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GETS in Gambia



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Week ending 18th December 2015

The last week of term is always quite frenetic with many new events fitting in as well as the normal events too. We carried on delivering some lessons, in this picture one of our newer Skills Training students is showing off her chopping skills in cookery, wrapped up against the Gambia cold winter mornings. (Probably around 20 deg C!)

 We still have supporters visiting Sunrise. This time our long time friends Tessa and Ray Harding who have helped a number of students and pupils over many years through GETS. The picture shows them talking to Mr Beyai, who is the teacher of the boy whom they support in Lower Basic 1, Sheriff Tamba.


We crammed in an important PTA meeting, discussing the many hot topics that parents and teachers needed to debate. One of these was how we managed the children who weren’t picked up at the end of Nursery school, either because parents were late or because they were waiting for older brothers or sisters to finish class in other parts of Sunrise.

We always have at least one debate at the end of term. The picture shows the Lower Basic and Students from Skills listening to the older children debating a hot topic; “Are Teachers more important than Doctors”. A successful debate got good feedback from teachers and a winner proclaimed, based on speech clarity, use of English and the arguments used. We’ve used this topic before but it is always very interesting to hear the new discussions that come from this.









Finally we had our annual Christmas card competition, this time in our oldest Lower Basic class, grade 4. The winning entry from Nasarta Sanyang is shown here with some of the runner-ups.

The pupils, aged around 11 had to draw a card that was brightly coloured so that it might be animated and sent out to our sponsors to say thank you for their support.

All were very good this year again.
The general message was Happy Christmas to all!

 School breaks up now and the blog will restart in early January 2016.

Week ending 11th December

Last week we had a big group of visitors from the Taylor family who sponsor a number of students in The Sunrise Centre. Tony managed to get mum and dad (Pat and Geoff) to pose with daughters Tori and Jenny plus Jenny's fiance, Stuart, in the playground that we are completing, if rather slowly.

 Tori later met up with Awa Nying from Skills Year 2 whom she sponsors.

They visited the Nursery classroom to see how the learning was progressing in Nursery 3 under their very capable teacher, Fatou Sanneh. One of the children that Pat and Geoff support, Jankey Secka, is pictured here writing with intense concentration.

 Tony also managed to catch Pat talking with Isata Sey from our Lower Basic 3, another of our students supported by Pat and Geoff.

We are very grateful for the support that the family bring to Sunrise and for the gifts of resources that they always bring us too. Thank you.






 In our Bantaba the Year 2 Skills Training Students were making biscuits outlines prior to cooking in the gas oven. The results were excellent.

Also this week we have been working on cutting out pieces of material for making uniforms.  The material is gathered and laid on the tie and dye slab before the addition of dyes.

 The result is the golden yellow colour material that we use for dressing our Nursery children, now drying throughout the centre.

Week ending 4th December

This week's blog features the many photo opportunities on our Mufti Day. The children paid a small fee to come without uniform, just D5 or 7p. The day began with Mrs Sally Cessay (N2 Teacher) drumming with an oil drum to allow the staff and children to dance, in turn. 

The venue was the school sports area, ringed with children. Staff, like Mbacho Jallow, encouraged the children to entertain, whilst the others clapped out a rhythm, allowing dancing Jola style (with much stamping of feet). 


The staff also dressed up and the picture shows Mrs Jawara looking particularly elegant. 

 More Jola dancing from classroom assistant Yassin ‎supported by Paul, another very outward going child who often dances for us. 

 We gave prizes for the best dressed students in traditional costume and these pictures show Fatou Naban (Sk1) as a Mandinka bride and Sang Secka (Sk1) with his mum's Sera top and ‎father's Jola trousers. 


 Winners in Lower Basic were Jainaba Touray and Mariama Singhateh. 


 Nursery winners were Fatima Singhateh and Momodou Alpha Ntule. 


Mr Bah did a great job as Master of Ceremony in the hall and everyone seemed to enjoy the day.  

Week ending 27th November

Another busy week meeting some old friends and also new ones. We were pleased to welcome back Jacqui Barlow and her friend (a Gambian new-comer) Alison Dawson. They brought us resources to stock up our store cupboard. Thank you.

 Sue Nelson was in school today and met up with the young girl that she has just started sponsoring; Aji Jainaba Nyang with her LB G1 teacher, Mr Beyai. Aji would have had to leave school if not for Sue’s help.

 Old friends Barbara and Barry Young were in school this week, to see us and also with a letter to deliver to Ousman Cham. His sponsor, had sent him a nice letter, slowly read to Ousman by Barry, and also some UK Scout Badges, since his UK sponsor is a key worker in this important area of youth support. Scouting is practised in The Gambia though Ousman didn’t know about this.



