Council member bids to build new school in Gambia

A MARWOOD woman has embarked on a mission to build a nursery school for under-privileged children in The Gambia.

Julie Hunt was shocked to discover pupils taking lessons in a cramped rented garage while carrying out aid work in the country in March this year.

Mrs Hunt, a Barnstaple town and North Devon district councillor, spent more time with the children and teachers at the Champion Nursery School in July and is returning to the town of Manjai Kunda later this month.

She hopes to raise £20,000 to replace the makeshift facilities and has launched a “buy a brick” campaign in order to turn the project into reality.

The nursery, set up and run by Emmanuel Eda in 2009, caters for around 20 children and is staffed by one female teacher.

“Emmanuel works during the day to fund the nursery but is struggling to keep it going,” said Mrs Hunt.

“It’s very cramped with just one long bench for the children and a toilet. There is no playground but it’s very popular and lots of mums and dads want their children to go there but there is no room.

“Education is a luxury in Gambia – the harsh reality is that if you are poor, your children will not be educated.”

Mrs Hunt, who is working on the project with Torquay woman Chaslyn Bryant, said she had looked at the finances and had spoken with local landowners and identified a suitable plot of land to build a brand new school.

“Because Gambia is a very poor country, land is expensive and it will cost around £18,000 for the site,” she said. “But materials are cheap and local churches and volunteers have already pledged their time for free so building the nursery can be done for about £2,000. “People in North Devon will also be able to sponsor a child at the school for £10, which will include their uniform, books, stationery and breakfast.”

A campaign website is under construction where people will be able to buy “virtual” bricks for a pound each.

Mrs Hunt is also running next year’s London Marathon in aid of the nursery and is getting the fund-raising off the ground with a special ladies’ only pamper evening at the Barnstaple Hotel next week.

The event takes place on Wednesday, November 10 from 7.15pm and will feature a host of taster sessions with local beauty therapists, hair stylists, style coaches and wine merchants.

Tickets are £8 each and on sale from Passion 4 in Holland Walk and Harriet Hyde Hairdressing on Rolle Quay.

For more information about the campaign or to get involved, telephone Julie Hunt on 07909 772458 or email mac-beth@hotmail.co.uk