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August 2016

David Couch training Gambian teachers about childhood deafness David Couch and Malcolm visited for one week with several objectives:

a) David and Malcolm to follow up with all 30 Itinerant Teachers (ITs) regarding the training courses on deaf awareness they have been delivering to teachers in mainstream schools.

b) David to work with Yaka Faal, Senior Audiology Nurse, in setting up computer software to enable her to programme and fit digital hearing aids.

c) Malcolm to work with Joe Mendy, Maintenance Manager at the main hospital to design and instigate construction of an extension and upgrade to the ENT and Audiology Department at the Polyclinic (Out Patients Dept.) at the main hospital in Banjul.

All this work has been funded by Sound Seekers, the Charity of which Malcolm is a Trustee and Chair of their Projects Committee (see

a) Amazingly the 30 ITs have between them delivered nearly 400 separate courses and provided basic training in how to spot a child with hearing difficulties, then how to provide some support in the classroom, to more than 4000 Gambian teachers! This should help ensure that deaf children are identified, referred for additional testing where necessary, then helped to access the classroom and learning activities, and also the social activities alongside their peers with normal hearing. The programme has been a major success and the ITs have gained in confidence and enjoyed delivering the training courses, using the materials we designed and had printed in advance. It is hoped they will continue to deliver training to schools as a normal part of their work, now they have the knowledge and skills, and the confidence to do so.

b) Not such success to report here unfortunately as, despite tremendous efforts by David (assisted by the IT Manager of our hotel!) we were unable to get the fitting software to run properly on Yaka's laptop computer. This is a great frustration as she is unable to fit hearing aids without it. Now he is back in the UK David has been working with the audiologist at his school in Brighton ((Hamilton Lodge School for the Deaf), using a different laptop and the plan is now, once it is working on this laptop, to take the computer and downloaded software at the earliest opportunity (probably Feb 2017)

c) Joe Mendy proved to be really helpful and every bit as keen as us to ensure the extension to the Polyclinic is built well and is fit for purpose. The plans look good with pretty much a doubling of space for seeing patients and also for a larger waiting area. In addition the plan is for the ENT nurses to move to work alongside the HARK Audiology Team so that they can provide and more 'joined-up' and co-ordinated service to patients. This is the first upgrade of the facilities at the Polyclinic for at least 15 years and should make a dramatic difference to the patient experience, as well as providing much better working conditions for the HARK and ENT teams in Banjul. It is hoped the building work will be finished before Malcolm's next visit in February 2017, though this will be a tight timescale. Watch this space!

February 2016

Great News! The new Unit classrooms at the Unit at St Joseph's School in Basse are completed and in use. Many thanks to Caroline Wilson and John Arthur for the funding to achieve this milestone - the first permanent classrooms for deaf children outside St John's School for the Deaf. Thanks too to Mohammed Akhtar for funding for staffing and pupils costs to get the unit up and running in the first place. The GDCSP has now taken over pupil costs while the Ministry is now paying staff salaries, a very pleasing result.
Photos to follow!

January 2016

A report was received from Nancy Mendy (in charge of Special Education in Gambia and the IT Team) that the Step-Down Training was underway and that already nearly 1000 teachers had received the training!

July 2015

A one-week visit was made by Malcolm, Babs, David and Lynda Holland. This was to deliver part of an exciting project under the auspices of Sound Seekers and funded by the States of Jersey Overseas Aid Commission. The aim of the Project is to raise the understanding of deafness among all teachers in Gambia. Specifically it aims to enable them to spot any children who are deaf or hard of hearing, and give them guidance and techniques to help in meeting the needs of deaf children in their classes.

slide1To achieve this task we are training the existing team of 30 Gambian Itinerant Teachers (IT) for Special Needs to be the trainers themselves and to deliver short training sessions in each of the schools they visit, right across the country. This step-down training will be delivered over the course of the next academic year and is a major undertaking, meaning many hundreds of courses will be delivered!
Babs took the lead in the development of some brand new training materials. These come in special packs and are attractively illustrated and professionally produced. Enough copies have been produced for a set to be left with every school in Gambia, once the school has received their training course from the IT.

As well as teaching the IT about the content of the packs and giving them a wide range of background information on deafness, Babs and Lynda delivered a session modestly entitled 'How to be Brilliant at Training'! This, as the name suggests, gave specific techniques to ensure the audience for training were fully engaged in the session and were helped to retain the information delivered.

The training materials have been specifically designed for an African context and should be readily be adapted for use in other African developing countries if the opportunity arises.