Barbara and Barry enjoyed the normal tour of the facilities to check on our progress in Sunrise and meet some of our staff. The picture shows them in Nursery 1 with Teacher Kaddy Jawara and assistant Mbacho Jallow.

 This week was the first week for another newcomer to The Sunrise Centre, Fatou Krubally. Her mum brought her in with her new uniform to begin in Lower Basic G1. Fatou didn’t seem nervous about starting at a new school which is great. She is a Mandinka and a Muslim.

 Friday was Mufti Day with lots of pictures, to come next week, but here is just a sample. Everyone in the Hall showing off a mass of beautiful colours.

Week ending 20th November

This week we had a very important person join the staff of Sunrise, our new Education Director, Mr Alkali Cham. He replaces the previous director (Kaddy Fofana) who left us to further her education and career within Teacher Training. Mr Cham was welcomed to Sunrise by Sue Nelson (Trustee) and a selection of children from across the school. We are very pleased to see Mr Cham bring new ideas and experience to help us in Sunrise.

 Mrs Cham’s baby (Haddy) was in school again this week and appeared in another photo, this time with Sue. Haddy often arrives at breaktime to be fed by her mum. Haddy must be good at telling the time already!

 Each area of the school has assemblies during the week. The 4 classes in the Lower Basic school are beginning to fill the hall but we will be squeezing them more over the next 2 years as we fill our final classrooms with G5 and G6 classes.



Mr Cham (Education Director) enjoyed teaching both Nursery students and teachers a new song about a donkey, with lovely actions that were performed enthusiastically.

 With our building works nearing completion we have collected loads of rubbish that the builders are slowly removing. The truck sent to take this too the tip took some filling but the site looks much better as a result.


Our Nursery 1 Teacher, Mrs Jawara brought her sister-in-law to school to see the children one day this week. Maria Garcia, who is Spanish, enjoyed a tour of inspection and spent time with the children in class too. Although she doesn’t speak much English, one of the G4 Lower Basic Students (Nasarata Sanyang) can speak Spanish and English (plus local languages too, of course) so helped with interpreting the commentary on the tour. Very impressive, thank you Nasarata!


Week ending 13th November

This week has been a time for visitors, both from within the Gambia and from abroad, since the tourist season is well under way now.
Firstly our very good friend and long time supporter, Mrs Chow came into see us. Mrs Chow still lives in Bakoteh and runs an excellent school in Fajara, as well as doing many other things in the field of education. She is pictured in the office with Helen and another of our good friends and supporters, Chris Humphries. Chris has come with her husband Steve to help us on Mondays and Thursdays. Steve paints everything! Chris loves working with the youngsters, helping them catch up on reading and other work where they struggle.

 We then caught up with Angela Longoni-Sarr who raises money for the charity on a regular basis, through her UK enterprise Mandinka Crafts. Angela, together with partner Johnnie and her friend Malik Sarr, who drove them all to Sunrise, are pictured with Helen in the office. They all enjoyed a tour of the latest improvements that GETS have given to the community, with the cash that has been raised.

 Other long time supporters are Val and David Allen. They enjoyed the assembly of the Nursery school and were entertained by all the singing, with appropriate actions, followed by an excellent rendition of the Gambian National Anthem.


Also this week we had a visit from Garth Issacs with friend and driver Ousman Minteh. Garth has helped with sponsoring school places for Gambians for many years and hisfriend Ousman, a Gambia who now lives in the UK, was enjoying a return to see family and friends after many years away from them. Lovely to see them enjoying time with some Lower Basic boys in the sports area.


Tony caught all these visitors, together with Denise Green who helps out in the office on regular occasions. It is truly wonderful to have so much help at our school and this means that most things are running smoothly now. The picture shows (from left to right) Denise, Chris Humphries, Val and David Allen and Steve Humphries complete with roller!


 School classes continue too of course - Alfusainey Bah is shown here in his Primary Grade 3 class painting African round houses. Alfusainey has enjoyed being at Sunrise for 5 years now, thanks to support from his UK sponsor and he is growing up fast into a strong and confident individual. He was once very, very shy!


We have 40 students in Skills 1 now and Mr Darboe is working hard to make sure that they know the basics about Tie and Dye theory, including colour and chemical proportions.








Week ending 6th November

Our smallest children from Nursery 1 feature in this week's blog. Tony took pictures of their teacher, Kaddy Jawara, showing them the days of the week and asking them to call them out as a reminder.


