Imagine this, for a moment. Every day, you wake up at five o'clock. You go to fetch water, from the well a mile and a half from the village. The well holds very little water in summer, and what water you can collect is visibly dirty. Still, you must take it, for it will be needed to feed, wash and cook for your entire family. You do not have breakfast.

You go to school at six, and stay until one o'clock in the afternoon - the classrooms become too hot after that to stay in, since they are not properly ventilated. You and your classmates sit on boxes and disused car batteries, you write with dirtied chalk and the teacher writes on the wall as he has no blackboard. You must share your workbook with two other pupils.

 When you return home, you must help to cook, care for your younger relatives and clean. Food is scarce- you are lucky to have the meal you receive when you finish your chores. It consists of rice and fish - the same as always - and you have a small portion, eating from the large cooking pot with everyone else.

 

 

Summer - from October to May - is dry and hot. Nothing grows, and the sand underneath your bare feet burns to the touch. The well frequently dries up, and so you are often too exhausted and dehydrated to work well at school. The monsoon season - from June to September - is wet and humid. Water floods the huts in your village, and sewage often overflows into where the water is kept. Your whole family is sick - from malaria, from cholera, from dysentery. A few of the younger members of your family die, and at night the cries of mourning can be heard for miles. They make your feverish sleep even less bearable.

 School is difficult to afford. Your parents and relatives work as hard as they can, but you're already a year and a half behind. If you don't catch up soon, you will never reach university. You might never be anything more than a farmer or a fisherman, like your family. Imagine that. Gambian children don't have to imagine. For Gambian children, this scenario is real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children will gather seaweed from the coast, dip it in sugary water and eat it - not for a snack, but to keep the familiar pangs of hunger away, to ease the pain a little. It sometimes helps, but not much can cure hunger other than eating, and most Gambian children only eat once a day.