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2019/20 Visit - November 2019

Message from Mrs Adams

Good morning from the smiling coast of Gambia. I hope you are all well and have retuned from half term feeling refreshed and ready to learn. It is hard to believe that Christmas is only a few weeks away. I can’t wait to find out what magical productions you will be sharing in your key stages this year. I am returning home for Christmas, so maybe I will be able to come and see your performances.

Apart from the new Reception children, you all know that I moved to Gunjur in Gambia during September to begin a new job supporting six schools and all their staff in providing an exciting curriculum for the children here. You will see from the photos Mrs Matthews shows you, how different school life is here. What similarities and differences can you see compared to your school? Children between the ages of 4 - 7 attend pre-schools and their day begins at 8.00am. They start the day with an assembly, where they sing the Gambian National Anthem before going to class. There are around 30 children in each class with one teacher. What do you notice about their classrooms? The children sit for long periods of time here and some of their lessons are very repetitive. The children are taught in English, even though they speak Mandinka, which is their local tribal language.

My house is very comfortable here, although different to my home is Swindon. It has no WiFi! I have fans in each room and as the temperatures are above 35 degrees, I keep the bedroom fan on all night to keep cool. It is so hot, it is not possible to walk outside for even a short distance. I have to get a taxi to and from school each day - sometimes they are on time and sometimes they are late!
Shopping is probably the most difficult thing here as there are no supermarkets in the village where I live. There are no Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Asda here - the only large supermarkets are up in the tourist area. To shop there takes a whole day. I am mainly eating bread, eggs, chicken and rice. I am looking forward to eating a big Christmas dinner when I get home! I mainly cook myself and sometime a friends called Mariatou comes to cook with me, which we do outside on a gas canister. There are many flies so you have to be careful when you eat that one doesn’t fly into your mouth!

Although my house is quite close to the sea, I have only been there a couple of times. Gunjur beach is a fishing village, so is very busy with people and wooden boats going out to collect the fish. Unfortunately, the beach here isn’t well cared for and there are fish bones and rubbish everywhere. The smell isn’t very pleasant. You can often see cows on the beach too.


2019/20 Visit - March 2020

Update from Mrs Adams

As you know, I am spending one academic school year in Gambia and working within six pre-schools, which is equivalent to what we know as Reception, Year one and Year two. I am working alongside the head teachers and teaching staff to try and improve their quality of teaching. For any of you who know anything about Gambian life, everything here is very slow! Teaching is repetitive with little, if any, progress throughout the year groups.

During the first term I have successfully managed to introduce ‘play’ for the youngest children. To us this is everyday practice, but here it is a very radical approach and one which has taken 3 months to embed.

The six schools I am involved in are supported by a charity called: Project Gambia. You can learn more about this charity by looking on their website, which is: www.cornertolearn.co.uk

Currently, we are in the process of raising teaching standards across all schools. With over 60 teachers and almost 1,000 children, I’m sure you can appreciate this is no mean feat, especially within the culture where change is not embraced. I have introduced joint lesson observations where the head teachers pair up and visit each other’s’ schools. So far, this has been a positive experience for all involved. It is my aim before I leave to have all groups learning through play and to give training on what progression looks like though the curriculum. I will feel as though the schools will have accomplished a huge amount if we can get that far!

Many of the families here are very poor and as education is not supported or supplemented by the government, parents have to pay for their children to attend. Many don’t. I would like to ask whether you might consider giving £12.00 a year for the next year for one child to attend school. As well as paying their school fees. this also provides the children with a school uniform and bag. I can guarantee that 100% of what you give will be given to the head teacher for individual children. Some of the six schools already have outside sponsorships, but one of them has no other support and the attendance of the children dwindles as the year passes. The head teacher of this school is very hard working and proactive, and has taken on everything I have recommended to try and improve the quality of school life for both her teachers and children. I know she would be very appreciative of any support.

I will see to it personally which children she chooses and can take photos for you on my return. Mrs Eaton is retuning for a visit at the end of April, so if you do feel you would like to support a child, it would be easy to pass £12.00 to the school office her to bring out. Please include your name so the photograph of your sponsored child can be given to you.

The weather here continues to rage most days at 40 degrees, which isn’t quite so pleasant when you’re working in it! The afternoons are too hot to go anywhere and often days can be long as a result. I’m hearing all about storm Dennis! Despite the difficult living conditions and lack of any convenience, I am fully loving the work in schools. I am over half way through my time here now and am beginning to think about my return. Thank you, as always for your on-going support and I look forward to seeing you all in the summer.