Spread over three full days the training was a great success and the Itinerant Teachers really entered into the spirit of the occasion. On the third day their training was put to the test when they were divided into groups then each group had to do plan and deliver a section of the training to the remainder of the ITs watching! This was a very enjoyable and useful exercise as they were able to discuss one another's performances and suggest changes. As is often the way in Gambia this was accompanied by much laughter and merriment and a good time was had by all.

At the end of the three days training the Itinerant Teachers did a special thank you session to the UK Team and more laughter followed.

April 2015

On 10th April Malcolm’s great-niece, 9 year old Rosie Holgate, held a craft sale at her home in Ewhurst in Surrey to raise funds for St John’s School for the Deaf in Gambia.Rosie Sale 100415 c Not only was the sale entirely her own idea, but she worked really hard for days to make most of the sale items herself! These included all sorts of small craft items, labels, cakes etc which she could then sell to friends, neighbours and family members. All in all a remarkable initiative!

When Malcolm heard about the plans he contacted Dan Mendy, Principal of St John’s School, to ask what would be an area of need for any money Rosie managed to raise. Dan said that there were two eight year old pupils (Yusupha Cham and Oumie Ceesay) from very poor families who were not able to attend school regularly because the family were struggling to meet the costs of transporting their children to the school, in one case by ‘bush taxi’, the other on the school bus (for which a small charge is levied). Rosie agreed to try and meet these costs for a year which, when converted from Dalasi to Sterling, amounted to £78 - quite a challenge for a 9-year old.

Thanks to Rosie’s hard work and the support of her mother Claire, and her family, the sale went really well and Rosie managed to raise the amazing total of £150, nearly double her target!!

This will of course easily cover the transport costs for the two children and also help the school to provide them with lunches and books and pencils etc. A marvellous effort and brilliant result.
All the Team at GDCSP say "Well done Rosie, you can feel very proud of what you have achieved and the good example you have set to others to show what can be done with such generous thinking and with hard work and determination".

I am sure your family and your teachers and friends in Ewhurst will be just as delighted with the success of your initiative, and very proud of you.

Congratulations and many thanks again for all you have done for deaf children in Gambia!

As a postscript it is great to report that Rosie was featured in the local Surrey Advertiser paper with a nice article about her initiative. It sounds as though she has inspired others to also have a go at fund-raising too! Well done Rosie!

February 2015

Malcolm made a two-week visit to Gambia to prepare the ground for further work later this year. There were three main areas of focus.

He worked with the Chief Matron at the main hospital to ensure there was continuity and support for the HARK mobile hearing assessment and treatment clinic.

Itinerant Teacher Andrew Jatta fitting hearing aid to pupil in mainstream schoolThis was necessary for the very good reason that the Team Leader, Yaka Faal, was being sponsored by Soundseekers for 9 months advanced training in audiology on a course in Zambia! On her return she will be given a promotion and salary enhancement and continue to develop the work undertaken by the HARK which, it is hoped, will then be able to undertake regular visits to all parts of the country rather than, as now, only infrequent visits to the Provinces inland.

During Yaka’s absence Nurse Sira Jallow has been appointed as Acting Team Leader.

Malcolm also liaised with the Cuban ENT surgeon and with the Audiology team in the Poly Clinic about closer working arrangements and about additional equipment needed,

Malcolm also travelled 200 miles inland to Basse to visit St Joseph’s School, a mainstream primary school, where they opened a special unit for deaf children in September 2012.

This has been big success and now has 30 pupils. Two generous sponsors in the UK, Caroline Wilson and John Arthur, have agreed to fund the construction of a new classroom block for the Unit and Malcolm visited to select a suitable site for the building and discuss the organisation of construction, choice of builder and funding arrangements. He was accompanied by Kevin Bailey, a friend from Bewdley who also has Gambia connections, and Kevin is looking at possible solar lighting and electricity for the building, also to be funded by Caroline Wilson.

It is hoped construction can start later this spring and that the building will be ready for use by the start of the new academic year in September 2015.

Finally during this trip Malcolm worked with the officers of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education to firm up arrangements for an ambitious training programme in July 2015.

In this he with two or three colleagues will deliver a 3 day training programme to about 30 Itinerant or Visiting Teachers (ITs) for children with special educational needs. The training will be about how to work with deaf children in schools and the plan is that the Itinerant Teachers will then pass on the training to all the teachers in each of the schools they visit. In this way nearly every teacher in the country will come to understand a bit more about the needs of deaf children and how to help them.

