How we support schools here in The Gambia

The list of schools S4K has supported over the years is long. The ones I can remember include:

Brivonne, Serekunda, Marys Foni, Dumbutu, RANB, Jamisa, Jambur, Brikama, Kabafita, Toubakuta, Reach, Strand

Model, Sanchabe, Sualy Jobe, Iri-Du, Yakanu, NemaDay, Special Needs School, New Life, Kerewan

For the first 4 years S4K was operating

we did not seek any form of recognition or written proof of our donations. As a small close knit family charity we had no need to prove ourselves but saw first hand the difference our support made to your kids schools, with photos to show our supporters how we were doing. All things eventually change and with the registration of the charity in 2016 we found we had to begin the process of getting written evidence of everything we do. Being registered may have brought kudos and reassurance to some but for us it meant more work in already constrained circumstances.

Let’s take Model school for an example

We first met Tejan Turay in 2011 on the school site which is now Brivonne school. A Sierra Leoneian, Turay had come to Gambia with his wife and small boy to teach, having qualified in his own country. The building consisted on one shack with a part covered roof and a pit in the ground for the kids to use as a toilet. This was the very first school our first sponsored kids attended. By paying their school fees annually in advance it enabled Turay to develop the school, eventually enabling him to rent a bigger site. Again we suported his school and most of our Serekunda kids were his pupils. We gave them school bags, school desks, furniture, tables and chairs, educational displays, stationary and school uniforms every year until Turay found another bigger site in 2013.

The current location of Model school

was one block of a line house and a gigantic mango tree and no toilets. With the annual fees all paid up we left him to develop his school and returned to the UK for a few months. When we returned in November there was  a newly built school with propose built classrooms and the primary and nursery sides divided as required by the MoE. Turay’s shiny new school had nothing in it except our kids which made up the majority of his students and his teaching staff. S4K took this to task and again kitted his school out for the third time. This time adding blackboards and whiteboards to more school furniture, a fully equipped PC suite, a fully stocked library , more fully packed school bags, stationary, a PC and printer for Turay and enough sports and PE equipment to last for many years to come.

Upon our return to Gambia in late 2014, we noticed Turay was unwell, continually coughing and weak, losing weight and generally very unwell. By January 2015 Turay was diagnosed with TB. There were other confidential complications and despite our amazing S4K family rallying around and helping us to help him with the correct diagnosis, medicine and eventually catheterisation and being on full time oxygen Turay passed away on the 14th March 2015.

You can not imagine how this loss was felt

A year earlier his wife had died of a similar disease, leaving him sole carer of his 9 year old son Elijah. Turay’s death left Elijah an orphan. The day he was buried was the day he was due to marry his fiancée, Edna. Some people will have experienced the aftermath of death and how the greedy come worming their way out from beneath their rocks. Gambia is no different. His daughter arrived from Sierra Leone amid the mass hysteria of Ebola to a ready made school full of sponsored kids paying annually.

By late 2015 we were receiving letters from the Board of Governors about concerns that over the late Turay’s daughter’s misappropriation of school funds. Indeed we arrived back in Gambia to find she had misused all the school fees paid in advance and not one of our kids had a new uniform for which we had paid . The Head teacher was caught between us as major supporters of the school demanding our kids get their uniforms and knowing that this woman has in fact stolen the school fees for her own agenda. After weeks of trying to resolve this we called in the Ministry of Education who put the school under special measures. Having learnt by our 2015 mistake in 2016 we paid the tailor direct for all the kids uniforms. this prevented her from misappropriating the uniform money but did not stop her from misusing the rest. Model school began to fall into disrepute. The daughter sacked the head and Turay’s Fiancée and posted her own choice into the headship. S4K took the decision to move as many of our sponsored kids as possible as such short notice. This left 35 kids at Model school for the 2016-2017 academic year. Having seen how this woman was manipulating the school to suit her own agenda we insisted on getting written receipts. The trust had gone at the same time as Turay.

The poor man must be turning in his grave knowing his daughter is ruining all he had worked for over the years. And here ends our relationship with Model school. The parents, having been made aware of the lack of uniforms and other issues have decided their kids shall no longer attend such a school of ill repute. A large number of parents descended en mass to request their kids’ transfer papers from the head teacher. Who, under the daughters direction refused! It is not legal for a school to enforce kids to stay  so our next mission begins with getting the Ministry of Education to release our kids to better and more honest schools. A very sad ending and even sadder is this will not be an isolated case. This level of family corruption is what drags Africa down. Gambia is not easy!

Ginger

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