St Augustine's, Dumbarton

Scottish Episcopal Church

Charity Number: SC002984

February 2018 update

Hi, to all our sponsors,

January saw us heading to The Gambia for our annual visit, when we meet the children, check on the progress of the school, see that all the things that we promised last year have been put in place, and the important and sometimes awkward issue of salary increases or rewards for the hard working and dedicated staff are debated.

Our visit was brought to a stop when the snow on the M74 saw us still sitting motionless at 7.30am where we had been for 8 hours. The flight had long departed but never daunted we travelled a week later and had a great time. We got the opportunity to stand in the newly refurbished kitchen, which has been transformed from a soot encrusted, unhealthy environment to what, by local standards, is a modern kitchen. Tiling and a clever structure which holds the huge cooking pots with the fire underneath have made a hot, hard job much more pleasant for Haddy and Binta our cooks. This is all constructed with efficient chimneys which take all the smoke and lots of the heat out through the roof. As Liz and I watched them cooking the nutritious food for the children we were fascinated by the fire under the ‘hob’. We wondered how they could turn the heat up and down as we do so easily in our own kitchens. The answer was obvious to anyone used to cooking on open fires, you just take a few pieces of the burning wood out and throw it onto the concrete floor – job done!

We had our usual after school sit down with all the staff, but, before we got to that stage, we heard that Wally Faal, the landlord had informed Headmaster Sulayman that he wanted us to leave at the end of next term rather than negotiate another 5 year lease. The meeting was unpleasant to say the least and even with Faye there to ensure that there were no language based misunderstandings, we struggled to get Wally to change his mind without first discussing it with his children (grown up now). We had already decided that with the inflation of the past 5 years, and as the current rent had not changed in the last 10 years (it had also been cut at the last negotiation to mitigate the expense that we had spent on the buildings and facilities) we would increase the annual rent. By the time we met again with Wally a few days later, a much happier, more friendly landlord arrived at the school and the financial agreement was signed amid acknowledgement from Wally that we were very good tenants who gave him no problems, helped the community and provided a good income. Handshakes and smiles all round.

Our finances are much more secure this year. However, to ensure the long term sustainability of the school we felt that, like last year, we could not offer an increase in salaries. We offered an extra bag of rice to each employee so that they would receive one at Christmas and another at Tobaski (a Muslim festival much like our Christmas). These are relevant times as there are some Christians amongst our children and staff. This means that they would get the equivalent of an agreeable rise while leaving us without the extra financial commitment on our monthly outgoings. This was warmly welcomed. They know that 2 years ago, they had a 10% rise which keeps them well ahead of the income of equivalent schools in The Gambia and that along with the daily lunch that they enjoy and help with medical emergencies they are well paid. The children were wonderful as usual, well behaved and happy to see us. This year Caroline, of our Food for Though project in our church, had given us £500 to pay for the annual outing and as a special treat she had got funding to give each child an ice cream cone, not something that hey were familiar with and we had to tell them that they could eat the cone as well as the ice-cream.

We met the new teacher Landing Jassey who has taken over class 3 from Mr Williams who sadly left us to continue his career in a Lower Basic School. We were please to meet Landing and he seems to have a good rapport with his class and the children should still be leaving for Lower Basic with a good basic knowledge of English. So Sulayman, Kemo, Betty and Landing (the teachers), Isatou the classroom assistant, Haddy and Binta, Kumba the cleaner and Elymanel and Lamin the 2 nightwatchmen send their thanks to you all for your generosity during another successful year, and the children again say a big thank you for giving them a great start in life.

Copyright St Augustines, Dumbarton (c) 2019. Site By UKC.