The Gambian school year has officially come to a close as we move into farming season and the celebration of Tobaski. Last year, it seemed like the students just got their report cards and went home without any recognition of their hard work all year. This year, we changed that.
Working with the Head Teacher and Headmaster of our Lower Basic School (Kindergarten-Grade 6), we organized a spelling competition, drama performance, and award ceremony this past Monday. Last month, we hosted a literacy workshop for teachers, introduced them to the idea of a spelling competition, and formulated lists of words for each grade.
This past month, all of the grades held their own spelling competitions to choose the top 4 students, 2 boys and 2 girls, from each class. Most of the classes are split into two, like Grade 1A and 1B, so one boy and girl represented 1A and the other pair represented 1B to see which class had the superior spellers. We invited parents to come and watch, and we handed out Mardi Gras beads I brought as prizes. It was fun to see the students compete academically in the presence of their peers, teachers, and parents.
We then organized 2 dramas, one on school dropouts and another on malaria. Students practiced the dramas every day for one week before the performance. In the first drama, a girl is encouraged by her mother to leave school and get married, while her fellow students continue on at school. It then shows her as a tired adult with multiple children and a husband that is never around, while her former classmates come home to tell her about their careers and financial security. The second drama shows two families, one who sleeps under mosquito nets at night and cleans tall grasses, and another who refuses. The second family falls ill, vomiting, fainting, and suffering from fevers, while the first family stays healthy. A doctor comes and tells the family and the audience about the importance of malaria prevention. The students made the dramas funny and entertaining for everyone.
Lastly, we awarded certificates for the top students in each class: Most Disciplined Student, Best Attendance, and First Position Student (the student with the best test scores). The best part was when a student was called and his or her mother would come up and dance with them, usually embarrassing the student. A representative from our school Mothers’ Club gave a speech congratulating all of the students and teachers on their hard work this year and at the event.