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GETS in Gambia



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Week ending 25th March 2016

In the last week before the Easter break we said goodbye and thank you to several of our volunteers.
Denise Green has helped us greatly over the last few years in The Gambia, supporting our administration efforts. Denise and her husband, Paul, are pictured with Helen, in one of the tourist areas of the Atlantic strip.

 We also said goodbye to Bjorg Sogn, from Norway. Bjorg has worked in Sunrise since January, mainly helping in our Lower Basic school. The children and staff gave Bjorg an African dress to say thank you. Bjorg also gave us donations for which we are truly grateful.

 At the end of the week we arranged a trip to a school on the North Bank of the River Gambia at a place called Albreda (linked with the adjacent village of Juffureh).

 Albreda is where the world famous Roots Museum is situated. This houses important exhibitions about the dark days of the slave trade from The Gambia, symbolised in the statue with broken chains and the phrase “Never Again”.



Around 60 staff, skills training students and Lower Basic (G4) pupils travelled from Bakoteh to Banjul where they crossed the 3 mile width of the River Gambia from Banjul to Barra on the large car and passenger ferry boat. They all then moved to smaller buses for the road trip to Albreda.

On arrival, there were photo opportunities with the local school who supported their accommodation, pictures by the welcome to Albreda sign and around the historic defensive canon.



Everyone was schooled with information from the slavery museum, including a class about the island that was used to hold slaves before transportation, now called Kunta Kinteh Island (formerly James Island).

Everyone got the chance to travel across the middle of the river to the island in smaller pirogues and see the fort that also defended the river from others, using 6 large canons. This was most recently run by the British colonial forces before the UK slave trade act of 1807 and finally was abandoned in 1870.

Week ending 18th March

This was another busy week for staff and pupils at Sunrise.

Many of the staff were engaged in a refresher for their first aid skills with lots of practical work and help from our good friends at First Aid for Gambia. This is a charity that Bill Nelson leads, to give help to schools right across The Gambia, all for free. He’s always looking for extra cash to do more, if you can help.

At Sunrise the staff got great help from the Trainer, Momadou Lainey, showing Mr Beyai how to dress Mr Darboe’s hand then later putting Mr Darboe into the recovery position.

The training also involved CPR and is certificated so all attendees can feel properly confident in their abilities.

 We said thank you and goodbye to our good friends Steve and Chris Humphries who have helped us again this year, staying since January on this trip. Steve wields a roller and a paintbrush for us to help with maintenance and Chris helps the teachers with extra support, usually with reading. The children drew a poster with the words, “We will always remember you” and “We are saying thank you”. It’s lovely that the Sunrise children showed their appreciation.



We also have a new caretaker starting to help improve the school security as we continue to invest money in the Sunrise Centre. His name is Basiru Jarju and he joined us at the start of March.  Basiru left school two years ago and worked at a Lottery Company until all Lottery Companies were directed by the government of The Gambia to close down, as part of the removal of gambling enterprises within the country.  Basiru likes watching football, listening to music and browsing the internet during his spare time.


The week ended with the Lower Basic school outing to the Bijilo Monkey Park and the beach. The children were well supervised and well behaved, as usual, but very excited and made the most of their time.


The logistics of getting so many children safely around shouldn’t be under estimated but the children did all that they should, including calling “Hello Mr Monkey”


They enjoyed a great lunch, then had fun at the beach.


Photo call with Mrs Cham

Week ending 11th March

This week is was a big one in the calendar of the nursery children at Sunrise because they went on a trip to the Bijilo Monkey Park.

All the nursery trouped off to meet up with a bus to take them on the short journey and accompanied by many staff to supervise they arrived at the forest park. This is an area of original, untouched Gambian forest, filled with bird life and of course monkeys (mostly green vervet – pictured and also some red colobus)

 The children had a great time entertaining the monkeys, or was it the other way around!


A takeaway lunch was prepared by the nearby Musa Bedula's restaurant. We had help with the lunch costs through donations from Chris and Steve Humphries, also from Ian and Maureen Boyd, Paul and Mary. 



The food all handed out they sat at the edge of the surf to enjoy their lunch - carefully supervised by the teachers (including Mr Bah).



A trip to a beach that is so close to the school is a great treat for our children, who often don’t go without our help. They have a wonderful time in the waves and thoroughly enjoy themselves.



The Nursery children drew pictures and wrote “Thank you we had a happy day”. Thank you from GETS as well, of course to all who helped.


Week ending 4th March

  Ebbeh Day went well with a host of students and also some teachers dancing in the hall to music in true African style. We were well supported as everyone came to buy food and drinks, each priced at D5 (around 8p in UK).

