We dedicate this year’s annual report to our new students, a selection of whom we describe here. Our new students are after all our future—forerunners of a developing world. In the brief space of a decade, they will be our newest university graduates.
Adama Manneh,13, got the highest score among girls who took the admissions tests, and she came in second among both boys and girls, Adama studies each night with her twin sister, Awa, who is a year behind her school. On the veranda that runs in front of their building, the girls use a flashlight for better vision.
Two Elderly grandparents preside over the compound. They are trying to put Adama, Awa, and four other children through school. Tuition in government schools is gree throughout The Gambia, but there are many costs: uniforms, shoes, exercise books. Adama has one uniform, which she washes every day after school. In their old age, Adama's grandparents have joined hands and work together to grow only rice. Their labor is the family's sole source of income. The twins' parents, who live in the urban area, contribute nothing for their education or other support.
Adama and her grandparents are firm on one thing. Their common goal is to see her graduate from the university.
Elliman Bah Earned the highest combined score among all candidates in our admissions tests in English and math this year. Elliman lives in Dobo and he walks for an hour every morning along a narrow sandy road through fields of peanuts, corn, and millet to the Salikenni school. His school day is not over until he has attended special classes four days a week from 2 to 4, which we provide for our sponsored students. When he reaches home, there are farm chores to do, even though by 7 it will be quite dark. Elliman reads after dinner each night by candlelight. He wants to go to the university and become a teacher. “I want to be a teacher for Dobo,” he told us. “To teach the little ones.”
It was very dark when we reached the Salikenni compound of Bubacarr Y. Drammeh. We interviewed him sitting on the low stoop that runs along the front of the building in a narrow alley. The only illumination was a bare, low energy bulb high up on the wall of the building on the other side of the alley. Bubacarr’s father, Yusupha, lives there during the farming season with his two wives and most of his 10 children. Six of these children are in school. The others are still small. Agriculture is the family’s main source of income. Yusupha also has a small shop, where he sells staple foods, in the metropolitan area. Bubacarr wants to attend the university and become a teacher.
Baba Ceesay, is the first son in the family and his father says, “He is our only hope." He wants Baba to go all the way to the university. All of the family’s income comes from farming, including the mother’s vegetable garden. In a few years, Baba will be ready for high school in the urban area of the country and then on to college. “That will be the end of our farming." his father said.
Saphiatou Kalleh wants to work in an office. No one in her family has held such a job. Saphiatou said she is convinced that a woman can do any job a man can do. President of the Gambia? She thought awhile. “It’s possible."
Tida F. Tunkara wants to be a teacher. Her father, Today, is a farmer and fisherman and also works as an orderly at the government health clinic in Salikenni. Years ago, SSF sponsored two boys from this family. “They didn’t learn," Foday said, “They left school. I think Tida wants to learn, even up to the university. I always advise her to learn."
Binta Tunkara wants to go to the university. She scored relatively low on our admissions tests, which may mean she will need some help to catch up with her classmates.
When Mam larra Darboe was very small her parents moved to Guinea Bissau and left her with her aunt in Salikenni. Her parents provide no support. Mam larra wants to be a doctor. She scored at the bottom of the students we accepted and so has a long way to go to achieve that goal.
Mariama Fataio reads every night from 9 to 11 or 12. Until the textbooks arrive, she doesn't have much available except the exercise books that she has copied into in class. Her mother insists that she study every evening. “I really want the girl to learn," she told us. "I really want her to go to the university, but I don’t have the ability to send her to that level."
lsmiala Fataio wants to be a doctor. “I want to curepeople and help people get healthy," he told us. His older brother also wanted to become a doctor. He if finished high school with what we are told were good scores, but there was no money for medical school. Ismiala’s mother wants her son to be serious in his studies. She hopes he will reach his goal.
Sarjo Keita, from Dobo, got sixth position among all candidates on our combined admissions tests in English and math. No one in her family has been to the Far; university, and she would like to be the first. Her father supports her ambition, He wants Sarjo to be "on her own, to learn and to have a good job." Sarjo said English is her favorite subject. She would like to become a teacher.