February 2016 newsletter - Great progress over the last twelve months

We are just back from a few very productive weeks in The Gambia, working with the two schools in Sohm.


We saw pleasing evidence of real progress with projects that we sponsored and paid for last year.

This newsletter provides details of them. Future posts will explain what we are hoping to achieve over the coming months, and what steps we have put in place, to help deliver them.


Sponsorship


We, or more accurately our supporters, continue to sponsor the education of more than a dozen Gambian youngsters. We caught up with each of the students, got a face-to-face statement of progress , received a copy of their latest school report and a letter of thanks written by the pupil to her/his sponsor. 

We also took a photograph of each of them.  We will be sending copies of all of the above to the sponsors over the next week or so, as part of our commitment to be accountable for all donations received.


Musa Jarju -
star sponsored student

Progress of the individual students was, inevitably, mixed, with one being a real "star" of the school and a couple struggling a bit, because of home/work pressures.

As we will show in a future newsletter, we have directly intervened to address poor results and performance and hope to be able to report satisfactory progress this time next year.


Computer technology


Last year Little Heath school in Redbridge donated 30 redundant computers to the charity together with a number of desk top printers.

We had them all cleaned up, reconditioned and had a Windows suite installed on each. Assisted by generous free container space, we transported the equipment to Sohm last year.


PCs at work - thanks to Little
 Heath school, Redbridge

The result: a complete transformation! Previously, the senior school only had three or four ancient, working, computers for the 400+ students to access.
The whole Windows suite being
 accessed by Sohm's youngsters

Today, enthusiastic students lap up ICT lessons with the donated computers and many are becoming computer-friendly and proficient for the first time, as the accompanying photographs indicate.


Electrification of the Lower Basic school


Last year we made a grant of £1,000 to the Lower Basic (primary) school, to connect with mains electricity, for the first time. That sum enabled lighting and a single power point to be installed in each classroom and in each of the two-rooms of the individual teacher accommodation.

The standard of electrical work would not gain too many professional plaudits in the UK, but it works - without mishap! The work was completed on time and on budget last Spring. Not a statement you hear often in The Gambia!


All wired up - of sorts! But, working well!


In addition to the installation of power to teaching and living accommodation, power points were also installed in the head's office.  As the photo shows, this, in conjunction with some PCs we supplied, has enabled the school to become self-sufficient administratively - saving costs and time over a number of key tasks.


Electricity and PCs in the
 head's office - real progress!


The geographical location of Sohm means that the schools can have recruitment and retention issues for teachers.  Supplying electricity to their accommodation helps a little: they can now read in their rooms at night, charge their mobile phones and crowd around TV monitors to watch DVDs, for entertainment and training.


Teachers' sparse accommodation,
 above and below benefiting
 from electrification


Cooking equipment


The cooking equipment we supplied the senior school with last year has had some beneficial effects.

External Domestic Science exam results have improved, with examiners commenting favourably on progress. More students are now moving on to catering college, in order to help gain jobs in the important tourist hospitality industry.


Cookery equipment,
being put to good use

While we were in the country in January some of Sohm Students took part in a regional cookery contest.  Although they didn't win, their output went down well with the judges, apparently. They scoffed the lot!

Future newsletters will explain what we have sponsored this year, to be rolled out over the next twelve months, in our efforts to keep supporters up-to-date with Sohm schools' activities.

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