We were delighted to see some of the community as well who called by, including Mr Andrew Sambou (pictured shaking hands with Mr Beyai) who helps run the School Management Committee, which represents parents and the community in the running of the school.


Sunrise is often full of music as the children and students love to sing. Assembly times are quite noisy on occasions and a good way to start each day as the children warm up for school in the mornings. They wear extra clothes too at this time of day, as the pictures shows.


We have a school thermometer in the Hall (that Mr Bah is shown explaining to some skills students). It doesn’t seem to move very much to me, mostly being stuck in the 30’s!


Later we had Batik practical work in process under the cover of the Bantaba, as students practised putting hot wax onto material before applying coloured dyes.

Mr Darboe is in attendance supervising the students using a “local stove”. This is a charcoal fired heat source that is often used for cooking or making attaya (a kind of very sweet green tea) but here is being used to melt the wax.




Week ending 26th February

Change has always been a part of Sunrise for students and the staff. We have become used to trying find new people to help us deliver a quality education at the centre. We have been advertising in local papers again to find an experienced local Gambian to work in the Sunrise Office. We are delighted that we have been able to recruit Georgette Coker.


Georgette joined us at Sunrise in February as the newly appointed Office Administrator. She previously worked at the British Embassy as a Senior Receptionist for nearly 23 years. In her spare time she enjoys singing, mainly with her church group.

 During this period we also said good bye to Ruth McMeechan. Ruth has been coming to support us for some time now, helping mainly in the Lower Basic School. As a long experienced teacher, Ruth is able to turn her hand to the many challenges that teaching in a Gambia school throw at you every day.


Ruth has made many friends and they all gathered to say goodbye to Ruth at she returned to her home in the UK. GETS is indebted to Ruth, who gives her time freely like all of our volunteers. Thank you!



A big event in the school calendar each year is our Ebbeh Day. Ebbeh, after which the day is named, is a delicious sort of crab broth, with all sorts of flavours, including peppers!

This week we caught some of the preparation work for the event, which is a bit like a school fete in the UK. Our Senior teacher, Mr Bah, was caught helping to stir the pot and many hands got involved in preparing the various dishes and drinks that we served that day. More in next week's blog.




Week ending 19th February

This week one of the skills classes were having some practical tie and dye experience - the pictures will tell the story!


Week ending 12th February

Friday we had a "mufti day" or non-uniform day when students came in ethnic dress and prizes were awarded for the best costumes.

Here are some of the prize winners -

 Baboucarr Ceesay - N1

Ida Jagne - N3 - with Mr Bah

Sally Gomez - LB1 - with Mr Beyai

 Isatou A Jallow - LB4


Abdou Rahman Mass Jobe - LB - with Mrs Ceesay


Augustine Jatta - Skills - with Mr Saidy

Aminata Sheriff and Bintou Susso - Skills

 Mrs Jawara - Teacher

Week ending 5th February

On Monday the Skills classes had their first practical of the term. Here Fatou Manneh is piping shortbread butter biscuits

At the end of the session the students prepared a tray with examples of the doughnuts, sausage rolls and biscuits they had made, these were for the staff to sample and pass judgement - their verdict was "Excellent, especially the biscuits!"

Giles and Judy Pepler were our first visitors this week. They already sponsor a class but Judy wanted to sponsor two Sunrise students as well. Here they are looking at the photos of Sunrise students on the Need Sponsors page on our website. Judy decided to sponsor the two first year skills students who were waiting for a sponsor and was delighted to be able to meet and talk to both of them.

Another visitor this week was Chris' daughter, Selina Taroni, who sponsors Momodou Alpha Ntul - another happy photo!

Some of Nursery 2 were engrossed in colouring in shapes when I passed their classroom.

Their teacher, Sally Ceesay, was playing a game with another group. They were all taking turns at picking a card from the cards face down on the table and see if they could match it with one of the face up cards to make a pair. A good exercise, both in visual discrimination and in taking turns!


Nursery 3 have been talking about their classroom and making a plan showing where everything was.

Lower Basic Grade 4 had their heads down busily doing the work set in their maths textbook on fractions,  this textbook is used by all Gambian Grade 4 students.

Still in Grade 4 I saw that Bubacarr had finished his work on comparative adjectives, but he still looks very thoughtful about something!

Grade 3 were having a time for reading on their own. We were lucky to be given these books by a school changing to a newer reading scheme and the children enjoy reading the stories in these books. Because vocabulary is gradually introduced and reinforced in stories in a reading scheme children enjoy the feeling that they are able to read these books.

