Aberdeenshire to Addis Ababa

Douglas Blane

Almost 1.5 million people in Britain and Africa will benefit from the cultural exchange programme, Connecting Classrooms.Johannes Nowaseb is too polite to confess he couldn't understand the poems read to him on his visit to Aberdeenshire. Doric is well-nigh impenetrable to the rest of Scotland, so the teachers from Africa were up against it during that small part of their week-long visit.

But even Doric can be understood in time, and teachers and pupils in Scotland, Ethiopia and Namibia have three years to learn each other's language, culture and curriculum. "We have been made to feel very welcome by the people of Huntly," says Mr Nowaseb, who teaches at Augeikhas Primary in Windhoek, Namibia.

The cultural exchange visit is part of the Connecting Classrooms programme run by the British Council, explains Adam Sutcliffe, modern languages teacher at the Gordon Schools in Huntly, Aberdeenshire. "When our application was accepted, I went to Addis Ababa to a contact seminar. The aim was to find teachers representing clusters in two different African countries, with similar curriculum goals, for a partnership."

On behalf of the Gordon Schools and Huntly and Rhynie primaries, Mr Sutcliffe teamed up with three schools in each of Windhoek and Lalibela in Ethiopia. The visit is for teachers from each of these schools to Aberdeenshire. "The next one will be for teachers from Ethiopia and Huntly to Namibia," says Mr Sutcliffe. "It's part of a bigger programme. According to the British Council, this will touch almost 1.5 million people in Britain and Africa."

Beyond forging links with teachers in sub-Saharan Africa, the visits will support joint curriculum projects in subjects such as geography, music, eco-schools and biology. Cluster co-ordinators will keep in touch by email, pupils will work on joint projects and communicate by letter, and there will be opportunities later for pupils to visit.

The week in Huntly has opened Mr Nowaseb's eyes, he says, to how privileged Scottish pupils are - with computers in every classroom, extra-mural activities, supply teachers and classroom assistants.

But while resources may vary, teachers are teachers the world over. "There is always something you can learn and something you can offer," says Mr Nowaseb. "It's why it's called Connecting Classrooms."


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