One of the Team, Mrs Babs Day, has worked with a graphic artist to produce some specially designed and attractive information materials about deaf children. Sufficient of these will be given to the ITs for each school to have a set to keep. Hopefully, as a result of this training – Sponsored by Sound Seekers – more deaf children will be identified and their needs better understood so they can have a more effective education experience and be better prepared for employment and adult life.

October 2014

Thank you to those who generously sponsored Malcolm as he cycled more than 700 miles from Bewdley in Worcestershire to Lausanne in Switzerland then on to Samoens in South East France to raise funds for GDCSP. The total raised, including Gift Aid, was just over £2000!
It is hoped this can be used to help pay for two further teachers from St John's School for the Deaf to visit the UK and spend time seeing how we teach deaf children in this country. A previous initiative of this kind was judged a great success and has helped raise standards of teaching at St John's and also helped cement relationships between St John's School and Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham. Recent additional difficulties in Gambian nationals obtaining visas have made visits like this more difficult than previously but it is hoped these can be overcome and the exercise repeated later in 2015.

Thank you for your support!

July 2014

English Teacher of the Deaf teaching in School for the Deaf in Gambia!

Following the visit by Malcolm, Babs, David Couch and Helen Cooper in May/June, Helen has stayed on to work in St John's School for the Deaf, demonstrating to staff some of the latest techniques in teaching the deaf as developed in her normal place of employment, Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham. She has also focussed on helping teachers in the school to understand how hearing aids can be maintained and used effectively, and encouraged staff and pupils alike to make more use of hearing aids in future.
Helen has generously taken unpaid leave to work in Gambia and even left her husband behind for a couple of months. He will however be joining Helen for the final week of her visit and will return with her on 25 July. Thanks must also go to the Head and Governors of Longwill School for agreeing to release one of their best teachers for the second half of the Summer Term.
Helen has been writing a blog about her work and experiences and this can be viewed here:- 'Helen Cooper's Gambian Blog'
Helen's work will have a very significant impact on the work done at St John's and has the very best chance of introducing long term and sustainable improvements for deaf children in Gambia. Well done Helen!

May/June 2014

1000 deaf children and adults seen in a week!!

On 23 May a team of four UK specialists left for what turned out to be a remarkable working visit to Gambia. Malcolm, Babs and Helen had all been to Gambia before but David Couch was making his first visit. David is Head of Education Services for Deaf Children in East Sussex, and is both a qualified teacher of the deaf, and educational audiologist, both skills that would be put to good use during the visit.

P1000983The focus for the visit in Week 1 was a link with an American hearing aid company - Starkey - which undertakes a good deal of philanthropic work in developing countries. They wanted run a 'Mission' in Gambia to try and reach people who have hearing problems and, where necessary, treat the ear problem and/or arrange to fit hearing aids.
No-one was very sure how this would work in Gambia but agreed it was well worth a try. Accordingly several radio, TV and newspaper adverts were placed and broadcasts made, inviting anyone with a hearing problem to come for free examination and treatment to the clinic. We arranged for all the deaf pupils at St John's to be checked together with the 17 pupils from the Unit for deaf Children in St Joseph's School in Basse. These pupils, together with their teacher and support assistants, travelled more than 200 miles to get there, and slept on mattresses on the floor of one of the classrooms at St John's! Remarkable commitment.

Although we knew the existing deaf children would make it worthwhile, we had no idea how many other people would come along. We were therefore amazed to find long queues waiting for us at the start of the day and a continuous stream of adults and children all day and every day for the five days we ran the clinics! Many just needed their ears cleared of wax but numerous others went on to have their hearing tested by David and Malcolm. Those with a hearing loss then had impressions taken for ear moulds ready for fitting with hearing aids at a later date when the Starkey Team return for Phase 2 of their Mission.

Most importantly perhaps was the fact that we found a number of 'new' deaf children. Providing deaf children with an early start to education is critically important and so it was especially pleasing to see these new deaf children and be able to arrange for them to start education, either at St John's School for the Deaf, or the nearby GADHOH Nursery Class.

The Starkey Team was led by Derek Johnson and he, together with his colleagues, very much went the extra mile in terms of bringing with them lots of specialist equipment and resources, some of which they were able to leave at St John's when the clinic ended. They also worked really hard each day, in hot conditions, to see all the patients who arrived and to deal with the range of hearing issues that they presented. In addition to Malcolm and David doing hearing tests, Helen and Babs did a fantastic job of organising, reassuring and generally helping to keep people moving along and in the right place at the right time, and staff from St John's and GADHOH all contributed. Particular thanks should also go to Daniel Mendy, principal of St John's who did most of the forward planning in Gambia before the GDCSP and Starkey teams arrived. It was an all-round splendid team effort and we now hope that it won't be long before Starkey are able to return to follow up the good work started during Phase 1.

