October 2016 newsletter - Big changes at Sohm

Farewell Ismaila

Ismaila Sambou, principal of Sohm's senior secondary school for the last seven years, is moving on to new pastures - having been appointed to a vice-principal's post at a larger urban school, nearer his family home.

Ismaila has overseen huge changes at the school:  a more than doubling of its roll and a considerable increase and upgrading of its accommodation, the introduction of mains electricity, being the most obvious.

Sohm Senior Secondary school
 principal leaves for pastures new

We have worked with Ismaila to equip the school with: computers, science and sporting equipment, enough course books to ensure that all pupils have access to a shared text book for all subjects, and stationery to meet their needs, twenty bikes to help students with long journeys to school, to name but a few.

The big task for the new principal will be to oversee a considerable improvement in the academic performance of the students.  Our funding of out-of-school remedial classes, available for all students in English and Maths, will go some way to addressing this issue.

We believe all the building blocks are now in place to a see considerable take-off in examination results and pupil attainment  - under the right school leadership.

We would like to take this opportunity of wishing Ismaila all the best in this next, exciting, stage in his career.

Remedial class progress

As we have noted, we have funded remedial out-of-school classes accessible to all the senior secondary school students in English and Maths, since March this year.

We have now had an opportunity to review their progress and impact.

The good news is that the classes have taken place with pretty good attendance rates.  All but one of our sponsored students has achieved an 80% plus attendance rate.  The rate for the school, overall, has been around 70% - for this voluntary activity.

On balance, reasonable progress being
 made with remedial classes.  We look
 forward to improvement with the new principal

The bad news is that the largest cause of disappointment has been with year 10 students (15 - 16 years!) - whose attendance rates have bobbled around a disappointing 50%. We have not had a satisfactory explanation for this, or what steps are being taken to address this poor rate.  Overall, the administration of the scheme has left, somewhat frustratingly, much to be desired.

This will be top of our priorities to address with the new principal.  We will, of course, keep you updated with progress on this, our most ambitious and expensive initiative at the school.

New library, refurbished sick room

As we have previously reported, this year we have paid for the refurbishment of the sick room and library at the Lower Basic (primary) school.

We understand that the work has been completed and that the facilities are now in full use, now that the new school year is underway.  We look forward to posting photos of these two great new facilities in use, when we next visit the country, in the new year.

Hopefully, we'll be paying for a homework
 club in the Lower Basic school's newly
 refurbished library, from early 2017

All being well, we hope to be able to fund and after school homework club in the much improved  library, for those pupils who are unable to study at home.

Doing a Danczuk

Some readers/site visitors to this site may know that John has been in dispute with Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, for the last three years over copyright/plagiarism issues around his book, Smile for the Camera, which claimed to expose his predecessor as MP, Cyril Smith's, sexual abuse of young men in and around Rochdale.

John always made it clear to Danczuk that any payments made to him for his work on the highly successful book would be donated to this charity - and find its way to Sohm. We said that if the donation were significant enough that we could ensure that a facility at one of the schools would be named after him: say the "Simon Danczuk ICT suite", or "Simon Danczuk science laboratory".
Danczuk consistently refused to make a donation. 

Eventually we challenged his publisher, Backbite, over copyright issues.  They, reluctantly, made a donation of £250 - which is now with this charity.

Reluctant donation from this book's
 publishers will pay for the
 "Simon Danczuk toilet block"

True to our word, we will put the money towards refurbishing a toilet block at one of the schools, and have the facility named "The Simon Danczuk toilet". In all the circumstances, we feel that this is an appropriate name.

It will, after all, give an appropriate meaning in The Gambia, at least to the notion of "Going for a Danczuk". We will post a photo of the suitably named facility, when we next visit the country.

In keeping with the Danczuks predilection for selling photos of themselves, we will happily send photos of pupils "on their way to doing a Danczuk", for an appropriate donation.  Just let us know!

And finally ...

All is going reasonably well in our annual fund-raising drive (we aim to take around £5,000 to Sohm each year). But, there is a bit of Brexit fall-out to deal with.

The slide in the value of the £, means that we will get around 10% less with our money in The Gambia, when we visit in 2017.
Forget Marmite - remember Gambian kids
 So, we will need to raise 10% more this year, or the kids in Sohm will suffer.

Our message: Forget Marmite, remember the Gambian kids!