We first visited the Gambia in 2007 and liked it so much that we bought a small house there. Since then we have been every year and become quite involved with the local community.
The Gambians are a warm and friendly people but the country is extremely poor and everyone lives close to the bread line. In spite of this their life raises important questions, for while materially we are better off, they are richer when it comes intangible things like mutual concern and family cohesion. I spoke to a young woman the other day who’d had a similar experience in Asia. She said that while she had gone out there because she felt fortunate in having so much, she left feeling that she had received more in emotional ways than she had been able to give in practical ones.
We became involved with our nursery school through a chance encounter— we met a man who was trying to provide nursery education in his own compound. On visiting his ‘school’, we found 35 children aged 4-7 sitting on mats on the floor; there were no desks or teaching materials and the teachers were working without pay. The government does not provide education until the age of 7. That was how we got started. Over the next two years, we worked to improve this basic set up, providing school materials and uniforms for the children and a basic salary for the teachers. We also improved on the infrastructure, enlarging the two classrooms, building a perimeter wall and school toilets and covering an open well.
However, during the past year we have had increasing difficulties with the owner of the school and school compound, culminating in his embezzlement of funds from the school bank account. On our recent visit (Jan 2016) we tried to resolve these problems but in the end decided that the best way forward was to sever relations and build new facilities on land provided by the local community. In the meantime the school would be housed in temporary accommodation provided by the village. In this way, the new school would belong fully to the community and be managed by them under the umbrella of the education department. We have now signed an agreement on this basis and need to raise the building cost of £7500 as quickly as possible.
If you would like to make a donation, please contact: Ken Wright and Alice Banks.
Tel. 01473 828 976