The Gambia Project
In 2008 the University of Winchester raised funds to build a new classroom and in February 2010 the Lord-Lieutenant and the Vice Chancellor, Professor Joy Carter visited the school to open the new facility. Links were also established with The University of The Gambia.
The Lord-Lieutenant has been involved with helping Soma School in the Lower River Division of The Gambia since 1998 when Hampshire County Council's Education Committee unanimously agreed to support a Millennium Project for schools in The Gambia. Dame Mary became Patron of the Appeal to raise £50,000. Links with Soma School had already been established in 1989 when a Hampshire Scouts Expedition (HSX) spent 6 weeks building classrooms at Soma and Jiroff Schools.
The Millennium Project
The Millennium Project had four key objectives.
- Provide clean water – there was just one tap serving the 1,450 children and 34 staff.
- Replace the two pit latrines with hygienic facilities.
- Provide cooking facilities on site so that children can have a meal.
- Improve the classrooms and give teachers somewhere to prepare lessons.
Money for the project was raised by Hampshire Schools together with a wide range of private sponsors and benefactors across the county.
Hampshire organisations help out
Many people and organisations gave their help in a variety of ways. The Lord-Lieutenant is the Hon Colonel of the 457 (Hampshire Carabiniers Yeomanry) Battery and in 2002 a group from the Battery raised the funds to take a group to The Gambia and built a new classroom at the school. Dame Mary is also the President of the Kairo Konko Scout Fellowship
Hampshire Fire and Rescue International Rescue Team have provided materials and professional support, both in Banjul and Soma. This included the provision of appliances, kit and training in the effective operation of the materials as well as training in Fire Service activity. There is now a new Fire Station at Soma.
Treloar College in Alton has focused on disability help, providing funding for a rest room extension to one classroom at Soma school to accommodate disabled students access, involved both physiotherapy input and on site training as well as the provision of wheelchairs and other disability equipment for the disabled members of the wider Soma community. Transport is also provided so that the disabled boys whom the College support can attend school.
Hampshire schools and Soma School working together
Individual schools in Hampshire developed links with Soma School. In particular, All Saints Junior School in Fleet has an ongoing link and teachers have travelled to Soma during the school holidays to help at the school. This has enabled teachers to undergo personal professional development as well as helping the school improve the standards of teaching and learning of English. Contributions from Eggar’s School (team of 8 have taught at Soma School) and Amery Hill School have involved developing teaching skills and resources. A school library has been set up with donations of books and resources from Hampshire schools and visitors. Hampshire’s projects in the Gambia have stimulated the local building economy. All the projects receive a high level of support both within the Gambian government and also from the British High Commissioner and his officers in Banjul.
Since the project started, 14 classrooms have been replaced or refurbished, the water supply increased and improved, a resources centre built for teaching staff and cooking facilities provided.