One of the earliest settlements in the Kiang West district of the Lower River Region, Wurokang is home to more than 1,200 people, and is predominately Mandinka-speaking. A Peace Corps training village for many years, Wurokang's citizens have worked with a series of benefactors to build themselves a school, for which the government now covers operating costs and teachers.
Since the end of 2020, GambiaRising has been working with Head Teacher Demba Bajinka to identify children for whom the low costs of uniforms and books has kept them out of school, or threatened to. Most of these were girls. After grade 6 the students of Wurokang have to walk to Kwinella for junior and senior secondary school. That's when the highest drop-out rates occur. It is also when child marriage is the greatest risk. "Let's get them all back in school," we said.
In 2021, the community identified more students in need of help to stay in (or go back to) school. We were able to help, as well as to give more books to the 2020 students. By now, 27 Wurokang students had gone back to school with our support; nearly all of them were going to Kwinella for junior or senior secondary school. They have a future other than child marriage.
A huge challenge for upcountry schools is retaining teachers. Weekends are long, with no place to go, lack of electricity limits entertainment; the only rental housing is a room in a family's compound. Family politics can get complicated, especially for women teachers.
The school had started working with a Dutch couple and their friends to raise funds to build housing for the Wurokang teachers; work began in 2017. The community provided the labor.
By 2018, the project was half done.
But the rest of the funds were hard to find. Then COVID stopped fundraising for two years. In March, 2022 we got a call from Mr. Bajinka. Could we help finish the project? The rest of the work was the most expensive: windows, doors, roofing.
Our funds are limited. Our student waiting list is long. We promised to get in touch with those who had helped the school in the past, and with Peace Corps volunteers who had trained or served in the village. Funds were raised to make bricks to extend the walls higher. But what remains to be done is crucial: a roof, doors, and windows. Doors and windows must be secure (metal) so that teachers can leave their belongings there during holidays. The roof must withstand the fierce wind and rain of the rainy season. This project can be finished for $4500.