A visit to a school in The Gambia

The anchorage at Oyster Creek was full of life; here, tourists start their trip when they go on the river or in the mangroves by boat, and on land there’s load of little cafes, clothes vendors etc. We wanted to go and visit the holy crocodiles in the Kachikally Crocodile Pool, and again we decided to walk to our destination, much to the bewilderment of the many, many taxi drivers who offered us a ride on the way there. The road took us through yet another protected nature area – which seemed to be where the people from the city dumped their garbage.

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Oyster Creek

Before seeing the crocodiles, we walked through a museum, showing many traditional items, like music instruments and costumes used for circumcision parties. When we finally got to the crocodiles, Mattis started running towards them, and the many, otherwise very relaxed, guides suddenly moved very quickly to stop him. Mattis simply hadn’t realized that the animals were alive. One of the guides showed us around the pond, and told us which animals could be touched. “Just don’t touch the head” he adviced. Apparently, the crocodiles live on a diet of fish, and don’t associate other animals (or humans) with food. And are fed so much they are not interested in eating anyways.

After the crocodile visit we made our way to the Serrakunda market, to get some vegetables for the first time since leaving Jang Jang Burreh. People were very nice, and slightly bemused to see white people in the market. I asked one lady the price of her aubergines, to which she replied “10 Dalasi”. Then I told her I would like to buy three aubergines from her. “OK, that’s 50 Dalasi”. After a bit bargaining I got her down to three for 30 Dalasi. We, of course, know that we are fortunate in Denmark and Germany to have access to free and good schools, but on the markets in West Africa it really became clear how difficult math is if you have never learned it.

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At the Serrekunda market

For the past 10 years, we have sponsored the school fees of Lalia, a Gambian girl who lives south of Banjul. The sponsorship is organized through the Danish organization “Skagenskolen”, which has also built a school and a medical clinic in the village of Sambuyan. By coincident, some of the Danish volunteers had just arrived to spent some time overseeing the activities in The Gambia, and they invited us to come and visit the school, an invitation we were very happy to accept. We rented a taxi for the day, and started the chaotic trip down through the Serrakunda main street, and further south, until we finally were close to the village a couple of hours later. Here, Leif came in his 4WD to show us the way to the school on the sandy back streets. The village has no electricity, and until recently, water had to be hoisted by hand from wells. Now Skagenskolen has built pumps for the water, but life is still very basic in the village. Hanne and Leif showed us around in the impressive school, which includes both a nursery school (120 students) and a primary school (600 students). The students are sponsored by Danes paying 500kr per year (around 70 euro), very little considering the impact it has on the lives of these kids. During our stay in West Africa, we have honestly become quiet disillusioned about people from the west “helping” Africa by simply giving things. Our impression is that it is not a help at all, it just keeps them in a position where they are dependent on help from the outside. But hopefully schooling is a different matter, hopefully it will help these kids to fight for a better life for themselves.

Another big thing that Skagenskolen has provided in the village, is a medical clinic with a section where women can give birth. Though the place is very basic, it means that people in the area have access to medical care in an emergency, an amazing improvement from nothing.

It was very nice and interesting to visit Hanne, Leif and the young volunteer Emma and hear their thoughts about and experiences in the Gambia. But soon we needed to move on to go visit Lalia and her family, who didn’t live far away. We have been sponsoring the school of Lalia since she was a little girl, and now she is finishing school and getting ready to go to university. Very cool! We met her whole family; siblings, grandmother, parents, aunts, cousins etc. who all lived together in a complex of houses around an inner yard. It didn’t take long before all the kids were out playing and inviting Runa to play with them. Mattis, on the other hand, was a bit confused, and preferred chasing the chickens with some of the smaller boys. We spent a nice couple of hours chatting to the family and learning about their life, before it was time to go back to Oyster Creek. But it had been a very interesting day, learning about the Gambia from some very different view points.

To see our most recent position, click here and scroll down.

One thought on “A visit to a school in The Gambia

  1. That’s crazy patting crocs, not sure you would try that here in Oz.
    We do the same when travelling, a combination of walking and transport. You see so much more walking,
    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

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