March 2014 Newsletter

We spent the month of January in the Gambia and feel we achieved a great deal, with the two schools in Sohm we are supporting.
We'll roll out the details of progress over the coming months, with lots of photos and comments from grateful Gambian recipients.

We feel we made significant progress as far as:
• Sponsored students
• Donations of science equipment and books
• Donations of sports kits
• Distribution of exercise books, pens and pencils to every student in both Sohm's schools
• Repairing students' bicycles, necessary for those walking 2-3 miles each way to school every day

Pick up truck, loaded with
donated goods, and bound for Sohm

• Topping up the book supply at the senior school, so that every one of the 400 students now has, at least 2-1 shared access to a book, in every subject studied.  Two years ago, barely 10% of the pupils had this level of access
• Establishing a fund to renovate two dilapidated classrooms in the Lower Basic school
• Paying for the refurbishment of the teachers' quarters for the Lower Basic school
• Receiving encouraging progress reports on last year's school trip for all years 5 and 6 students in the Lower Basic school, and funding a similar trip this year
• Funding mock exams, in preparation for the external national exams taken, in the Lower Basic school
• Funding a small amount of sports equipment for the Lower Basic school
• Upgraded all of the laptops generously provided by friends last year, and added three more to the local stock
• Aided computer studies by providing over 150 donated memory sticks, so that all students studying ICT in the Senior school now have a storage system for all of their work.

Vital chemisty kit being used
in a school with no labs


In brief, we touched base with, and were able to take up-to-date photos of, most of our dozen sponsored students, all of whom seem to be progressing well, and certainly enjoying their studies, thanks to the £5 per month they get from their UK sponsors.
One, Ramatoulie Bah, is turning out to be a real academic star, she topped her year group's external exam performance in all three examined subjects, achieving marks of 85% in English, 93% in Social and Environmental Studies and 67% in Maths.

Star pupil - Sponsored
student Ramatoulie Bah

We were told the support we give to the Lower Basic school in helping with mock exams was a big help in preparing to Ramatoulie and her friends.
Ramatoluie was, unfortunately, absent from school, due to illness, when we visited, but we caught up with her very proud mum. Coming from a poor family, Ramatoulie could not continue her studies without her UK sponsor; and it is a sign of what a difference sponsorship can make, when we discovered that her mum is illiterate. 

Small gestures in the UK really can transform African lives.

The fact that Ramatoulie topped the Maths exam marks with 67% is indicative of the poor state of maths teaching in The Gambia, generally.  We are working with the Senior school in Sohm to see if we can sponsor additional maths lessons for all.

Donations of science equipment and books

We are extremely grateful to the Auchmuty High school in Fife for a generous donation of surplus science equipment and books, last summer.  The school moved to new premises in the autumn and donated some of their redundant books and equipment to us.  We drove to Fife and picked it up.  Our good friends at Football Gambia generously gave us free transport of the donation to the Gambia. The Gambian Ministry of Education ensured free internal transportation in the country for us.

Grateful students at the Mahaad school,
with donated science and maths books.
Thanks Auchmuty!

So, a very generous donation was delivered at no additional cost - a real tribute to co-operative endeavour by NGOs and others.

Highly prized surplus, but donated
microscopes, being put to good use

We gave half of the textbooks to the Senior Secondary school in Sohm, and the rest to the Mahaad Senior Secondary, in nearby Sohm and all of the chemistry and physics equipment to Sohm.  The school has almost no science equipment, which makes teaching the subject to its students challenging.  The photos show enthusiastic pupils taking full advantage of Auchmuty's donation.  So, a big thank you to the Fife school for that!

Repaired bicycles

It's also a very big thank you to the 'Billy 'n Babs' bike fund.  Bill Carson and his partner have raised funds to assist with the repairs of bikes for the Sohm youngsters, so necessary in a school with students having to travel up to 3 miles each way to school, with no public transport.  That great charity Jole Riders in the past provided Sohm Senior school with 100 bikes, but many have subsequently fallen into disrepair.  As a result of the 'Billy 'n Babs' fund, we have been able to help repair most of those that have broken down.  So, 20 students can access their education more easily now - without an hour's walk each way, in searing heat, for the school journey.

Thanks to the 'Billy ' n Babs' bike fund,
many broken bikes are now fixed
- students showing some of the repair kits purchased

Next month, we'll bring you news and photos of some of the other achievements of this year's trip - using money generously donated in the UK.

If you feel this is all worthwhile, and would like to assist, we encourage you to donate to our small charity, via the 'Donate' section of this website, or consider sponsoring a student - at £5 per month.  We personally oversee the spending of every £ raised and are able to top up all UK donations, by 25%, via the government's Gift Aid Scheme.

Electrical testing equpiment -
doing its job. Thanks Auchmuty!

To get regular, automatic, updates of news from Sohm, please complete the 'Subscribe' button on the home page of this website.  It is free, of cost and hassle, and ensures that updates will be dropped into your e.mail in-box, automatically.  You can unsubscribe just as easily.  We share your details with nobody.

You may also wish to follow us on Facebook@ Sohm Schools Support, or via Twitter: @GambiaSchools.

Thanks for reading, and for your continued support.