26 February 2017
Microscopy workshops 24 and 25 February
The next two days were spent carrying out the workshops we had planned for with Gambia College.
We arrived promptly at the university in Brikama at 8.00am. We had known that the students were going to clean the laboratory for us and were really thrilled with the job they had done. They had even cleaned the fans by climbing the chairs.
Each workshop was given to 20 student teachers. We had taken with us 20 small stereo microscopes and 10 larger transmitted light microscopes, with some kits boxes containing useful tools for preparing samples to look at and simple lenses and binoculars for the children to use when they are waiting for the microscope.
At the end of the workshops the 10 student teachers whom we judged to be the best overall would receive a kit containing a stereo microscope and tools to take with them to their first teaching post.
The first session on each day explained what equipment they had and how to us it. The teachers were shown how to use a simple magnifying lens, a jeweller’s loupe (which was theirs to keep) and how to use the microscopes, including how to work out the area you can see, using simple measurements on graph paper. We then stopped for breakfast which consisted of a sausage, onion and salad baguette or cold fried egg baguette and tea or coffee plus water. It was very hot on both days.
After breakfast (at about 11.15) the teachers had about two hours to choose and look at samples. We had taken a number of samples with us including cheap and expensive tea in teabags, different types of fabric, flowers and leaves, insects, potatoes, onion and parsley and small electronic parts. The students were especially interested in the tea where they could see the cheap tea contained mostly stalks and the expensive tea was mostly large pieces of dried leaves.
Towards the end of the session the teachers were put into groups of 4 and asked to prepare a lesson for students from local schools who were due to come after lunch.
At 2pm we stopped for lunch and prayers. On the first day lunch was fish benachin. This consists of savoury rice, baked fish and vegetables including cabbage, carrots and cassava. For those more adventurous there were very hot chillies on the side. Mariama, Wandifa’s wife, had previously shown us how Gambians eat their chillies. They take some food and rub it in the chilli before eating it. On the second day we had chicken yassa which is plain boiled rice, spiced roasted chicken and a thick sauce containing roasted onions. On each day fresh fruit and bottled water were provided.
The afternoon sessions went well, with all teachers coping well with the students. We had between 30 and 40 students each day, many from Ann Marie Rivier school which was nearby. We could see much animated teaching with the students clearly engaged with using the equipment, which is the aim of the workshop.
After carefully packing up we returned to the hotel and now have the difficult decision as to which 10 teachers will receive microscopes and kits. We would love to be able to give them all a set.