News assistant editor Pete Wallace reports on the day’s events from The Gambia.

THE prospects of forging any sort of future are pretty bleak for all children born in The Gambia. For those with physical or mental disabilities they are, quite literally, non-existent.

There is no state welfare, no adult care facilities and absolutely no chance of eventually getting a job. The one tiny beacon of light is charity-supported schools like the Methodist Special School in Kanifing.

Here more than 200 children can be crammed into a handful of dirty, claustrophobic classrooms, with a handful of poorly paid teachers at a pupil to staff ratio which would keep people working in education in the UK awake all night.

The government pays the understaffed teachers’ paltry wages and has provided one, clapped-out minibus. And that’s it. Everything else – teaching resources, even food – must come by other means, or not at all.

The situation for the disabled in The Gambia is so dire, the school has a policy of keeping the doors open even into adulthood – currently, the oldest ‘pupil’ is 36, sitting in a classroom with children of nine or ten.

If pupils’ parents cannot find 10 Dalasi – about 20p – for a hunk of bread, and the school cook hasn’t the money herself to buy them food, they go hungry. And they, believe it or not, are the lucky ones.

The school’s dilapidated minibus is often full halfway round the morning pick-up run, meaning other children must simply stay at home. It regularly breaks down and on the day we visited, of the half-a-dozen shabby classrooms, half remained silent and empty.

It’s a desperate situation, as deputy headmaster Wasi Mensah told me: “The government hasn’t bought into the idea of special educational needs. We have a bus and a few teachers they pay, but the rest we rely on help from outside for.

“There is nothing for them when they leave – nothing. That is why we will always let them come back, even when they are 40 or 50. They have nowhere else to go.”

Project Gambia provides resources like paint, paper, pens and other materials for the Methodist Special School, as well as sending UK teachers in to help with lessons and, now, to train staff.

To learn how you can help, or to donate, visit,uk