Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 11

Day 11 1/13
We had our breakfast which consisted of bread, a hard boiled egg, cheese, and ham. Bread is served with every meal no matter if we are in Senegal or The Gambia. We noticed that the bread had an unusual crunch to it, but we realized it was only ants that had been baked into the bread. After breakfast we walked to the primary school where we were welcomed by the singing children, who formed 2 lines that we were to walk between. When their song was over, children automatically attached to both hands of each person in our group. If another child wanted to hold our hand they were often shooed away by the children that were currently holding our hands. The school consisted of four classrooms with grades 1 & 2 combined, 3 & 4 combined and grades 5 & 6 were separate. When we visited each room the children sang/performed a song for us. Although it was a Sunday there was a 99% attendance just for our arrival. Certain parts of the school shocked me the most; these were the cost of the school which was 15 dalasi for an entire year. ($1 =20 dalasi) Another shocking scene was their library, it consisted of four cases that were no longer than ten feet long and the whole library was not filled, even with its small size. I talked with some of the children and asked if they enjoyed school and they told me they loved school and enjoyed learning. Many of their parents realize that getting their children educated is their only hope of having a different life than what they have now. We left the 80 children at the primary school and headed to the kindergarten which consisted of 2 classes, one of 6 children and the other of around 30. The reason for the large difference is that the large class is operated more of a day care and the other smaller class is more like kindergarten. One child in the kindergarten caught my attention pretty quickly. I noticed that this one young girl had two different color eyes, one was brown the other blue. As we left this school we were going to walk about 1 mile to a peanut storage facility. At this time we were instructed to leave the smaller kids and only the older children were allowed to follow us to the factory. The area relies on the production of peanuts for their income, but it acts almost as a double edge sword as in they produce many peanuts but still have to import peanut oil. This is because they do not have any factories there to extract the oil or turn the peanuts into a profitable exporting good, they simply sell the peanuts in their natural state. Walking from the peanut storage plant back to the camp, our group size about doubled because of all the children that were attached to our hands. Also while on this walk we learned of a soccer match that was to be held right by the primary school later in the day. The match was to be the US vs. The Gambia. We were not too sure about this match up at first but we held our own and won in a shootout. Again the pitch was completely different than what we are accustom to, being that it was sand with patches of tall grass and one whole sideline was burnt due to a fire the previous day. Before the soccer match we gathered many of the school children, their teachers, and some of the leaders in the village and gave them some gifts. The gifts included school supplies, 2000 dalasi, and through funding of Justin’s church 80% of the children were to receive new school uniforms. Uniforms are a necessity for the children to attend school, if they do not have a uniform they cannot go to school, and if they do go to school without a uniform they will be sent home. It was interesting to see how much little things mean to these schools. Just by giving pencils, pens, and other school materials the children and the community was very thankful for our donations. Later in the evening we attended a bonfire. This bonfire was run entirely by the children through scouting which was one of the extracurricular activities offered at the primary school. They sang and danced around the fire and performed multiple skits. Few adults were there and the ones that were, were either teachers at the schools or parents gathering their children for bed. It was very interesting to see such young children run an entire event with such little interaction from the adults.

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