Martin Englefield visited Gambia and the school in early December to review the educational processes and ensure that some of the more formal areas around the school’s accounting, tax and labour were being properly managed.

As an initial summary prior to reporting on those actions achieved by Martin, it is worth reporting that the political situation in Gambia continues to deteriorate. The country has experienced trade problems with the European Union and has now removed itself from the Commonwealth. There are also rumours of the nationalisation of foreign owned assets and land.

The key actions completed by Martin during this latest trip are as follows:

1. All invoicing will be captured within a monthly accounts sheet covering invoices, receipts, payroll, GRE and Social Security which will ensure a more organised process of reviewing the financial position of the school and save considerable time on all future visits.

2. Visited Mrs Jallows Nursery School to review the work recently undertaken.

3. Discussed the initial details of a field trip for the children and Mrs Jallow will follow up with detailed costs for this.

4. Authorised the school repainting work covering the perimeter walls, the red oil paint borders and the fascia. The total cost of materials and labour was 21,500 dalasi. In addition, an outside tap for drinking needed to be re-tiled and the total cost of materials and labour was 1,800 delasi.

5. Checked that the school registration is all proper and correct with the Gambian Education Authority.

6. Purchased a refurbished Canon photocopier at a cost of 11,000 delasi, saving 32,000 delasi. A new filing cabinet and paper cost 5,500 delasi.

7. More uniforms are required and Mrs Jallow has been authorised to visit Banjul to order these following a review of the tailoring costs.

8. Obtained missing wage records for September and October so that all records are now up to date.

9. Put in place an arrangement with the local bank to reduce foreign exchange costs when transferring funds from the UK.

10. Engage with legal advisors and the local GRE tax Office to sort out a GRE Tax issue which was successfully achieved following a significant number of meetings and careful negotiation.

11. Align social security and GRE Tax payments following engagement with the Department of Social Security who were threatening to levy fines. Once the objective of the charity was understood by the government staff, they were incredibly supportive in structuring all payments to minimise the ongoing costs.

12. Chaired a team meeting with all staff to discuss staff training, staff uniforms, the field trip and salaries. Living costs have increased by 30% over the last year but it was agreed that no salary increases can be made at this time.

13. Ensured that all staff have agreed to their employment contracts before these are submitted to the Labour Office for final approval (Gambian Labour Law can overrule any employment contract).

14.  Organised for all staff to be paid their monthly salary on 28th of each month by direct bank transfer rather than cheque which had caused issues on occasion.

15. Discussed the requirements for repainting five classrooms at the nearby SOS School at a cost of 8,900 delasi (£143.55) which is not only a hugely worthwhile cause, but also a nice gesture to recognise the amount of support that Mr Drummah from the SOS School has provided to BASIG, both during this trip and on an ongoing basis.

16. Registered the school as a Gambian charity to ensure that any of the political issues will not impact the school.

In final summary, this was a challenging trip but one that was completely necessary. Martin achieved an incredible amount, although most of it more administrative than previous trips. The school faces challenges that will need to be regularly monitored, but such trips ensure that the fundraising efforts of BASIG are well worth it, as the school moves forward from its own beginning towards a stable and successful future, and impacting the lives of hundreds of children.