Dec 10, 2013, 9:17 AM
Jolly Riders Foundation is an organization which is determined to support education in the Gambia. The foundation sees the need for children to be educated, and to have a bright future. Many clamour to help, but helping children is a commitment undertaken by only philanthropists who believe the future belongs to children. Society and Development decided to find about the Jolly Rider Foundation with the help of Alieu Jabang, a journalist with The Point newspaper. Please read on to know about the foundation, its challenges and what it has done and continues doing for the society. Baboucarr Boyo Touray the Director of the Foundation in The Gambia talks to Society and Development about these issues.
S&D: Could you please explain in brief about the early beginnings of the Jolly Riders Foundation in the Gambia?
BB Touray: The Jolly Riders started way back in 2005, as a result of a visit from our partners in UK to the Gunjur Link Committee (GLC) in the Gambia. In my capacity as the Public Relations Officer of the GLC, I was able to host the couple David Sweethenham and Hellen King for one week. They then told me of their interest in providing bicycles to secondary schools in Africa. They wanted to start the program in Tanzania, and later to expand it to other African countries, if it succeeded.
S&D: Why did you choose to start it in the Gambia?
BB Touray: Because I was a little bit selfish and jealous -laughs! I thought to myself that it would be better if it all started here in The Gambia. Because they consider themselves part of my family in The Gambia, they agreed to start the program in The Gambia after my intervention. Charity begins at home. They tasked me with the success and failure of the project and said it lies in my hands, which I took upon myself as a challenge.
From then on, I started visiting schools to sell the idea of the project. I decided to start in Gunjur Upper Basic then to Jambanjelly Basic Cycle and to Mahaad Senior Secondary School in Brikama.
S&D: What happened since its introduction?
BB Touray: At Mahaad, we met Mr. Ampro H Koroma who was very supportive to us, and has helped immensely in promoting the idea to schools. I must say that we are very grateful to him.
In April 2006, we started delivering bicycles to schools in the Gambia, starting with the host school Gunjur Upper Basic School, then Jambanjelly Basic Cycle and Mahaad Senior Secondary School in Brikama.
S&D: How do you see the future of the Jolly Riders Foundation in The Gambia?
BB Touray: The future of the foundation is very bright, as we have a very good working relationship with the Government and schools.
S&D: Are there any achievements registered since April 2006?
BB Touray: Jolly Riders achievements are many, but just to mention a few. We have succeeded in linking our partner schools to schools in the UK, which brought so many benefits to the schools concerned. Jambajelly, for example, was twinned with St Lawrence School in the UK and Mahaad Senior Secondary School with Abifield School also in the UK. Gunjur has a lot of link partners provided by the GLC.
We have also delivered so far 5, 260 bicycles to schools across The Gambia making access to school easy for our Gambian students in the rural areas, who trek many kilometers to and from schools.
We have also succeeded in maintaining a good working relationship with the government through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, which has been very supportive to us in our deliveries.
We have also succeeded in establishing a learning centre for both teachers and students to help develop the reading culture in the Gambia. This center also provides learning and teaching materials for both teachers and students.
S&D: How do you give out bicycles to schools?
BB Touray: We ask interested schools to write applications and state the kilometers their students trek to and from school. After receiving the information from the interested schools, I as the Director will travel to the schools and ascertain this information before any approval or confirmation is made. I will later recommend the schools, and list them as partners of the Jolly Riders Foundation. I then forward it to the Trustees for supply of the bicycles.
S&D: To whom do the bicycles belong after presenting them to the schools?
BB Touray: This is a very important question. The bicycles are for the schools, and not supposed to be owned by any teacher or student. We know that teachers and students do come and leave, but the school still remains where it was and, therefore, other students coming should benefit from the bicycles.
S&D: What about their maintenance?
In order to sustain these bicycles, the Jolly Riders foundation will train one teacher and four students (2 boys and 2 girls) in bicycle maintenance so that these bicycles when broken down could be repaired in the school itself.
We give the bicycles free of charge, but we do ask the schools to charge an amount of D75 for maintenance, and we also supply them with maintenance tools from UK.
S&D: Why concentrate on schools only?
BB Touray: We at Jolly Riders believe that education is empowerment; it is a key to social justice and a key to total liberation, economic independence and freedom. Education is the backbone of any sustainable development. We also believe that without quality education no country in this world can make any meaningful development.
S&D: What benefit would your assistance bring to the society?
It is always Jolly Riders's interest to promote quality education in The Gambia. We know that providing bicycles to students to have easy access to school only will be a drop in the ocean, if there is little or no quality education. So we thought helping schools with teaching and learning materials will be of good help to our educational standards. For this we are supporting schools to build libraries in their schools, because we believe that improving the reading culture of the students will help a lot in paving a way for quality education. This belief was what gave birth to a Learning and Educational Center.
S&D: Where is this centre located, and how does it operate?
BB Touray: At the moment, the center is located at Sifoe Senior Secondary School where we are providing teaching, learning and other resource materials for use by students and teachers. It was established in 2009, and only the Director (Mr. Saidu Gbla) was appointed. He has started visiting schools all over Kombo to explain to them what the centre is about, and how they can access it.
S&D: Do you face any challenge(s) in your operations?
BB Touray: We do have financial constraints, especially on the maintenance of bicycles because the D75 that students pay for a bike is not enough for the maintenance of a bicycle.
We also do have a very great challenge when you come to mobility, because the vehicle that we are using to visit schools is in poor shape now, and so it is difficult to visit schools frequently, especially those in the rural areas, URR for example.
S&D: Do you have any support from anybody or group?
BB Touray: We do have support from The Gambia government and Her Majesty's Prison Services in UK.
S&D: What will be your advice to the beneficiaries and donors?
BB Touray: My advice to the beneficiaries is that they should use these bikes for school only, monitored by the schools. We also urged the communities to help maintain these bicycles, so that their children in future also benefit from the bikes.
For the donors, I will encourage them to keep providing more bicycles and learning materials, and to never hesitate in supporting access and quality education in the Gambia.
S&D: What will be your final words in this interview?
BB Touray: I want to seize this opportunity to call on His Excellency the President and government of The Gambia and everybody to continue supporting the Jolly Riders programmes in the Gambia, so that we can all realise the great efforts of our government in providing access and quality education.
S&D: Do you have anything else important to explain that was not asked?
BB Touray: I think all the important areas have been discussed.
S&D: Thank you so much for granting Society and Development the interview.
BB Touray: It's a pleasure, Sir!