The Lisa Kent Meridian Nursery and Lower Basic
The Lisa Kent Trust built the Merdian Nursery and Lower Basic school at Busumbala, a remote area of the Gambia where there is currently no school.
The Trust owns the land both where the school is currently being built and also the adjacent plot. The Meridian School, Comberton, Cambridge very generously fund raised to help purchase the first plot of land. The Meridian school works very actively with the Trust and recently achieved an ‘outstanding achievement’ for all their involvement with the Trust. As a result the school with be named The Lisa Kent Meridian Lower Basic Cycle School. The school logo was designed by a year 5 pupil in a school competition.
The land was purchased through a lawyer in the Gambia, therefore ensuring that all procedures and paperwork were correctly adhered to.
Planning permission was granted by the Area Council and great support and encouragement given by both the Planning Office and the Education Department.
It was important to get as many materials to the site as possible, as once the rainy season starts access to the site is very difficult due to the dirt tracks, which become deeply rutted in the rainy season and therefore impassable by vehicles.
The first thing which had to be done before building could commence was to clear the land of all the bush and plants. The boundary wall was erected and gates made to secure the compound.
As with tradition, all new building work in the Gambia has a ‘laying of the bricks ceremony’, where local dignatories come along and a blessing is given to the land. This is a very important occasion with as many as a hundred people attending the ceremony and then celebrating with a meal
All bricks are handmade and all of the building work is undertaken with no mechanical equipment
After the land was purchased a boundary wall was erected covering the whole area of the school, gates made and fitted, a large two room store built to accommodate building materials and also to allow any of the masons to stay overnight. A toilet and shower block were then completed, together with a proper soak away, bore hole and pump.
Fruit trees have been planted to provide shading in the hot midday sun and also to provide fruit.
The Trust operates a sponsorship programme for this school.
This building currently has seven classrooms in use and two offices, so can accommodate a lot of children from the surrounding areas. We also have a fantastic library, with many books being donated from UK schools but we are especialy grateful to Christopher Jolly of Jolly Phonics for his very generous donation of books. This makes our library a wonderful place for the children to come and read books. Upon a recent school inspection from the Education Department the library gained 98%.
A huge amount of work has gone into building this school. Due to its size the work on the concrete flooring had to be carried out continuously. As all the cement is mixed by a single hand mixer, a team of builders worked round the clock to lay this concrete before it set. This work took over 24 hours of hard labour.
The building work is now complete after a huge amount of work, time and expense. The Trust are delighted with the building as the classrooms are a fantastic size, very light and airy, there is a huge playground for the children to use as well as a seating area outside, which will have a lot of shade from the tree.
The playground also has lots of fruit trees producing bananas, grapefruit, pear, paw paw and orange.
A consignment of school furniture and equipment was taken to Exeter to the shipping company to be sent out to the Gambia. We currently have 7 of the classrooms in use. There are 3 nursery classes and five primary class, including an arabic teacher. The Trust is very grateful to local schools for donating unwanted items of furniture. The Trust also purchased some new tables and chairs. The Trust continues to collect resources from the UK, which are then sent out for the benefit of our children and schools.
A lot of decorating was carried out in March 2012 when students from Huntingdon Regional College spent their two week work placement in the Gambia. The Trust was able to decorate three classrooms. The students worked really hard to get these classrooms painted. A lot of paint and rollers were used, each classroom needing three coats of paint. These classrooms are very large and look even bigger now painted.
When the second working party arrived they were able to decorate the classrooms with laminates they had prepared and educational posters for the use of the teachers and students.
Two of the Trustees met with the Director of Education on the main highway and he followed us through the bush to the school. His first words were “this is magnificient” and a”very solid school”. We were delighted and we will be working together to make sure the correct running of the school. He will also assist with the appointment of new members of staff for the forthcoming academic year.
The Trust continues to have close links with the Education Department, where one of our teacher’s is currently attending the college. Up to date information and advice is always available and the staff are always very supportive.
The Trust has a new Administrator Paul Mendy, who is well qualified in Business Management and therefore an ideal candidate to fill the role, thus taking some of the workload away from the Head who works so hard to make ure the Trust’s schools run smoothly and efficiently and to a high standard.
The full time caretaker and two cleaners ensure the school grounds are kept clean and tidy and safe for the children.
The playingfield is also used by the local community out of school hours.
The trees are all growing really well and particularly after the rainy season are very lush. The bananas taste wonderful.
The school has a huge bench which made in remembrance of a sponsor’s mother, a very kind gesture and a wonderful seat to be enjoyed for many years. It must also be one of the longest bench’s ever!!