First of all, Sawallah Nursery and Primary School would like to situate our association, Sawallah. The name Sawallah has its origins in West Africa and means “you’re welcome, be my guest”. The members and directors of our association are almost all born and raised Hagelanders (Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Groot Aarschot, Betekom-Begijnendijk…). What brought Sawallah Nursery and Primary School together was the love and “appetite” for the West African percussion, the djembe. Sawallah Nursery and Primary School have been providing djembe performances for years and offer lessons and workshops on a regular basis, including in Huize Eigen Haard in Aarschot and in Huize Martine Van Camp in Diest.
The interest in West African music and culture and the fact that we got to know African people here, through playing the djembe, eventually brought us to The Gambia. First, a careful vanguard went over there to sniff the atmosphere, and then resolutely descended with a dozen members to The Gambia in April last year. The trip and the stay in itself were an absolute stroke of luck. On the one hand, a number of people among us had retained some friends and acquaintances from a previous stay, which greatly simplified contact with the local population and an understanding of local customs. On the other hand, own praise stinks, the members of our group turned out to get along exceptionally well. So much so that the Gambians soon gave us the name “The Happy Family”, a nice compliment.
However, it is not all gold that shines. During a trip we ended up in Sinchu-Gidon, a nice village, to visit the local school. There was no shortage of children, but only three walls remained of the school. Result: no school, no teachers and no education.
You sit there as a “Happy Family” with some small men on your lap, with some toys and clothes for the mommies and drip sticks for the little ones. And you get a very bitter feeling. What will become of those children here? That’s another generation lost to the economy. Those little “monkeys” will not be able to read or write and speak poor English. Sawallah Nursery and Primary School will not learn a trade either and will do what their parents did: survive on and off a small piece of land, are often hungry and hope that they do not get seriously ill because they will not be able to pay a doctor …
And what do you do, being a Happy Family, sitting under a tree with a little African on your lap? You promise those people that you will help them. You do not yet know how and you do not yet fully realize what you are getting into, but a promise is a debt.
We look forward for your visit!