One of our most senior classroom assistants, Mbacho Jallow, was helping a young girl drink from our fresh water supplies. The young girl is Chisom Nwagbaraocha, who is nearly 4 years old. She is from the Igbo ethnic background (originally from SE Nigeria) and is a Christian. Her sister is also learning with us in N3. We are about to have fresh water supplied from European style drinking fountains, which we hope will be successful at removing the tubs of cool water around the school.

 In N1 classroom the pupils have been helping teachers colour paper chains and make colourful mobiles to hang from the ceiling.



The first year skills training students are beginning to learn the basic Tie and Dye skills, making beautifully bright coloured cloth and drying it in the bright sunshine behind our bantaba area.


We were also pleased to see Bill Nelson and also with him, trainer and driver Laineh (actually Momodou Laineh). Bill works for the charity First Aid 4 Gambia, training and supplying more than 60 schools throughout The Gambia with equipment and knowledge. We have been helping Bill by storing equipment and supplies at Sunrise, whilst Bill re-organises his facilities in The Gambia. See for more information or to support this worthy cause.

 The teachers at Sunrise often put together resources to help them teach, often using flipchart type stiff paper, known locally as “Vanguards”. Mariama Jarju is pictured here with a Vanguard, showing the series of numbers in French. Mariama is on attachment to Sunrise during her HTC teacher training at Gambia College. Her first language is very much French. She helps us deliver the Gambian Education requirement to teach French in Lower Basic.







Week ending 30th October 

It was good to see the hall at Sunrise filling with growing numbers of children as first the 90 Nursery children -

and then the 120 children from the Lower Basic School - met to sing and join in a number of fun activities. The sound of the Gambian National Anthem at the end of the LB assembly was quite something and very, very loud.


Tony has been taking pictures of each of the classes in each area of the school. These pictures can be found by following the links below -

Nursery classes              Lower Basic classes               Skills classes


A copy of the Nursery 1 picture is shown here.







We still have students coming to collect fees at this late stage of the year. Haddy Jatu Cham came with her mother, Umi to get her fees given by her sponsor so that she could keep attending the Deeper Life school, in Kotu.

 The Skills Training students are now using the enclosed Bantaba. This prevents wild-life from entering the practical area that we use, mostly for catering.

Students from Year 3 are making fairy cakes and our new skills classroom assistant, Fatou Nyassi (from last years skills 3 students), brought some into the office for testing and tasting. Lovely!

Week ending 23rd October 

This week Trustees, Dawn and Paul Webster, left us to return to the UK. As well as helping around the school, they have been writing our blog page since the beginning of the school year. Tony has now taken over both the blog and supporting Helen too in the office, for the next few months.  







School is busy with completing registration for the final (late) students to start. All 3 of the nursery classes (90 children) lined up around their new classroom to pose for a photo. The new nursery wing contains a large classroom, toilets, drinking fountain and storage area. Whilst it is not quite finished, the classroom provides great teaching space for the youngest class. Funds given to us from a Winchester area church (Hampshire Downs Catholic parish - Covenant with the Poor) have made this all possible and we are very grateful for their help.

 One of our successful formal students, Batou Sanneh, came into see us to collect a birthday present, sent out from the UK. It is nice to meet up with the ex-students and see them fulfilling successful lives. Batou has 2 jobs at the moment; one as cashier in a restaurant and she also teaches cookery to other students now in another Skills Centre. Batou has also been very enterprising and it’s wonderful to see her grow in confidence, building on the start that her sponsorship at Sunrise gave her.

At the beginning of term we found out our National Assessment Test (NAT) results. Similar to the UK’s SAT exams, these are Gambia wide assessments, marked centrally and used to grade school and teaching progress, as well as students. Our 9/10 year olds in Lower Basic Grade 3 achieved a fabulous overall 88% pass rate. The weakest area was maths, but the education department is working on this! One of our girls got an average score of 94% in all her exams. Great stuff and well done to teachers and students plus volunteers who helped too!

  Every year we seem to get a youngster with a larger than life personality. This year it is Mallick Sarr, pictured in the hall with Helen. Mallick will grow quickly into Sunrise we hope and his new shorts too!


Mrs Cham is back in Sunrise after the birth of her daughter, Haddy. Mrs Cham sometimes shows off her “pride and joy” to the other members of the Sunrise team. Today it was another of our ex-students (Yassin Jammeh) cuddling Haddy at break time. Yassin, joining Sunrise as a Nursery Classroom Assistant, is one of the latest additions to the growing numbers of Sunrise staff, having been in Skills 3 last year. We now have 27 members of staff at Sunrise, including 2 teachers on attachment from Gambia College teacher training course.

