During the school holidays, four Christ’s Hospital School boys went out for seven days’ to do ‘everything’ they could to help in five schools from a nursery to a teacher training college in The Gambia, West Africa.
The pupils travelled in conjunction with ‘Pageant’, a small charity based in Horsham which supports pupils, schools and other educational establishments in The Gambia.
Luke Mahony-Hammond, Arthur Elmes, Oscar Williams and Daniel Huntington, all in the lower sixth form at Christ’s Hospital, used their luggage allowance to take as much equipment as possible with them to ensure an inspiring educational, creative and fun experience for all the young people at the schools they were working in.
Luke said: “We wanted to do everything we could in the time we were there so we packed as much equipment as possible as they have very little in The Gambia.
“Getting everything in our suitcases was quite a struggle! We were running the clubs and teaching so took lots of materials such as footballs, rugby balls and kit, paint and science materials”.
During their visit, the boys taught practical science as most schools in The Gambia lack science teaching equipment.
The boys explored the properties of Polymorph, a biodegradable plastic, with secondary students.
They led art lessons, hosted a sports day for nursery aged children and with well thought-through lesson planning, organised science, maths, drama and music sessions with primary aged children, as well as helping out with a Pageant practical microscopy workshop for trainee teachers.
Christ’s Hospital’s connection with the charity goes back to almost ten years’ ago, when the Peele A and B boys’ boarding houses at the School began a fundraising campaign. More recently funds have been raised through the ‘Peele Arts Festival’, a fun and successful event staged by all the boys in these boarding houses. This Festival is now run on an annual basis with the proceeds to Pageant. Since the fundraising began at Christ’s Hospital, a total of £3623.13 has been raised.
This support has led to some of the money being used to sponsor students in The Gambia under the umbrella of Pageant. Alieu finished his basic schooling last year after being sponsored for 9 years and a further two young people are currently being sponsored - Ebrima (for one year as this is his last basic school year) and Sarjo who is now in her final primary school year and whose sponsorship, like Alieu’s, is ongoing. The remaining funds have been used for a variety of projects in different schools, some to buy equipment and materials and some going towards school building, water and garden projects.
Oscar said: “Meeting the two young people we are currently sponsoring was truly inspiring.
“The whole visit was great fun and has motivated us to do more. The younger ones particularly enjoyed the parachute game and making hand prints with the paint and the older ones were fascinated by science.
“They were curious about our cameras as many haven’t seen a reflection of themselves in a mirror let alone in a picture from a camera,
“It costs Pageant £90 a year to sponsor a child at nursery and primary age, rising to £200 at grade 12 (our A Level age),” he continued. “We met a student who was sponsored in the past - he is now in his first job, working in one of The Gambia’s top hotels.
“He wouldn’t have had this life-changing chance without Pageant’s help”.
Pippa Howard, who founded the charity along with her husband Ian, gave a brief background to the education system in The Gambia.
“The Gambia has a structured basic education system, but families must bear some of the costs,” said Pippa.
“This limits the opportunities available to less well-off children and around 40% do not attend school, because their parents are too poor to afford the modest fees, uniforms and books”.
Of the Christ’s Hospital boys, Pippa said: “The boys were a credit to themselves, CH and the charity.
“In the short time they spent in the schools they not only taught and organised fun activities but also helped with decorating the classrooms.
“This was a really ambitious programme to undertake in just seven days and it was well thought through,” she added. “When I saw the children clustering around them it reminded me of the Pied Piper!
“The children loved meeting them and got a lot out of their visit. We hope they will return in the not too distant future”.