The school twinning programme between UK and Gambian schools is headed up by Alhaji Camara, who lives in Wolverhampton and is a committee member of the Friends of the Gambia Association.
FoTGA’s twinning initiative aims to create school-based twinning projects to develop and extend learning opportunities by building partnerships between UK schools and the communities in which they operate, with ones in The Gambia. FoTGA’s long term vision is to create working relationships so that both sides of any link are enabled to support, cooper-ate and share best practice.This will benefit a generation of young people by enrich-ing educational and cultural understanding for both schools.
The twinning will provide a platform for both schools to:
Have a form of communication at global level.
Create a better understanding between cultures, and thus change perceptions and prevent stereotyping.
Exchange ideas about culture, religion, art and technology .
Provide a model for other countries and schools.
If you, or you know of anyone who may be interested in this worthwhile
exercise which would benefit so many children, please contact:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 07412223085
GOVI, the Gambia Organisation for the Visually Impaired, is a registered non-governmental organisation which was founded in Banjul in 1991 after a merger between The Gambia Society for the Blind and The Gambia Association of the Blind.
The GOVI Resource Centre in Kanifing South is the only special needs school for children with impaired vision in The Gambia.
The school educates children up to Grade 4. They then enter mainstream education in a Lower Basic School.
There are approximately 60 children at the school. Many of them have other disabilities besides impaired vision.
Many children come from very poor homes even by Gambian standards.
The school charges no fees; it also provides uniforms, school materials and lunches.
The school runs two buses but some of the pupils live away from the bus routes and need to take “bush taxis” before they meet the bus.
The salaries of the teachers are paid for by the state, but the upkeep of the buildings and the provision of school materials is paid for by a number of charitable organisations that support the school.
The Friends of The Gambia has been one of those organisations since November 2014.
Since then FoTGA has supplied the following on a regular basis:
Rice for lunches, 21 bags per year. Each bag holds 50kg (1 cwt).
Fares for six children who live away from the bus routes.
FoTGA has also paid for the rebuilding of a section of the perimeter wall which was a serious danger to the pupils and the public.
FoTGA has paid for the installation of an irrigation system so that the school can grow bananas both for the pupils’ consumption and for sale to a wholesaler.
FoTGA has now funded 450 cataract operations.
As far as we know, FoTGA is the biggest contributor, by far, of funds for free cataract operations in The Gambia.
Many, many thanks must go to those who have donated large and small amounts of money to make this possible.
It is our intention to continue to fund these operations for as long as there is the evident extreme need.
It is our aim to raise £8,000 for operations each year.
However we need to raise other money for ophthalmic equipment.
Much of the equipment used by the ophthalmic surgeons was donated by Sightsavers.
They supplied the vehicles, the instruments, trained the surgeons and the technicians.
They set up a well-equipped scheme for the provision of eye care in The Gambia.
In 2013, they moved the focus of their attention on other African countries where the need was greater.
The Gambian health service were given the tools and they had then to get on with the job.
It is certain that this would have happened if the government of The Gambia had not been in the hands of a despot.
His only intent was to line his own pockets with as much money as he could steal.
As a result the health service in The Gambia has been starved of funds for decades and that situation continues.
Equipment is breaking down and there are no funds to buy spare parts.
Trained surgeons and technicians have emigrated.
Currently there is only one technician in the whole of The Gambia who is qualified to maintain ophthalmic equipment.
There is a new government in power; the despot is in exile.
The people of The Gambia have high hopes of an improvement in their lives.
Large sums of money have been raised internationally.
Major road and power generation projects have been started.
Unfortunately it is taking a long time for new money to come into the health service.
Too long to sit back and wait for improvement.
It is our intention to supply equipment which is needed for the cataract camps to continue.
Our current assessment of the situation is that that two slit lamp microscopes and an operating microscope plus spares are urgently needed.
We have only a rough estimate for these items.
One supplier has said that he will donate a refurbished table mounted slit lamp microscope for free and assist us in obtaining the best possible price for a new portable instrument, hopefully under £2,000.
A new or refurbished operating microscope is a much more expensive item.
The need is enormous and the effect on people’s lives is so great that we cannot relax in our efforts.
Since 2014 FoTGA has raised money to fund free cataract operations for the very poor in The Gambia.
The patients are very poor, so poor that they go totally blind because they cannot afford the D2,000 necessary to pay for the operation and the post-operative care.
D2,000 is currently the equivalent of £33.33.
For those who live in the Kombos, in and around Serrkunda, that is all they would have to pay but for others there is also the cost of transport and subsistence for the patient and a carer.
Although the country is small (about the size of Yorkshire in area) its elongated shape means that some people live as far as 200 miles from the main eye hospital.
Whilst poverty in The Gambia is widespread, poverty in the rural areas, away from the tourist haunts, is at its most severe. Subsistence farming will allow a family to eat but cash is in very short supply.
As their sight diminishes, people with cataracts become totally inactive and wholly dependent on someone in the family seeing to their most basic needs. They cannot go to the toilet on their own as it is unsafe. They sit in the house and do nothing.
The money that is raised by FoTGA is given to the nurse surgeons of the National Eye Health Project to run “cataract camps”.
The cataract camps are very effective because the surgeons come to the patients.
No costs are incurred by the patients.
D120,000 is necessary to provide 50 operations.
In some areas, a radio appeal is made for patients to come for assessment in a local health outpost: in other areas, scouts are sent out to the villages so that patients can be assessed at home.
Many who qualify for the free treatment have to be turned away; at one recent camp, 197 people were eligible but there was only money for 50 operations.
It doesn’t need a miracle to give someone back their sight; £40.00 will put joy on someone’s face when they find that they can see again.
This is the list of camps that have been funded by FoTGA.
A formal report is written after each camp and sent to FoTGA in the UK.
November 2014 Soma 50 operations
April 2015 Soma and Karantaba 50 operations
October 2015 Essau 30 operations
October 2015 Soma 16 operations
April 2016 Kaur 50 operations
May 2015 Bansang 50 operations
October 2016 Bwiam 50 operations
May 2017 Essau 50 operations
May 2017 Soma 50 operations
January 2018 Farafenni, Salikenni and Kaur 50 operations