End of Year Report


Pupils at the two Sohm schools, like those in Britain, are now enjoying their summer break.

We have reported previously (see blogs below) on the very considerable progress we feel we made with the schools, with our brief visit earlier this year.

In this newsletter, we present a couple of reports from the two school heads, on the impact of the charity - and implicitly - you, the supporters, have made.
The Gambia doesn't get favourable press coverage in the West, largely because of the controversial behaviour of its president, and because it sits in West Africa - the region blighted by Ebola, earlier this year.

Our view is that, regardless of the president's activities, children in remote rural villages still deserve the best educational opportunities possible. In this blog, we provide some academic evidence to explain why this is important.

As for Ebola. There have been more cases recorded in Britain than there have in The Gambia, which is almost 500 miles from the nearest outbreak.

Unfortunately, the tourist trade took an estimated 40% hit this year, which further depressed conditions for the population of this small, poor African, tourist-dependent nation.

Senior Secondary school

We delivered a large number of computers and related ICT equipment to the senior school in January. We have had a couple of brief messages from Mohammed Jawara, the ICT teacher, and the school's principal, on their impact:

"All the items given to Sohm Schools came at the right time (just as electricity was being connected to the school) and are really helping a lot. All thanks to you and all the donors."

2015 consignment, gratefully received,
 and put to good use, by the secondary school

Ismaila Sambou, the school's principal has written:

"On behalf of the parents and teachers of my school, I would like to thank you for the unselfish and untiring effort that you have tasked yourself to help our schools achieve quality education."

In his end of year letter to us, he said:

"I write to inform you that we conducted our national and international examinations (grades 8, 9 and 12) successfully, due to your wonderful support."

"This year's food and nutrition practical was good. The examiner could not hide the improvement she observed on the ground (we fully re-equipped the teaching classroom this spring). She commended the school for the provision of most of the utensils."

"We had our Speech and Prize Giving Ceremony on 13 June. The stationery that you gave to us were partly used as prizes."

Mohammed Jawara, ICT teacher with
 some of his pupils and their computers

Lower Basic school

Our biggest single intervention this year was to pay almost £1,000 to the Lower Basic (primary) school for its electrification and that of the adjacent staff quarters.

Few things happen quickly in The Gambia, so we were delighted to receive a lengthy report from Malamin Gibba, the new head. He was able to report that the project was completed on 29 May - and he enclosed all the receipts, as evidence!

He detailed what this sum of money enabled:

"We have two (electricity) meters, one for the staff quarters and the other for the classrooms and the office. In addition to these, the library, kitchen complex and the three stores are all wired. Every room has a lighting system and sockets for appliances. All the staff quarters, the two bathrooms and a kitchen are also fitted with lighting systems.

Lower Basic school classrooms, now
 with added electricity - lighting and power sockets!
All rooms in the quarters have lighting systems and sockets. There are outside lamps in both the quarters and the classrooms."

We were also able to donate a small amount of ICT equipment to the school, for which Malamin expressed his gratitude, saying that it would mean that:

"We would have most of our (related) works due in the schools, rather than going elsewhere."

He continued: "Needless to say, John we are still enjoying the stationery you gave us and the bicycles are still in good working order. The second-hand clothes were shared among the pupils. There weren't any problems during the process of sharing."

"On behalf of the school administration, the School Management Committee, teachers, parents and pupils of the Lower Basic school, and on my own behalf, I wish to thank you for all the support you are giving us, in our schools."

Bikes - still in good hands

Why bother?

Was it Mao, or Confucius, who said "Give a hungry man a fish and he'll be hungry tomorrow. Give him a fishing rod, and he'll never starve, again"?

Education is, perhaps, the largest metaphorical fishing rod at society's disposal today. Evidence to support the view and academic support for the case can often be thin on the ground of what is sometimes simply instinct or intuition.

A relatively recently published academic tome: "State and Society in The Gambia since Independence - 1965 -2012", ed. Aboulaye Saine et al, provides some pretty convincing evidence.

It is fairly technically and densely written, but a few bullet points, drawn from it, establish the case fairly well:

  • ·         Only 42% of Gambians had received any education by the time of independence, in 1965. And typically, it was only for one year, of primary school!
  • ·         Figures improved gradually over the next twenty years, in percentages and length of stay terms
  • ·         Latest figures (2007) suggests 65% of the current population have attended a Lower Basic school, 36%, an Upper Basic (middle) school, and 21% a Senior Secondary school.
  • ·         Fees, although small, stopped further growth of these numbers. Fortunately, they are now being phased out. Our sponsors, however, are still assisting some, for whom fees are still payable (mainly the older pupils).
  • ·         There has been a closing of the gender gap, over the most recent decade, so that attendance figures for girls is now almost identical to that of boys.
  • ·         There is a strong link between maternal education, and good child health.
  • ·         There is a clear link between improved education levels and falling birth rates.
  • ·         There is a clear association between better education and agricultural production - the ONLY industry in Sohm.
  • Some of the students that Sohm School
     Support's donors are sponsoring
  • ·         The biggest determinants of good staying-on rates of pupils is high quality staff and better resourced schools (to both of which we are contributing).
  • ·         Significantly: those with only one year's primary education make on average 21% more income than people who haven't been to school, in The Gambia. That figure rises to 63% for those who have completed Lower Basic education, 72% for those who have had ANY secondary education and 84% for those who have completed Senior Secondary education.
With the educational fishing rod we are helping to provide to Sohm, we are confident that, if replicated elsewhere, The Gambia, as a whole, will become better educated, more politically sophisticated and self sufficient, for the future.

Finally

Regrettably, we are no longer able to access free container space to take supplies to The Gambia. Our previous provider has ceased to offer the service. We have been unable to source an alternative low/no cost transporter.

Unfortunately, our last consignment,
 via a container, to Sohm
This means that we will no longer be able to take donations of books, second hand clothes, computer and scientific equipment to end to Sohm.  This is a great pity.

It means that we are more dependent on cash donations, than ever - so that we can source gifts-in-kind for the schools in The Gambia.


Your donations will be gratefully received.  As you can see, from the above, we are confident that every £ donated makes a real and tangible difference to young African lives.

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