Feb 2015 newsletter - Sohm - a year of great progress

Just back from our annual visit to Sohm, and there's great news to report on considerable progress over the last twelve months. This is the first of three newsletters, over the coming months, in which we record some very considerable achievements.

Nursery class repaired

We were delighted to pay for the repair of the main nursery class, during the year. This meant that broken doors, windows and roof could be restored and dangerous cracks in the plaster-work walls could be fixed, so that the room is back as a functioning classroom.

Broken, out-of use nursery class, 2014
Interior of refurbed nursery,
 ready for action, 2015!

See below for "before" and "after" photos. Decor and paintwork are not a priorities in the cash-strapped Gambia, so the room still looks scruffy - but is now a lively base for 35 youngsters!

Short video of excited youngsters
 in repaired nursery class

Teachers' accommodation fixed

We were able to make a small donation during the year to fix the teachers' accommodation block.

Broken staff shower block, 2014
Fixed staff showers, 2015

So, for the future, 15 teachers can look forward to rooms that don't let in water during the rainy summer season, and can wash in safe showers.

New roof on teachers accommodation,
 ready for a "dry" rainy season

Once again, the standards of decoration fall below Western standards and expectations.  But, the teachers are delighted, particularly at the prospect of a "dry" summer!

New flooring for the head's office

The Lower Basic school's head's office plays so many roles, not the least as a meeting room for almost all activities involving staff and parents, in the school.  But for years the dirt floor has been infested by termites and most solutions have been, at best, temporary.

So, this last year we were delighted to pay £30 for the cost of ceramic floor tiles and cement.

New flooring makes head's
 office serviceable -
 all for £30 SSS donation!
The result - a delighted and proud head, decent floor covering and a termite-free meeting room. A small sum, for a big difference!

Stationery - and moving forward!

Each year me make an annual donation to each school (benefitting over 800 pupils)that ensures all of them will receive at least one 120 page exercise book and a maths work-book, plus appropriate pens, pencils, crayons, drawing papers, erasers, sharpeners etc.

Piles of stationery, for each of the schools
 - give the students the tools!

See the piles of stationery ready for distribution.

Lower Basic pupils eagerly display
 donated exercise books and pencils
No wonder the pupils are delighted and both schools have seen improved exam results, as pupils and students are given the tools to assist.

Huge strides made in the Senior School

As a result of SSS's efforts, the Senior School now has key text books for every student in every subject to share, together with some key ICT and scientific equipment.

The impact has been dramatic, confirmed by a national Ofsted-type inspection. The school has shot up from about fiftieth place in the region's schools' league table, to second out of 85, over the last four years (since our intervention).

The Education Permanent Secretary, Regional Director, school's head, staff and PTA are all absolutely delighted and are under no illusions for the reasons.

New teaching block for senior
 school, in progress
They put it down to being able to mobilise the gifts that SSS has made to the schools. The students have been better equipped to deal with the challenges that face them, in public examinations and professional assessments.

They are all most grateful and have asked us to convey their extreme gratitude to all of our donors and supporters, which we are delight to do!

So, thank you all for helping make such a difference!!

Success rewarded

The Gambian government rewards the best performing schools, believing that they provide best value for money and are more likely to benefit from more investment than poorly performing schools.

The two schools we support in Sohm have been major beneficiaries of this policy. Our investment has been like start-up money, which results in further state investment.

Electricity linked up!
And, the PCs are fired up!
And the meter is ready for installation

So, as a result of our investments in the senior school (see above), the ministry is now paying for the construction of an additional teaching block (see photo) and has paid for the whole school to be refurbed (also photo).

Lick of paint for all existing school buildings
Best of all, however, the school has just been linked up to mains electricity - which we have lobbied for, over the last five years. On the last day of our visit to the school, this year, the school was linked to the grid, and mains electricity flowed.

Happy days!