When we visited The Gambia in December it was encouraging to hear that throughout the country there are now 300 visually impaired children receiving full time education.
This is because the IEP (Integrated Education Programme), run by the Gambian education department, continues with the expansion of training teachers who are able to assist visually impaired children across The Gambia with their education and the supply of necessary teaching aids.
This was one of the key aims of our founder member and trustee David Pointon. His death in May 2019 was a sad loss. Without him the Friends could not have achieved so much.
We found the GOVI school a hive of activity in December. The school dining hall was being used to distribute rice to visually impaired persons, the rice having been donated by various agencies. The distribution appeared to be well organised with all those receiving rice being given a numbered slip and a mark on their hand.
There was good attendance by all the school pupils who were their usual noisy selves. The school building had weathered the heavy rains with just a few leaks in the ceilings. A coat of paint would not go amiss. A lady had contacted the Friends indicating a willingness to assist but as yet there has been no further contact.
Alieu Jaiteh, the founder and director of Start Now, the technical centre for visually impaired young people located at Brikama, had a very busy year. Do visit the Start Now in The Gambia website for his full and interesting calendar of events during 2019.
Muhammed Krubally, who was supported by the Friends when studying for the Bar and who now sits on the Brikama Youth Court Bench, has become an inspiration to other visually impaired students.
The Yahaddy nursery school, which opened three years ago thanks to a donation from a founder member of the Friends, now has all three classrooms occupied. Whilst spending time at the school I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the teachers and the keenness of the pupils. One little boy was constantly asking to go home when he first started at the school. Now he does not want to go home at the end of the day.
The Friends have agreed to sponsor a roundabout (made from recycled materials) and a canopy to shade the equipment and children from the blistering heat in the hot season.
In a country where over 20 per cent of the GDP depends upon tourism the collapse of Thomas Cook was a major setback as that company was the main supplier of flights from the UK and holidays to The Gambia. Fortunately other nationalities are now visiting The Gambia with the Dutch leading the way. In general, under President Adama Barrow, the people appear to be happier and more relaxed.
Thanking all who continue to support the Friends.
Friends of Visually Impaired Children in The Gambia