By Ali Calvert
The Mariama Mae Pre-school is celebrating. A lot has been happening in the past twelve months. The latest big event is brand new metal playground equipment, which all the children and staff love.
This wonderful playground was made possible by a very dear friend of mine Sue, who came out to visit the school with me in February this year. Unknown to me she had been raising funds from family, friends and colleagues who wanted to do some sort of project for the school. I would at this point like to thank all of those people for providing our school with one of the happiest pieces of equipment it has ever received. Thank you.
After a week of living and being in school with Fatou (our head teacher) Sue and Fatou had decided on their project. Their first port of call was to visit the Iron Man in Brikarma, a much larger town a bush taxi ride away, who would be making and supervising the installation of the playground. After talking with him Sue and Fatou now knew how much equipment could be bought, so all that was left to decide was what was needed, where it would be placed in the playground and to arrange transport, cement and labour and to make sure everything was safely installed.
All of this came to a little over Sue’s budget but I had been given some money from my local charity shop here in Porthleven which made it possible to complete the playground. Thank you Winston.
Unfortunately our visit was over before the playground equipment had arrived so we had to wait patiently to receive photographs of the finished project. My heart sang when I saw the photographs. The school now has a fantastic outside play area which is more than we could have dreamed of. Thank you.
You will see by the pictures that the school walls are gradually being brightly decorated and this is thanks to Jo and Butch who have directed some of their youth project teams to the Mariama Mae School, and therefore we would also like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped with this.
The school, both inside and outside, is looking good. It was completely repainted this year and has been maintained to a high standard, which is important if we want to be taken seriously as a school looking to make changed in pre-school education and to show that every penny is spent on providing as good a school as possible.
I am very proud of the Mariama Mae School and want to say thank you to everyone connected to it especially to all those who donate monthly, because without your support our school would not exist. You really are the foundations of the school and always have been. Your commitment is what pays wages, maintains the building, buys essential equipment and enables Fatou and her staff to have the security of knowing they have a school to teach in. Thank you for all your help.
As I said Sue spent time in school with us which was lovely but also very useful to me and helpful to see the school through fresh eyes. What I was reminded of by Sue was how calm our school is and how able the children are to complete tasks set for them and how automatically they help each other and explain things to each other. Something which sounds fundamental, but is not always found in Gambian Pre-schools. Here, in our school, children are actively given responsibility and allowed space to discuss their own learning. I know we are doing a good job and the children that pass through the Mariama Mae School are getting a comprehensive and full education.
My next concert is to make sure that all the staff continue to be inspired and that they have the time and energy put into their development.
By Ali Calvert
This is a well overdue update on the Mariama Mae Pre-School; sorry it has taken so long. We have been busy building a secure perimeter wall and a strong metal entrance gate. Glad to say this is now complete and looking good. We hope in the future to be able to plant Bougainvillea, (a fast growing flowering climber) up the walls to provide a bright environment.
Because of this building work the school has gained extra playground space which Fatou Janneh, the head teacher, has been creatively filling, a children’s garden where they can learn to plant, grow and care for food crops; a fabulous area playground area with climbing bars, swings and balance beams; a wonderful sandpit, and Fatou’s latest addition is a water play trough. All of these have been colourfully painted and are in non-stop use. The children are delighted with these new activities and wanting to use them at every opportunity.
I spent a lovely half hour just watching the children on all this new equipment. I wish I could capture the joy that the children find in this simple play. The delight and the laughter they share as they experiment and get involved in these activities is beautiful; if you just sit and observe you see how much learning is taking place.
I cannot praise the staff enough for the continual commitment to their children and the school in general. Everyone is working hard, constantly improving themselves and the school through attending The Early Years Training Course at Gambia College. Fatou, who started in class 1, has just completed her three years training, is now working closely with her head teacher gaining experience to enable her to teach both classes 2 and 3, well done Fatou. We welcome Bintu, our new class 1 teacher, who I feel will bring a lot of vibrant positive energy both to her class and to the school. She has just begun her training. Tako our class 3 teacher has now settled very well into the school, she has a very calm approach and her children respond well to her as she prepares them to move to Lower Basic School. Tako is now in her second year at college and enjoying it very much.
In all the teachers you can see a keenness to learn and share new ideas that going to the college gives them. It is a pleasure to see these ideas being brought back into the classroom with enthusiasm to benefit the children.
All the staff are teaching a broad based comprehensive level of early years education. They understand the importance that the children are given the opportunity to learn through varied creative and physical activities. I am very proud of everyone involved who help to achieve this; that is not to say there aren’t the usual hiccups in maintaining a school in Africa.
At this point I like to think “if only people could see for themselves”: This has happened this year, two separate families have gone out for a visit to the school. It was a real positive for everyone, I ws delighted that people wanted to go, see for themselves, it also gives a boost to the staff that others are interested in their work.
I would like to thank everyone for their continued support in making Mariama Mae Pre-School what it is - a really lovely school. I would like to thank everyone involved in the curry evening, a fundraising event that took place at Roger and Honors. It was amazing, thank you for all your hard work, what a wonderful evening.
Our school is developing into a place where practical real learning can take place within firm foundations for the staff and children, growing and encouraging confidence and furthering education within their community.
The founder of Mariama Mae Pre-School in Gunjur, Ali Calvert, has posted a report on progress at the school, as well as plenty of new photos. Click here to see the latest from this wonderful project.
By Katy, a supporter
What a pleasure it was to visit The Gambia for the first time, primarily to see the Mariama Mae Pre-School in Gunjur.
In a corner of what we would call a very large primary school, within the branches of two Baoba trees, lay a Gambia pre-school. You can see that this pre-school has been carefully planned and resourced with Gambian children aged four to seven years in mind.
There are two buildings. The first is divided into class one and class two, and also includes an office and two storage rooms. Class three for the older children is in a separate building across the yard. In between is a building decorated with colour paintings of flowers and containing two porcelain toilets. The classrooms are situated on a perfect sized plot which allows the children freedom at play time; it has shade from a mango tree and a raised seating area around which is a mosaic of broken tiles for decoration. New to the playground is a large sand pit, a guaranteed hit with children world wide.
On entering the preschool I find the atmosphere welcoming, and notice the 'preschool buzz' straight away. I feel happy here and I can tell that the children are happy to be at school. They have the correct attitude to assist learning through play and discovery.
Work and projects decorate the rooms from all angles. The resources in the classroom have been carefully chosen and reflect their nationality. Book shelves with reading schemes focused around African life and story books about African animals and people.
The principle teacher is a friendly, warm and approachable lady who has chosen her team well and seems to effortlessly run the school in a calm manner.
Congratulations to everybody involved in making Mariama Mae Pre-School such a wonderful example of a Gambian pre-school. I am sure this school, if not already, will become a model for other developing pre-schools in The Gambia, and I am privelleged to have seen it in action and I am happy to support this school.
By Alison Calvert, founder of the Mariama Mae Nursery School
By Alison Calvert, founder of Mariama Mae Nursery School
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The news diary is written by a number of people close to the work of the African Oyster Trust, including founder James Holden, his co-directors, trustees and volunteers.