Time to Wind Down

When Phil and Joan Feller flew to The Gambia on June 2 they were looking forward to agreeing with the GOVI board that the Friends could go ahead with providing the school with a purpose-built building for the nursery class.

The Friends’ representative in The Gambia, Lamin Saidy, had obtained estimates from contractors and several members of the GOVI Board had intonated that they were in full agreement with the location and construction.

The Fellers, therefore, deposited sufficient funds for the project in the Friends’ account in The Gambia. They knew that as the overseer of the project Lamin Saidy would do as good a job as he had done with the Bantaba.

The head teacher of the school, Ali Sallah, had impressed upon the Fellers and upon GOVI that a nursery classroom with its own washing and toilet facilities was urgently needed.

Soon after their arrival in The Gambia the Fellers were given the impression that the Friends would be able to go ahead with the nursery classroom project. But it was not to be.

First, a GOVI Board member told them that it was for GOVI to run the school and the Friends were no longer needed. Then the GOVI Board informed the Fellers that construction of the nursery class would be carried out by the Project Coordinating Unit  (PCU) of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MOBSE).

The trustees of this charity have agreed, therefore, that it is time to wind down and to sever its links with the school.

Lamin Saidy delivers money each week for the food programme at the school but this will cease when the funds for that run out at the end of this term. There are no more funds for uniforms, maintenance, or any other requests from the school.

It has been a fantastic achievement for a small charity like ours to have raised over GB £250,000 to assist visually impaired children in The Gambia. This has enabled the Friends not only to see a purpose-built school constructed but also to keep it well maintained for over 20 years thanks to Lamin Saidy.

Sarjo Bajinka,  a former head teacher at the school, is now head of training of special needs teachers within the government’s integrated education programme. This means he is in a good position to identify suitable projects in the provinces which we could assist using the funds originally set aside for the nursery class. We wll post updates about that.

Teacher training was one of the charity’s original objectives and it is very encouraging to hear that there are now 28 itinerant teachers providing educational assistance to about 181 children who live too far away from Banjul to attend the school at the GOVI Resource Centre.

We are delighted to have witnessed the wonderful progress made in providing education for visually impaired children. Phil especially thanked the Permanent Secretary and the staff of MOBSE for all they had done to facilitate that.  And it would not have been possible without GOVI and the inspiration provided over the years by the visually impaired members of its Board.

It is also an amazing achievement that Muhammed Kubally is now a magistrate. During their visit Phil and Joan presented to him a laptop computer and the latest Guide 9 Dolphin programme for the visually impaired. This will assist him not only in his work as a magistrate but also in his BL Studies at the Gambia Law School. The Friends have paid his course fees.

We are sad to sever our contact with the GOVI Resource Centre school. We wish it all the best under the leadership of Ali Sallah, GOVI, MOBSE and the PCU.

Our job is done. We are delighted that we have more than achieved the aims of the charity when it was founded.