Holbeach teachers’ experience of The Gambia

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University Academy Holbeach students of the future could be going to job or university interviews and speaking confidently about the grain store they have helped to build in The Gambia.

Or they might talk about their involvement in the school’s Interact group that raised money to sponsor children in the West African country.

Two of the teachers at the school are already talking about their experience of The Gambia gained during an eight-day fact-finding mission in which they “breathed the dust” – slept in a tent, showered using a bucket and ate like the locals.

However, any discomfort maths teachers Jackie Hallett and Jacqui Sesstein experienced has been quickly overtaken by their drive to forge links between the Holbeach school of 1,200 pupils and an international school of 600 pupils and with far fewer resources in Gambia.

“One of the objectives of our visit was to build a long-term link that would enable students here to have a connection to the real world outside academia,” says Jacqui, whose trip with her colleague was made with Football Gambia, which promotes education through football as well as building sustainable houses and medical centres.

The women got involved in some of these projects, spending one day painting and cleaning a building destined to become a medical centre and another day was spent visiting a village where the foundations for a primary school were being constructed. On the way there, the Holbeach teachers – who were dubbed Jackie squared in the end because of their maths connection – smelled fuel and the locals sitting on the roof of the mini bus and hanging on the doors suddenly shot off.

Jackie said: “There was a fuel leak and they were catching the diesel spilling out of the oil line and putting it back in again. They fixed the leak by wrapping material around it.”

Once there, Jackie demonstrated a remarkable ability for making sturdy bricks and the two of them laboured in “boiling heat” with no shade for relief.

They also sat in a couple of lessons at a secondary school, and Jacqui says: “Part of our remit was to observe the teaching. It’s all very well to appeal for great resources but we wanted to have a look at the teachers themselves. We both felt it was one of the areas we could contribute because you are passing on a skill that can be cascaded downwards.”