Pupils Prepare For Trip To The Gambia

Eleven S5 and S6 pupils from Inverness Royal Academy are busy packing their bags and making final preparations to fly out to The Gambia on 18 March to work on a project to develop a skills learning centre in the village of Kerewan.

The pupils – Kevin Main, Andrew Elam, Niall Harbison, Alison Thompson, Johanna Fraser, James Taylor, Christopher Shaw, Angela Robertson, Luke O’Brien, Siobhan Creech and Kirsten Pillatt will be accompanied by party leader Doug Morrison and 3 other members of staff - Head Teacher John Considine, Mrs Patricia Crippin and Alistair McIntosh. 

Doug has previously taken part in two very successful trips to The Gambia.  In 2006 he accompanied a group of Highland teachers who spent ten days in the small town of Bakau providing IT training to local teachers and students.  During the Easter holidays last year he returned with a dozen pupils to install a second computer lab.

Doug Morrison said:  “The previous visits to The Gambia that I have been involved with were life-changing experiences for some of the people involved.  I am very keen that the strong link we have made should continue and become a feature of life at the Academy. I would like to thank the whole school for its support and also acknowledge the contribution of local businesses, parents and communities. I have seen with my own eyes the benefits these projects bring to the Gambian young people.  They too can grow up with exciting learning opportunities and be given the chance to acquire new skills.  This will help them with the often very difficult transition of leaving school and finding employment.”

This year, the Highland group will spend a week with young people in Kerewan to assist with the building of a new skills centre which will be a major boost to the community.  Young people will be able to learn practical skills such as Tailoring, Computing, Cookery, Woodwork, Metalwork, Car Mechanics and other skills not currently part of their schooling. The group will be working in daytime temperatures of over 40°C and spending their nights sleeping under mosquito nets in a classroom of a neighbouring primary school.  Their meals will be cooked on open fires using local ingredients and techniques.

The remainder of the fortnight will be spent at the President’s International Award centre at Bakau. The PIA is the equivalent of our Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and is run in a similar way, giving young people opportunities to contribute to their communities, take part in expeditions and learn new skills.

It was the former Director of Education, Culture and Sport, Bruce Robertson who forged the Highland link with The Gambia as part of his involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.  To assist with the development of this latest project he has overseen the filling and shipping of two international containers of tools and building supplies that have been generously supplied by some North East oil companies and Morrison’s of Inverness.  It is hoped the first container of materials and tools will get there before the Highland group arrive.

The Highland Council’s Chairman of Education, Culture and Sport, Councillor Bill Fernie wished the group a safe and productive trip.  He said:  “I am delighted that the group from Inverness Royal Academy will be visiting The Gambia and building on the relationship that has already been developed with local education centres.  I am sure all their efforts will be greatly appreciated and that they will return having learnt new skills, made many new friends and discovered about the culture and the lives of people from a different continent.”

The pupils are getting very exciting about the trip and even the thought of the necessary inoculations are not putting them off.  This will be Andrew and Niall’s second visit to Gambia whilst Andrew and Alison have also previously accompanied Doug Morrison and Alistair McIntosh to work on a project in Botswana.

Over the last few months the school has been organising a variety of events including a sponsored cycle, a treasure hunt and a Ceilidh Dance to raise funds for the Skills Centre project. 

Head Teacher John Considine thanked pupils, parents, staff, local businesses and the whole community for their generous support.  He said:  “Without this support we would not be able to get involved with these exciting projects.  This is a real opportunity for our young people to contribute to improving things for others. We will meet people from another culture who have few material possessions and yet have a positive outlook on life. We are still collecting donations so if anyone would like to help in any way please contact me at the school.”


28 Feb 2008