This week we had about 20 visitors from Barcelona come to Sunrise to look around. Thankfully they had let us know in advance. Anna Ferrer works in Barcelona School as an administrator and brought some of the teachers, parents and some pupils to meet the children and staff at Sunrise. They spent time in the classes and playing with the children at break time in the hall.


The Barcelona school hopes to link up with a school in The Gambia and we are hoping that it might be Sunrise, through our Sponsor a Class initiative.

  We have just begun to improve our facilities for cookery with the bantaba area. We are working to get Sunrise Skills Training Centre officially registered with the National Training Authority (NTA) and  it is a condition that we enclose our cookery room. This means adding windows, doors, a ceiling and walls to make sure we exclude dirt and any passing wild life. 

 Our health certification should be plain sailing after these remedial works are complete.

 Luckily we still have some building project cash to do this but it is dwindling fast now so we need to start working on new reserves soon!


Sunrise Centre has now closed for the holidays and will re-open on Monday September 28th.



GETS Annual General Meeting will take place at 1300 on Saturday 5th September 2015 at St Mary's Church Hall, The Horsefair, Banbury OX16 0AA

 This will be preceded by a free buffet lunch at 1200.

Please let us know if you can come.

Week ending 17th July

 We always invite parents and guardians into the school to talk with the teachers about the students'performance and also for formal PTA meetings. The pictures show a recent PTA meeting where progress and development were discussed in terms of students and within the Sunrise school as well.

 Parents filled the hall and were eager to discuss how things were going. The turn-out was ok but not excellent.

 Elsewhere in the school our 2015 building work progresses. The pictures show how we are building tiled seating outside the new Nursery extension block.


We have also completed tiling work in the Skills Training extension classroom for Mr Bah’s English and Maths studies - the classroom will be all painted and clean ready for the start of next term.



Having delivered the majority of the building materials, for this phase of work, we have now filled in the temporary hole in our compound wall. This will stop goats and sheep and small children from entering the compound (and the animals into the garden) when we are not vigilant.



This week also saw the end of Ramadam with the Koriteh Day Prayers or Eid Ul Fitr. This is a holiday and celebration period for Muslims everywhere so there was also a holiday at Sunrise.



Week ending 10th July

As the Sunrise school draws towards the end on term we are going through the internal testing phases too (in addition to Final exams and external NAT exams). This gives parents and guardians a chance to see how their offspring perform against our standards and those of the others in their classes.

 The first picture shows our Lower Basic 2 class in their own room followed by an exam for Skills Training for Years 1 and Year 2.


 In Skills Training we also undertake practical assessments. The next 2 pictures show some of Skills year 2 undertaking Batik work.








Mr Darboe (our Tie and Dye/Batik teacher) is helping a student from Skills year 1 lay out her work prior to dyeing the material.

Week ending 3rd July

As school moves towards the end of the year and the Skills Training students from Year 3 have graduated and left us, Sunrise has become a little quieter, especially when test and exams are on for the remainder. Our local photographer (Ramatoulie Ceesay – actually school administrator) has to spot things that are happening each day for our blog. Today she took some lovely pictures of two Skills boys posing proudly besides their latest work.

 Meanwhile the girls were mixing chemical dyes in preparation for completing new projects. All the hot water used in the production is heated on open fires outside at Sunrise but everyone is used to this and takes great care. (Most cooking at home is outside of course, with firewood or charcoal.)

We have had to rebuild our dyeing slab (covered with a blue plastic sheet to protect it) since the original one had corroded through chemical contact and developed a hole through the concrete. The latest slab uses the tougher black (Basalt) stone and we hope that it will last a bit longer.



The drying lines at Sunrise were full of brightly coloured finished work, as usual, as the Skills 1 students completed their practicals for the day.


Elsewhere at the Sunrise Centre we have the tilers in! This is a key part of completing the Nursery and Skills Training Classroom extension work. The picture shows piles of tiles outside the Nursery school on top of the newly tiled walk way into the new Nursery area.

Still a bit to do and the first rains are now starting to push into the Gambia, inland but not far from Bakoteh, near the Atlantic coast where the school is situated.


Week ending 26th June

This week the school at Sunrise closed for a couple of days to allow the National Assessment Test (aka NAT exams) to take place in complete quiet. The children from Mrs Cham’s Lower Basic class were subjected to these tests. In the last few weeks Mr Beyai has taken over the class, whilst Fatou Cham is on her maternity leave.

