When they finish ninth grade in Salikenni our students usually go to the metropolitan area for high school. Until recently they had to live there with members of their extended families. These relatives often were themselves very poor, and they were deluged by family requests of all kinds. As a result many of our high school students lived under terrible conditions — overcrowded, noisy rooms, no place to study and sometimes inadequate meals. Many of our students coped with these conditions, but some could not, and their school performance suffered. Ousman Jarju, SSF manager in The Gambia, saw this as the program’s biggest problem. “As long as accommodation remains a problem,” he said, “it will be difficult for some to make it.”
Ousman and his board took the initiative and developed a plan — which we in the U.S. approved — to create what they call a “campus.” It’s a large compound in Serrekunda in the suburbs of Banjul, which SSF leases on a yearly basis. The compound opened in October, 2013. About two dozen of our high school students, boys and girls, now live there in clean conditions, under adult supervision, with access to tutoring and computers, and, most importantly, in an atmosphere of companionship and mutual support.