It is so difficult to imagine what a mammoth task registration of 200 kids involves in a developing country. Aside from time pressure before school closes and Head Teachers head off to their native villages for a well earned break, skoolz4kids have to contend with the flooding, the humidity, the heat, insects,sickness and people never being ready on time. People not being where they’re meant to be because of the above has a massive impact on time. How many times Sol has arranged to meet a kid/family/Had to be re-arranged at the proposed time is above 30 times in 6 weeks. Gambian’s don’t respect time because time is so difficult to keep when they’re so many hurdles to overcome for what you may think is a simple task. We heard on the news about people in Europe complaining bout the heat wave. Try living and working in it 24/7. On your feet and then have a little more understanding of quite how hard this job is.
As so many of our kids are spread over a wide variety of schools and villages the new academic year registrations take at least 8 weeks. This is why school fees MUST be paid before 1st June annually. As kids graduate from Nursery to Primary or Primary to Secondary and finally Senior school the logistics and organisation this takes is worthy of a full time staff member. Sol deserves a huge thank you and round of applause for managing to get everyone registered for September. While trying to look after me in my current disabled state. Never mind the weather as the previous blog post detailed.
This post is to show our happy charges all registered and set for September.
Below are dear Little Awa with head teacher;
Bakary S looking smart in yellow;
Kumba C and Fatou W
These villages are so difficult to get to in the dry season never mind the rainy season with sandy turreted trails through the mud. Skoolz4kids only have one family who we initially took on in a remote village. Kitty. All the others have moved. People tend to move here far more frequently than in the UK. Rooms are rented and often families move to cheaper accommodation if a parent dies or is absent. Or because the father is going to work further afield. Just because they moved somewhere far away and inaccessible without a 4×4 doesn’t mean skoolz4kids will abandon them. Once a kid is with us, they are with us until they leave school. We will do whatever it takes to ensure the kids are the priority and that means more work, so be it.
People try to suggest that we have stricter parameters for the kids. Limiting numbers, location etc. Because it impacts on how well we are able to do our jobs. But I am sure I have mentioned before; the reality of looking a kid in the face and telling them they have to leave school for whatever reason is not something anyone with empathy, understanding and a true understanding pf poverty and the social and economical long term impact being torn from their only opportunity to better their and their families lives can do. Sol keeps praying we can have a 4×4 one day which will make our days sunnier and our lives and the kids lives easier. Faith is a wonderful thing to have.
Above, Best Buddies MM & MM, Fatou K and her new school. The Fula twins, Kumba B, Abli S, Mamadou all signed and paid up for September. Below Abli S who came from Senegal and only spoke Wolof until being sponsored for school and Fatou K, a model in waiting proudly holding her school fees receipt.
Fatou K has two very special sponsors who came out to meet her a couple of years ago. She is now the proud sister to Zachary who she’s calling Zacharia, the Gambian version and thinks of him as her little baby brother. One Love at work.
These two cheeky chappies are the Fula twins, really happy to have graduated to their new school. Twins are usually given the same names across Gambia: Boys being Assan and Ousainou and girls Adama and Awa. We have several sets of twins sponsored for school. I am not sure of the actual percentages but it seems far more frequent to have twins here than in the UK. Twins obviously put a massive financial strain on the families never mind the health implications of feeding twins when the mother’s’ diet is poor and lacking proper nutrients. This is one cause of our kids being much smaller that their UK counterparts.
Mammadou (above) was doing what boys do best when he fell and broke his elbow. We were lucky that I had a splint from the donated medical supplies and was able to treat him, having first aid training and also broken my elbow in my equine days. Not one week can go past without someone asking for medical assistance from us. Whether that is painkillers for a fever or headache or occasions when boys break their bones.
While Sol has been busy registering the kids, I have been mainly lying flat so as not to dislodge the vertebrae that have slipped further. It was a welcome sight when a group of our kids came to visit me in my bed. The highlight of 2 months was seeing their faces and knowing how much they care about me. Making the trip to our compound from their area is a long one and it was really appreciated. All camped out on my bed . One Love at work again.
Sadly 3 of these girls had lost their sponsorship and it was a difficult conversation to have, explaining why and that we will do our utmost to find new more committed sponsors as soon as we can.
, This is Yaya, he is also looking for a new sponsor, having completed Nursery 1 and 2 he now wants to go back to Nursery 3 if a new sponsor can be found. Yaya has a younger sister too who was due to start this September so anyone wanting to sponsor siblings please do press that “contact us button” to give them a chance of education.
Above another crop of eager kids all registered and ready to make the most of this opportunity you have given them. Hadim & Mamajara, Toulie B, Fatou C, MoLamin M, MM, Mohammadou, Hajara, and Abli C.
Part way through the registrations was Koriteh. The Muslim festival to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Aside from school being closed for a few days, further delaying the registration process it was a time to wear our best outfit and thank God for letting us complete another Ramadan. A few photos of some of our kids in their finery below:
Abli, Aissatou & Neneh (needs new sponsor)
Naffie, Salou, Ebrima D,Baboucarr, Daddy boy and Salou, Salif.
PaOus, Saul (needs new sponsor) PaOus & PaBadjie & Cherno (needs new sponsor)
Ebrima D, Ebrima B, Dawda & Tong Tong Omar
Bakary S, Modou, Daddy Boy
Hajara, Haddy, Hoja
Isatou J. In need of a new sponsor to take her though to the end of her education.
Yamadow, Fatou J, MaSerey, Lil Fattie
Naffie, Lil Mariamma, PaOus & Abli, Baynass above and Binta, Habsa, Hadim and Kale twin below.