The children have worked very hard to cover all of their syllabus and we are all hopeful that they will do their best in the exams.

Early feedback from Mr Bah (English and Maths Teacher) was that the Maths paper looked tough!

The exam was externally managed and invigilated for fairness and will be externally marked.

The children already have the paper for their answers and the external invigilators are preparing to hand out the test papers.


 Earlier in the school year, we chose our School Council, as usual. The position of Head Boy was awarded to Mustapha Jabang and Head Girl; Emily Jarjue. We took photos at the time but Emily came to Tony one day and said that the council didn’t like the pictures. In her words they were “ugly”.

Tony retook all the pictures (Mustapha and Emily’s are shown here) and managed to get a seal of approval. (What happened in the original pictures were that the faces had been accidentally squeezed or stretched to make them look a bit odd!)

Week ending 19th June

Ramadan began this week.  It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon. Fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids and smoking.


Ramadan puts an extra challenge on the mainly Muslim staff at Sunrise, who need to carry on as normal during each working day to teach the children. The picture shows Fatou Sanneh’s class working on their letter formation. The children are not required to fast so life is much easier for them.


Electric power has been a struggle in the office again but we are now helped by the addition of 2 new solar panels, located facing south on the Lower Basic roof. These produce enough electricity for most of our needs (except printing) and makes life a bit easier for our storage batteries, which did seem to run out rather too quickly. The rainy season which comes soon may challenge us again but early indications show a reasonable charge even on cloudy days.



We are always pleased to see former students and find out how things are progressing. Elizabeth Loppy popped in to Sunrise the other day, “modelling” a lovely top that she had designed and made herself. She continues to be employed locally, making high quality clothing, mainly for children, in a local tailoring shop in Serrekunda.


We also were pleased to see Mrs Cham again (back briefly from her maternity leave) with her new Sunrise baby, Haddy. Helen (and others) enjoyed meeting up with Haddy and she seemed to enjoy the experience too.











Week ending 12th June

This week there was another very important time at the Sunrise Centre in terms of marking achievements for the Skills Training Students; it was their Graduation Day.

 The staff all worked very hard to prepare food on Thursday and Friday, packing food into foil boxes before the event.

The Hall was prepared to take the guests and parents and the top table, including the local Imam and our good friend, Mrs Chow. Many parents attended and the staff had made new suits of clothes and dresses, as usual, in matching fabric. 

Waiting for the ceremony to begin-


 Madam Kaddy Fofana (Sunrise Education Director) introduced the occasion and Helen read a speech from Tony on behalf of GETS. Then our guest speaker, Madam Ida Saine Conteh, talked to the audience and graduates about developing themselves and going out to work in the many businesses that are helping to improve life in The Gambia. Ida has a great deal of experience, both in the Gambia (with her business, Ida’s Ideas Tailoring) and further afield, being called “Gambia’s Fashion Ambassador” by a Nigerian web site and also “The First Lady of Gambia Haute Couture”.


27 students graduated from their 3 year course and many have jobs as a result of their third term work placements in local businesses.


After the ceremony everybody ate the food which had been carefully prepared in advance and also had a piece of the special graduation cake.

The end to another successful year in Skills Training.


Week ending 5th June

We are still getting the occasional visit to Sunrise from our friends and supporters. Paul Z (Zmitrowicz) came into see us before meeting up with Helen and Erica (Lowe-Darboe) in Senegambia. Tony caught them on a picture after a lovely evening meal. Paul has helped us with some teaching of year 3 Skills Training Students on the topic of writing a CV and Interview practice to help them with the transition into employment.


We are still making progress against our target to open a new Nursery classroom for 3-4 year olds. This project also has a store and more Nursery toilets within it.



We are also working on the Skills classroom extension to allow Mr Bah’s English and Maths class to re-locate and free up our Lower Basic 4 classroom for next year.


All roofing is completed and rendering of walls also done now. The next part of the project is to complete the tiling of all the new floor areas. This begins next week.

  Break times in Sunrise are always noisy times, particularly on Fridays when all the areas of the school have a half hour break at 1030. The quiet Nursery children (there are a few!) often sit in the hall and chat over drinks and snacks.

