End of term report - summer 2016

Schools' out for summer - in the Gambia, just as it is here in the U.K. So, it's time for the dreaded end of term report.

Lower Basic - library refurb

As we have mentioned in previous blogs, our main projects as far as the Lower Basic (primary) school in Sohm this year have been to pay for the complete restoration of the school's library and its sick room.

The former has been out of effective use - other than as a store room - for about three years, because it has suffered from termite infestation. With our friends from Jersey, we have paid for the removal of the termites and for new sealed - termite-resistant flooring and treatment for the walls of the room.

Library termites: out! A new refurbed library
 will be up and running from September

This was completed by the end of April and we are pleased to report that the termites have not revisited since! Our grant also paid for a new door and windows, in an effort to resist the forward advance of the little pests. These, too, seem to have done the trick.

So, the room is now being re-equipped with new book cases and chairs.

Having sorted out the books earlier this year, and disposed of the termite infested ones, the school is now re-arranging the them on the shelves, ready for use in the new school year.

The library will be back in full operation from September; with each class in the school having a weekly visit to the library, in an effort to encourage "the reading habit".  

Our initiative last year, in providing electrical wiring for the whole school and donating a number of computers, means that the library will be well-equipped in September for books' study, and perhaps some early computer education.

We will next be in The Gambia in January 2017. It is our intention to discuss paying for the  running an after school 'homework club' in the library, open a couple of hours of each evening - courtesy of the donations we receive from our supporters.  
Accommodation conditions like this make home
 study difficult; so we will discuss paying for
 homework clubs, after school, in the library,next year

Many of the children find it almost impossible to do school work at home, because the poor and over-crowded state of their living accommodation, lack of lighting, privacy, quietness etc.

There is, however, the slightly trickier cultural issue to consider.  Many of the children at this primary school are expected to work at home, or in the fields, as soon as they get back from school in the afternoon.  We will need to have discussions with parents about this and try and find a solution that assists the educational opportunities of their children and not clash with home demands.

Wish us luck!

Lower Basic - refurb sick room

Work is, similarly, at a very advanced stage of rebuilding and re-equipping the school's sick room.  This has been in a bad state for at least three years.  A functioning sick room is essential in a school like this, where children are prone to recurring bouts of malaria and the parents cannot be easily contacted to come and assist them readily.

Inside the out-of-use sick room.
 Now completely refurbished,
 ready for a new school year
So, come the start of the new term, in September, the building work will be finished, complete with re-plastered walls, re-flooring and new windows and doors. There will be a new bed and table and chairs and medicines cabinet.

Although we wish none of the children ill, they will, at least, from September have a comfortable place to relax/recover in the event of any unpleasant bots of sickness.

Senior secondary school - remedial classes

As we have reported before, the senior school has made great strides in most curriculum areas and exam performances since we became involved with it, five years ago.

The most serious area needing attention has been poor performance, across the whole school, in both English and maths.  To address this, earlier this year, with our colleagues from Jersey, we agreed to fund our most expensive and ambitious initiative to date.

We are paying for one additional hour's teaching of both English and maths for all pupils in every class in each year, on a trial basis.

75% plus attendance rates in remedial
 classes across almost the whole school

We have just received the initial results of the trial, and it seems to be progressing well - after a shaky start.

The attendance rates, across the whole school, are above 75% for this voluntary activity for all years, apart from 10 (16 year olds). 

It has been difficult to get meaningful feedback on the impact on the educational standards of the students concerned (no public exam results in yet, no face to face conversations with students or teachers etc).

We are pleased to announce that all students sponsored by our supporters have achieved an 80% plus attendance rate.

Its early days, but the signs look good.  We will need to have further discussions with a number of partners over the coming weeks before deciding whether to extend this (for us) expensive scheme in the new year.  

We will also have to consider how to deal with the poor year 10 attendance - but it is 16 year olds we are talking about!

We need to be convinced we are getting good value for your money, before extending the trial.

We'll keep you informed of progress.

Brexit - unforeseen consequence

It's not the role of this site, or charity, to comment on the recent  referendum decision of the British people to leave the European Union. There has, however, been one unintended consequence that impacts on us, and those we are attempting to support in The Gambia.

The £ - Delasi exchange rate has deteriorated by about 10% since the referendum; meaning we need to raise 10% more, in donations, to compensate and continue with our ambitious plans for the future.
You support would be of great assistance!

John and Sandra

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