Schools' out for summer!

As schools break up for the summer holidays in The Gambia and Britain, its time to reflect back on another successful year of fund-raising in the UK and beyond, and of progress in the schools in Sohm.

Beech Hill community primary school, in Luton, has been twinned with the Sohm Lower Basic school for around five years now, and in the past their pupils have exchanged letters and artwork, as they share common interests and swapped stories of each others' lives.

Sohm Lower Basic pupils, demonstrating their twinning with Beech Hill school

In the last week of the summer term, Beech Hill held one of their now annual "Gambia Days", where pupils went to school dressed in the colours of the Gambian flag. After assemblies lead by Sandra and John from SSS on life in the village of Sohm and what has happened to previous years' donations from Beech Hill to Sohm, the Luton youngsters embarked on a day of classroom activities - focussing on life in The Gambia.


There was story telling, art classes, dancing, geography lessons, sessions painting Gambian flags and African masks and a drumming workshop, lead by a local Ghanaian drummer.

Drumming workshop at Beech Hill school's Gambia Day, July 2023

The day ended with a sale, in the school playground, of food cooked by some of the parents and sold to others, as they came to pick up their childrern from school.

In total, over £1,500 was raised on the day, including Gift Aid.  That sum will be more than enough to buy the entire stationery supply for pupils and teachers alike, in Sohm over the next 12 months.  Fund-raising like this greatly enhances the educational opportunities the Sohm youngsters have, and has had the effect of propelling the school up the local league tables, to become an exemplar for rural schools in the region.

Earlier during the year, Sohm Lower Basic school celebrated a long-time supporter of the school (via SSS) and its library, by naming the library after him- The Brain Bamford Library - after his death.  Brian's family chose not to have flowers or donations at his funeral, but instead donated the collection to Sohm Lower Basic school, to be spent on books for the school - his life long passion. Later, a close friend of Brian arranged a fund raisng "Mad Hatter's Tea Party", in his memory with funds going to Sohm, in Australia! Thanks, to one and all from the pupils of Sohm!

The Brian Bamford library - Sohm Lower Basic school

The photos show Sohm's pupils gratefully receiving the results of these donations, in bulk, and in the classroom.

Above and below - stationery supplies for a whole year - made possible by the donations

The largest project currently up and running in the village is the construction of staff quarters for around three dozen teachers from both the primary and secondary school in the village. In the past we have tried to renovate the frankly deplorable staff living quarters.  But their still poor state had become a staff recruitment issue, as potentail teachers have been unwilling to take up jobs in a fairly remote village with pretty dreadful accommodation..

About a year ago we worked up plans with the Gambian Ministry of Education, the head teachers of the two schools in Sohm and a contractor we had successfully worked with on major projects before, to build new accommodation for 36 teachers in premises that was owned by the Ministry of Education, in the village, and set about trying to find a sponsor.

We were absolutely delighted when our friends from Jersey - the Jersey Gambia Schools Trust - were able to find a very generous benefactor, whose funding was matched by that from the Jersey government and work began on the construction of the new housing units.

Building is currently at a very advanced stage of development, and hopefully teachers from both the primary and secondary schools will be able to move in before Christmas.

New teachers' accommodation in the village of Sohm, under construction

The result will make teaching in Sohm a more welcoming prospect for would-be recruits, who will find - as a result of the efforts of supporters of this charity - a relatively well resourced couple of schools in which to work.

We've been involved with Sohm for twelve years now, and the turnaround in conditions in the schools and standards of teaching, and now accommodation have been quite remarkable and been shown in improvements in educational achievements in the village.

This would not have been possible without the generosity of supporters of our charity.

We thank you all - and join the pupils in the schools in wishing you a great summer!

We'll be back, looking for further advances in Sohm's schools in the autumn term!