 The energetic Lower Basic children are also shown here in a frenetic clapping game, with a style that is very African.

In another area Ndey Haddy Kaira was completing a lovely colouring picture. These scenes are not different from any school really.

Week ending 29th May

This week the atmosphere was quiet and serious for a change, since the 3rd year skills students were doing their examinations over 3 of the days. The photo shows the students focusing on the maths paper. They were spread out in the school to avoid any temptation. This scene might be in any school across many countries but having an open hall makes concentration just a little more difficult.


Susan Jarjue (one of our ex-skills students) was later seen making the breakfast that we serve up for all the children, every day, at break time. This is usually in the form of a sandwich of local bread (Tapalapa) and a filling, like cooked black beans or sardines. Susan has had some improvements to her kitchen recently following advice from our local health inspector, as part of the preparation work to our National Training Authority (NTA) accreditation. We still have some work to do but it is under way now, and we hope to complete all of this before the end of the year.




We are still working on Tie and Dyeing pashminas to help with fund raising. The cloth is very bright when colour is applied and we have many different designs available for tourists. Some will also go to the UK for our supporters to sample.

  The pictures show some of the designs and also last year's head boy, Momodou S Fatty, helping Mr Darboe in processing the pashminas. The 3rd Years are really very confident and very creative as they complete their time at Sunrise.




Week ending 22nd May 

The Sunrise logo is very recognisable to our many supporters and we do our best to make it bright and clear on our school uniforms too. We used to have all our school badges embroidered with threads of the bright colours but since last year we have been buying badges that are screen printed, saving more than half the cost.

 The 500 new school badges need to be cut carefully to size and are then backed by an iron-on material before being sewn with our very own electric “over-locking” machine, that came in our container last year, thanks to the charity Tools with a Mission and our good friends Tony Bound and Erica Wren. Our principal, Kaddy Fofana, is shown in the picture helping the sewing team with accurate cutting out some of the many, many badges that we have to work on.




  As we move nearer to the end of term the 3rd Year Skills Training students undergo a series of final practical exams to complete their course. The picture here shows Mrs Jammeh’s cookery class preparing their meals in the Bantaba. Mrs Jammeh allowed the students who had been working in catering, during their recent work experience, to chose what they would like to make. She gave a set meal to the other students. 

The formal photo shows the proud 3rd Year students showing off their finished meals. These ranged from iced sponge cakes through curries and spicy dishes of sweet and sour chicken to traditional (for tourists) fish and chips! Once the protective cling film was removed, the taste testing could begin, with eager staff waiting to comment on the students work. They all seemed very happy!

The Lower Basic Grade 3 class are also expected to under-go formal testing this year in the Gambian National Assessment Tests (NAT). Our class are working hard towards this with Mr Beyai in charge. They have already done their mock exams and 79% passed the exam. Our target (and the National target) is that more than 80% of children should pass. The final NAT is still 4 weeks away and the children learn very quickly at this age, so we are hopeful of a successful outcome.

Week ending 15th May 

One of the things that our Tie and Dye Teacher, Mr Saihou Darboe, tries to teach in our Skills Training Centre is new simple ways of making things, like using flour and water to resist dyes and using natural dyes for colouring clothes.

 These pictures show the 2nd year students creating designs and their finished work.


At this time of year we also make sure that Skills Training students all complete their final practical work for examination. The picture shows  proud students with our Education Director, Madam Fofana, with some of their work. We are hoping that 26 students will graduate this year. When they came back from their work placements they told us that 21 had promises of work after graduation. A fantastic 80%!



Helen has continued to pay external sponsored students' fees over the last few weeks. We had a visit from Katty Njie (sponsored by Tony Bound and Erica Wren) from Kotu Junior Secondary School, now doing well in school.

Helen also had Bubacarr Jallow (at Deeper Life Upper Basic School) come into see us with his mum Awa Bah, whom he now stands head and shoulders above. Bubacarr and his sister are both sponsored by Roy and Ann Hockaday.

 One of our new teachers who joined only recently and then left to have a baby, came to visit us last week. Fatoumata Darboe (Lower Basic Grade 2 Teacher) came in to show off her new son, named Alassan. We are hoping that she will join us again for the start of July, in the middle of the Muslim festival of Ramadan and just before the end of term.