Bakary Saidy, our Grade 4 teacher, showed Fatou Cham, our Grade 3 teacher how to do a magic trick with a pack of cards and now he is seeing if she remembers how to do it!

Grade 3 have been painting a horse on a piece of sacking -

and showing their work to the rest of their class.

Week ending 29th January

Our first visitors this week were long time supporters Dave and Mary Robinson with their friend, Tracy Greaves.

Tracy had seen our Need Sponsors page on the website and wanted to sponsor Abdoulie Jallow, who is in Grade 3 at Sunrise. She met him during the break and you can see how pleased they were to meet each other!

Visiting also were Rudolf and Ria Ansems from The Netherlands. They live part of the time in Kenya and were very interested in looking at our nursery as they hope to add this age to a school which they support in Kenya.

Below are Chris and Christine Halliday. They are both staying at Oasis and when Christine told Chris that she wanted to visit a Gambian school and was thinking about sponsoring a child, Chris brought her to see us at Sunrise.



  Denise Green is now back in The Gambia again so came on Thursday to use her IT skills to help Helen in the office!

Nursery 2 are doing well with their phonics and many can blend the sounds they know to make three letter words - some better than others, of course!

Fatatmata Darboe has put into practice an idea from her course at Gambia College and has set up a class shop to help with mathematics. Here she is with a customer from her class, Margret Mendy.

Gambian schools have to provide a set number of hours for Islamic studies every week and whilst the rest of the class are doing this, Paul Badjan takes the few Christians in the class for religious knowledge.

Grade 4 have been learning about traditional and modern ways of communication. Later, during art and craft, they made drums from old tins and greaseproof paper and had fun drumming, clapping and dancing.

Week ending 22nd January

More visitors this week, Wendy and Phillip Pulling came to see Adama, the girl in Lower Basic Grade 4 whom they sponsor.

They contrasted sponsoring at Sunrise with the feed back which they receive from sponsoring a child with a well known larger charity. Both said how much they appreciated the chance to meet Adama at work in her classroom, talk with her and look at her books.

On their tour of the school our visitors met Alhagie Ceesay in Lower Basic Grade 1 showing his understanding of addition with "carrying"

Denise Johnson came this week with her father, Alan, to visit Sunrise and also talk to Helen and Dawn about the future career choices of two girls whom they sponsor in their Gambian family.


Abdoulie Sanyang from Nursery 1 is concentrating on drawing a letter "c" in the sand - part of our multi-sensory approach to learning.

Nursery 2 are concentrating on colouring in a picture without going over the edges - all part of developing fine motor control. If you are visiting Sunrise the nursery are always very happy to get more colouring and dot-to-dot books!

Meanwhile the Year 1 and 2 skills classes continue with their normal timetable. Here is Mr Bah teaching in the new classroom added to Sunrise for the start of this academic year.


Regular visitor Steve is often to be seen around Sunrise with a paintbrush in his hand. Do you think she's saying, "You've missed a bit there!"




Week ending 15th January

Some familiar faces were seen at Sunrise this week, Dawn and Paul are back at Sunrise and here is Paul with regular visitors Chris and Steve Humphries.

Jim and Liz Coyle, who sponsor a girl at a school nearby and also Sponsor a Class at Sunrise, visited this week,  seen here sharing a laugh with Helen.


Whilst the third year skills students are out on work placements, the first and second year students are continuing with their usual timetable.


Mr Saidy, who started at Sunrise this September is seen below making a chart which will show the results of the examinations taken at the end of the first term. Any visiting school inspectors expect to see these charts displayed prominently!

  Mrs Sanneh's class, Nursery 3,  have been learning about seeds growing into plants with flowers and fruits. At the end of the lesson they cut and pasted pictures to put them into the correct order.


Week ending 8th January

School started this week after the Christmas break.

The third year skills students are out all this term on work placements. One of the third year students, Fatoumata Singhateh, showed an interest in becoming a teaching assistant so she is helping Mr Beyai in Grade 1.

The new drinking fountain is now in place by the Nursery 1 classroom.



  Our Grade 2 teacher, Fatamatta Darboe,  is back in school after spending last term at Gambia College as part of the three year Primary Teaching Certificate course. Teachers on this course are in full time teaching and from now on she will be attending the College throughout every school holiday during the length of the course.

Fatou Cham, our Grade 3 teacher is in the second year of this course and all the assessments by the College of her classroom teaching at Sunrise have been excellent.

Here are the Lower Basic school starting their assembly with a Muslim prayer, followed by The Lord's Prayer.

Below are some of the Nursery 3 boys enjoying a game of football with our new caretaker, Omar Cham, during the nursery break.