February 2014

Good News - Funding secured for deaf awareness training

Soundseekers have once again been successful in obtaining a grant to help work with the deaf in Gambia. This is once again from the States of Jersey Overseas Aid Committee and the Project concerned is to train the Gambian Itinerant Teachers for SEN to themselves provide training for teachers in all mainstream schools in the country. The aim of this mainstream teacher training is to raise awareness of the needs of deaf and hard of hearing children and to provide guidance on how they should be managed in school. It is thought likely that at least some deaf children do not attend school at all and it is hoped that, by demonstrating that deaf children are educable, existing pupils with hearing loss will be better served and others who are not yet at school, will be encouraged to attend.

Materials for use in the training courses will be developed in the UK and given to the Itinerant Teachers who will be shown how to make best use of them. Lynda Holland, now retired as Head of the HI Service in Birmingham, and who has already been to Gambia once with the GDCSP Team, has agreed to help in developing materials and in providing training for their use.

Malcolm visited Gambia again in February and one of his tasks was to negotiate with the Education Authority in Gambia regarding the delivery of the course to the Itinerant Teachers for SEN and then their involvement in delivering the training to mainstream schools within their areas.

Deaf Boy discovered and now placed at St John's School for the Deaf

Not long before he left for Gambia at the end of January Malcolm was contacted by Ros Harris from Cheltenham about a 7 year old pupil at Sambou Kunda Lower Basic School near Kudang in the middle of Gambia. deaf child

This school is run by 'Stella's School Scheme' and Ros is a leading light in this UK based Charity. They had realised the pupil - Saiku Sanneh - was not hearing well and wanted to find out what could be done about it. Having found this website through an internet search, Ros phoned Malcolm for advice. As Malcolm was visiting within a couple of weeks Ros was able to arrange for his local teacher, Hassan, to bring him to St John's School Audiology Clinic for assessment.

The attached photo shows Malcolm testing Saiku's hearing with an audiometer supplied by Soundseekers. Although Saiku wasn't able to complete a reliable audiogram it was quickly evident that he has a severe or profound deafness and will require specialist teaching. With the willing co-operation of Dan Mendy (Principal of St John's) Saiku has quickly been found a place at the school. He is a delightful little boy and he should do very well at St John's, and will enjoy having other deaf children to communicate with etc.

HARK Mobile Clinic still short of fuel

The mobile hearing clinic, the HARK, is still only allocated 25 litres of fuel per week. As the Land Rover vehicle only does about 7 miles per litre it has not been possible to undertake the regular visits to inland areas that are so badly needed and it is confined to visits to Clinics in the Combos region at the western end of Gambia. Malcolm contacted a local phone company (QCell) for sponsorship but sadly, to date, they have not given an agreement, despite initially showing interest. At a meeting of the HARK Management Committee at the recently re-named main hospital (now called the 'Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital) the Chief Matron (Mr Pateh Saho) and the Operations Manager (Mr Mustafa Mbye) agreed to approach the Ministry of Health to stress the importance of extra fuel being provided.

It is very sad that the effectiveness of the trained team of specialists is limited for want of additional fuel (another 25 litres per week) and that deaf children and adults in the Central and Upper River Regions are not getting the assessment and treatment they need. Malcolm and the Team will be keeping up pressure on the authorities to try and get this allocation increased in the near future.

Newly Trained Sign Language Interpreters already proving their worth

slide2Malcolm was able to visit the Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI) and see Bakary Sanneh providing Sign Language support to 7 deaf students who attend the College. Bakary was one of two new interpreters (the other is Lamin Sonko) whose training was funded and supported by GDCSP.

Both interpreters are now hard at work and it was very gratifying to see just how effective Bakary was in helping the deaf students to follow the lectures and practical demonstrations. The photo shows

Bakary supporting a student attending an electrical engineering course alongside a large number of students with normal hearing.

Bakary has not only gained the respect and appreciation of the deaf students, but also of the lecturers and College officials who can see very clearly the difference he is making and can see the deaf students are now following their courses and being successful in the assessments. This has resulted in GTTI agreeing to pay the employment costs of the interpreter.

They are in fact considering employing a second interpreter because the deaf students are in different courses and, because Bakary cannot be in two places at once, he has to split his time between students meaning they are inevitably without SL support for some of the time and do miss some of the information given in lectures (though the tutors have been extremely helpful in giving follow-up notes to Bakary for him to pass on to, and explain to, the students. Well done Bakary!