Week ending 16th October 

We congratulate Fatoumata Darboe, who teaches Lower Basic Grade 2, on being successful in her application for a place on the Primary Teaching Certificate course at Gambia College. There are always many more applicants than spaces on the course, which lasts for three years. All the students on this course are already teaching in schools and college attendance is mainly during the school holidays.  Fatou Cham, who teaches Lower Basic 3, is on her second year of this PTC course.

Here is a group from Mrs Cham's present Grade 3 class reading aloud to the rest of the class from their Integrated Studies text book. We hope that, when it is their turn to sit the National Assessment Tests at the end of this school year, they will get as good results as the Grade 3 class which Mrs Cham taught last year.

The welders have been busy all this week as work on erecting the different pieces of equipment for the playground starts to take place.


Before returning to the UK this week, Ruth presented Sunrise with many gifts of puzzles, books, games and tennis balls from her golf club and other friends back home. The children below were delighted when she showed them how to make themselves a bracelet each using one of her gifts.

All the Lower Basic classes are enjoying learning how to introduce themselves to people using a new language, French.

Week ending 9th October

Four members of the School Management Committee came in for a chat after school on Monday.

Tourists are slowly beginning to arrive for the start of the season. A plane from Germany this week brought Christoph Bruns and his wife, who sponsor Fateh Manneh in Skills. He is a teacher and, like Dawn, has seen how much is scrapped (or available to other schools) when new schools open or furniture is replaced in European schools. He hoping he can arrange to send a container with resources both for SOS schools and also for Sunrise.

Following on from talk of sending containers to Gambia, Binta Drammeh, an externally sponsored student, came in to collect her fees for this academic year. Her sponsor, Karl Ward, of Carry Cargo, helped us to send our last container to Sunrise.



  Three more visitors this week were from Food Safety and Quality Authority, who were checking to see if we were doing all the improvements they had requested- such as enclosing the cooking area of the Bantaba (picture in last week's blog). They were pleased to see Susan, who prepares the free breakfast for the nursery children, wearing her new uniform., another of their many requests.

The Lower Basic boys regularly play football on the sports area during their break, whilst the girls' favourite pastime at the moment is playing clapping games under the tree.

Ali Bah is enjoying working in his brand new classroom, though he and the students had problems walking from the hall to the new classroom every time the rain left the pathway a sea of mud! We haven't had much rain this week, so all are hoping the rainy season has come to an end.

Week ending 2nd October

The rain continues -

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - but no rain at Bakoteh on Friday! The potholes and dips on the road from Amsterdam Trading to school are still full of water, but hopefully we are coming to the end of the rainy season and everywhere will dry out.


The cookery half of the Bantaba now has windows and a door to satisfy the health and hygiene inspector - although our students are more used to cooking in the open outside their houses when they are at home.





   French is now a compulsory subject in the Lower Basic school so we have a student in her final year at Gambia Teacher Training College with us this year. Here she is with Fatou Sanneh, who is helping us with talking to Madame - as French is the first language of both of these teachers!

Here are some of our new Nursery 1 with their teacher, Mrs Jawara, in the new nursery classroom.

Here are some of the older nursery children eating their tapalapa filled with fish and spaghetti whilst enjoying their morning break.

Ida Jobe in Lower Basic  in Grade 3 is still hoping to find a sponsor.
See more about her on our Need Sponsors webpage.


Week ending 25th September

Ruth, Dawn and Paul arrived in Gambia on 19th to be greeted by thunder and lightning. There have been thunderstorms with heavy rain every day this week.

Cars splash their way along the main highway and shoppers have to wade back to the cars they left in the car park.

 Registration for the new school year started the previous week, but school was closed to visitors this week because of the Tobaski holiday.

Eric our builder and his men were busy finishing off jobs in the new classroom, such as painting the new blackboards.



However there were many jobs for Helen and the three of us to do, getting ready for school to start next week. Here is Ruth is busy with the guillotine!

Despite being busy preparing for Tobaski, some of the teachers called in to help get the classrooms ready for next Monday.  Fatou  Sanneh and Edrissa Beyai are here in one of the Lower Basic classrooms with Dawn

More news and pictures next week!

6th September 2015 

On 6th September we had the GETS Charity AGM, held this year in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Many thanks to those of our supporters who met with the Trustees in order to supervise the formal business of reviewing the past year and forming a new 2015/6 team to run the charity. We are presently looking for a couple more trustees to join us - any offers?


Our thanks go to Ina Bakker for organising the AGM this year in her home town. Have we a supporter who would like to find a venue in their home town for our next AGM?

 Look out for more issues of the Blog soon as our school and charity office open up in time for the next school term, starting at the end of September - after Tobaski.