After last week's "Thank you" to Anon for donating to GETS through My Charity Page we were surprised to receive an email from My Charity Page saying that they were closing down  their donation website at the end of this month. You can of course still donate to GETS through PayPal!

Week ending 8th May 

This week started with quite a nice surprise when we heard that Mrs Cham (our Lower Basic School teacher) had a baby girl, just a few days after leaving school on her maternity leave. The lovely baby girl (no name yet) and her mum, Fatou, are both well.


Mr Beyai, our new Lower Basic School Teacher has been caught on camera playing football with the boys during a PE lesson. The girls were also playing games at the time too but not football. Mr Beyai helps us in the mornings but goes onto work at Bakoteh Lower Basic each afternoon teaching the afternoon shift at the state run school.

 We have recently had some unexpected donations through My Charity Page and PayPal - many, many thanks to those donors for supporting GETS! We were able to personally thank the donors who gave their email address but would like to take this opportunity to thank "Anon" for their donation of £50 through My Charity Page.



The Gambia is hoping to very much reduce the use of plastic bags within the country and help to reduce waste and improve the environment as a result. With this in mind, Mr Darboe has been teaching some the year 2 students in Skills Training how to make strong paper bags out of newspapers. These seem quite effective but we decided that bringing wet fish home from the market might be a too much of a challenge even for these well made efforts.

 On Friday we called the parents to an open day at Sunrise, asking that all parents from across the school come and talk to teachers about the performance of their children.

Although a good number of parents weren’t able to come, there was a lively discussion with those that attended and we even sold some of the Sunrise material that had been made on site, with proceeds going towards school funds.

Week ending 1st May

Tony arrived in Sunrise this week and has been exploring progress and some of our challenges. There is a lot to see since his last visit before Christmas. He met up with our new Sewing teacher, Mrs Ceesaynding Jaiteh-Jammeh, who was proudly showing off the bracelets that the students had been working on in Skills Training. Ceesaynding has brought many new skills and experiences from her training at Gambia College and work in Sukuta Upper Basic school.



The garden has been replanted after the Easter break and is beginning to flourish again. The vegetables include many, many onions, tomatoes and cabbages. The watering is quite a challenge during the dry season with the long break over the weekend and with the Workers Day holiday on Friday this week.




Tony also caught a nice picture of Fatou Cham emptying water onto the “flowers” (as Gambians call them) at the side of the hall from a water bucket. The smaller children have access to drinking water in a large container every day. We are exploring the idea of getting a  school drinking fountain since the water pressure from the water company is quite good now.

 One of the changes that we have made is the successful extension of our 2 smallest classrooms to make them a similar size to our recent classroom additions. Mrs Sanneh's Nursery 2 class is shown here with the 2 tables situated under the beam that supports the roof, where the original outside wall stood. This gives an increase of more than 25% in classroom area, for quite a small cost.

Week ending 24th April

The roof on the new skills classroom is well under way. All appears to be on track for the opening of the new classrooms in September.

You may remember this little girl with the long name .........
Ijeoma Nwagbaraocha  from Nursery 2 is having fun
cleaning up in the kitchen this time!

The third year skills students are now busy doing their practical exams. Here they are showing their hospitality skills relevant to bar and restaurant work.


Three pictures from their practical batik exam


Week ending 17th April

This week school re-opened after the Easter holidays. The third year skills students are back in school after spending last term on work experience at various places in the area. Twenty-one of them have obviously given a good impression of themselves and the traing which they have received at Sunrise, as they were offered jobs at the end of their attachment. However, they must first return to school, and prepare for their final practical and theoretical exams before they can start work.

All the building work appears to be going well and the roofs will be on the new classrooms well in time before the rainy season.



Although it is nearing the end of the tourist season we still had some visitors at Sunrise this week. Many of our visitors bring useful resources for the classes at Sunrise. Pencils are cheap and readily available in The Gambia, but books, jigsaws and games are very expensive and much appreciated.


Madam Fofana and Denise are unpacking the four boxes of resources brought by regular visitors, Rudy and Yolanda Nachtegaal and their friends.

Here are Anne and Paul Courtney - together with Yvette and  Jonny Carr and also Lamin who helped them find their way to Sunrise. They brought resources which they had seen listed on our website and on our Amazon wish list.