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Another village gets a school

One of the most gratifying ventures we have been involved with was the building of Pacharr Lower Basic school. I've written about this school before so I won't repeat that here, but if you haven't heard this story (or want to hear it again - I promise it will warm your heart); you can read it  HERE.   In essence, the promise of universal education falls apart if the school where you start 1st grade is too far from your home to walk to.  While some families who understand the value of education will simply wait until their children are older and start them late, when they are old enough to walk that far, too many will not.  They will just never start at all.

With the World Bank susidizing school fees in The Gambia at the lower grades the last several years, the Gambian government now has a greater ability to send teachers to new schools since their salaries are in effect paid by the World Bank. 

This was not the case when when our upcountry coordinator, Kebba Sanyang, started working with the community of Pacharr to get a school built for their community. Nevertheless, build it they did. The children of Pacharr would now attend grades 1 to 3 in their village school, after which they would be old enough to move on to St. Therese's in Fula Bantang for the upper grades.

About a year after the Pacharr school opened as a full-fledged grade Lower Basic Cycle School, a binder arrived at Kebba's office at St. Therese's.

Inside was what may have been the clearest and simplest application I have ever read.  It was from the Alkalo (village chief) of Njie Kunda, a village somewhat further from Fula Bantang than Pacharr, in the opposite direction.

The appeal was simple: a list of the names, dates of birth, and villages of more than 100 students who were not in school in Njie Kunda and two neighboring villages, along with a map of land that the alkalo was offering, on which a school could be built.

After conferring with us, Kebba made the same offer to Njie Kunda that we had made to Pacharr: if the community built the school, GambiaRising would provide the funds for a roof, benches, and blackboards. And Kebba would work with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education to have the school approved and teachers provided. This plan was agreed to, and the race was on to beat the summer rains.

First, community members hand made bricks, and dug a trench in which a foundation could be laid.  After that,the walls were built, and an outer coat of mud/plaster added.  Finally, just  before the rains, the roof was put on.

And so, when schools around The Gambia opened a few weeks ago, the new Lower Basic Cycle school in Njie Kunda opened for classes.  Enrolled on Day One were 103 children who otherwise would not be in school.

60 of them were girls.

Mike McConnell
Managing Trustee

1500 Park Ave Apt 503
Emeryville, CA  94608