Like young girls the world over, our girls take this opportunity to don wigs and their mum’s make up making them almost unrecognisable! I did a double take at Binta above in the red dress! Where has that small girl who clung to me crying not to leave for the UK 7 years ago gone? And Habsa in yellow like a mini version of her mum.
Koriteh ends with the Imam leading prayers to thank God for a peaceful Ramadan. As the mosques are generally tiny and maybe fit only 50 people inside, all the streets are lined with people praying. The women spend all morning from the crack of dawn going to market, preparing huge bowls of rice, usually Benechin, a Gambian take on West African Jollof rice before everyone comes to eat after 2pm prayers. Lunch is usually served around 3pm and everyone shares. Spoons are a rarity and bowls of rice are divided by the gender and age of the people eating it. And is eaten sat on the floor. (no tables and chairs or cutlery here!)
Once the long weekend of celebration was over, Sol was back to it. Rounding up another batch of kids. Did you know that to register one kid in school Sol has to walk or wade 20 minutes across sand or water to the road where he catches the giley giley? From there he may take as many as 6 giley giley’s to reach his destination as they run pre-set routes. So for example to get from our area to Banjul would take 5 changes of giley giley. They do not run to timetables but as and when the driver has a full mini van. So, if not many people want to go to your destination you have to sit in the roasting van until it is is full enough for the driver to move. Up to an hour at times. Hot. Sweaty. Frustrating. Gambian Maybe Time.
Sol was back on the registration bus to get Ami Pa Ous Wuday and Salif and Bakary & Ebe into school for September. Another cramped taxi ride for our charges. But better than an hours walk in teh 40 degree heat and 90 % humidity.
Jarra aged 7 this year is looking for a new sponsor.
Ami B #1 has had an awful experience in her life. When she was just 8 or 9 she witnessed her elder brother being fatally electrocuted. She was fortunate to find a sponsor not long after but is now in need of a new sponsor to enable her to continue in school. She lives with her elder mother and would love to re-join her friends in school.
Below: Our Dear Isatou’s who we lost in March, Grandma selling pepper and groundnut while sat on the floor in her late 70’s. And wash day for Wuday and Salif. As kids reach 10+ they become responsible for washing their own clothes. By hand. In cold water.
As the time marches on, Sol took to taxi’s to cram as many kids as possible inside to try and hasten the process as Head teachers were informing us they were ready to leave for the summer vacation. Another day another taxi ride: Kale twins Adama and Awa joined by the Jatta sisters, Abli J, Alasan, Cherno and the two Manneh sisters
Manneh Sisters, Awa S, Jatta sisters, Alasan and Abli J, Daddy all signed up and ready to roll.
Ismaila, aged 8 has completed Nursery and Primary 1 and is now looking for a new sponsor to help him make the most of the opportunity of education and a passport out of poverty for him and his family. If you’d like to stick with Ismalia until he leaves school please click the “contact us” button. Next to Ismaila is Awa B age 6. She has completed Nursery 1 & 2 and is now looking for someone to help her stay in nursery to complete Nursery 3 and help her through the rest of her school years. And Aji age 7, also due to go to Nursery 3 but in need of a sponsor to achieve this. I cannot stress the importance of the dedication and commitment needed to sponsor a kid for school. Dropping them part way through is as devastating for them as it is traumatic for us to explain they have to leave.
Ndoulie, “Little Miss” being registered and smiley boy Baboucarr C happy being in school. And our two extra special kids Ney and Jakob with new school bags and shoes to help the trough the next school year. Their special school provides lunch so their fees include this and the balance is used for necessities like bags and shoes.
Above our star pupils Malang, former head boy has just graduated to the next level and is looking for a sponsor to help him complete his education. One of my favourites’ like my own sons; Babou and brother PaMalang all set for September and finally Mohammed S with his mum and delighted to be in school for another year thanks to all their sponsors. Below Momkumbu and his beautiful smile 🙂
Bright button Ousman and his mum. He’s gone from a shy little boy to graduating Nursery 3. Well done Ousman and sponsor for seeing him through all this.
Yamadow, Rougie and Ebrima D all sorted thanks to Deputy Head for standing in to save Sol another trip.
As the end of term approached, some school reports came out. Some of our star pupils with their excellent reports above: Awa S, Abli C, Mamadou and MoLamin F. It never stops for us (when I am not laid up that is) Registrations, gathering school reports, delivering school supplies, checking on kids progress. A full time occupation but worth it when you know how much these kids mean to us and visa versa. Me being out of action has doubled the work for Sol this year. When people ask why I married him and moved 4000 KM to live here. Take a look at his face below. After weeks of relentless too-ing and fro-ing with 200 kids in extreme heat and adverse weather conditions. He is still smiling. Skoolz4kids is not an anonymous organisation but these kids are now part of our family. For real. But boy, please pay your fees on time, because this year the delays in payments has made our job really difficult as the photos below are about to show. Getting to Nifiola was a mission in the rain. The taxi broke down. Everyone had to push it out the mud and Sol and assistant along with father and son had to walk an hour to get a giley giley back home. And go back again as the Head Teacher couldn’t make it there because of the rain! Had the fees all been paid we would have completed our task well before the rainy season.
And while Lamin and his teenage hormones stares into space ALL our kids are done. Praise be. Abaraka Barke Mr Badjie. None of this would be possible without you and all your hard work in difficult circumstances. You have earned a rest. One Love skoolz4kids family. Another academic year done and dusted and another bunch of kids being taken from poverty to holding their future in their own hands. Thank you sponsors for making this a reality for them.