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

IN comparison to the euphoric hysteria with which children have greeted us at every other turn so far, the discipline of the pupils at Kanifing’s New Life Children’s Centre school was positively military.

Yes, they ran en masse to the trucks cheering, the now familiar shouts of ‘twobab’ ringing in our ears – yet instead of mobbing us for hugs and pleas for gifts, they stopped five yards short, politely greeting everyone with a ‘welcome’ and shook hands respectfully.

The school, and the corresponding one at nearby Half Dye, is one of the success stories of the work Project Gambia and the UK-based NLCC have done out here.

The charity took over the school several years ago, rebuilt parts, and with the help of Project Gambia, resourced it and are now turning out qualified students with real hope of building themselves a brighter future.

Its pupils run from nursery class right through to leaving age and the impeccably smart uniforms and dedication to their studies is testament to the years of hard work and commitment of its two parent charities.

The whole school – and us - were ushered into a cramped, sweaty hall for a greeting speech and well-rehearsed dance routine before Project Gambia presented its annual pupil prizes – awarded to the highest achieving boys and girls and most determined, or hardest trying, scholars.

And the raucous cheers from proud classmates bore out the ethos which is giving these children, who are born into the most desperate, poor backgrounds, with the one thing they need the most – hope.

Hope of finding good jobs, a career, and a route out of the cycle of poverty they find themselves in.

Ridgewood High School even has its own ‘adopted’ classroom and later in the day a party of us returned to repaint nursery playground walls - a task which needs repeating every couple of years after the ravages of the rainy season and blistering heat of the dry season destroys the artwork.

But one thing the brutalities of the climate, or the seemingly insurmountable hopelessness of being born into one of the poorest countries in Africa will never obliterate is the hope for the future these children have been given.

To learn more about Project Gambia’s work, visit