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Common goals in Cornwall and Uganda

Launceston and Kyema primaries signed an agreement last year that binds them to work towards three United Nations millennium development goals.

Staff have been visiting one other's schools to monitor how work is progressing.

The signing of a written agreement, a commitment now being followed by other schools, has given the partnership a real drive. In that sense, they are pioneers.

The three goals are: Goal 1. To ensure environmental sustainability. Launceston has been studying recycling, an issue that receives more publicity in Britain than Africa. But the schools' link means the message is getting through in Uganda. "It's good to be a global citizen," says Patricia Kemigisha, 12, in Kyema. "I tell my friend Zara Kate Choak (a Year 6 at Launceston) that I like praying and what it's like to be a girl in Uganda. She has told me about recycling and now I put everything in the bin." And Kyema's head, Julius Tibaingana, is committed to raising awareness. He has invited a local forestry college to talk to his pupils about sustainable wood usage.

Goal 2. To achieve gender parity. This has a more dramatic relevance in Uganda where girls' education is not valued as highly as boys'. But Julius Tibaingana is trying to ensure girls' chances are maximised. (See main story).

Goal 3. To develop a global partnership for development. This is being achieved by the very existence of the link between the two schools, which is used to share teaching expertise and enrich curriculum work. The constant exchange of postcards, letters and photographs ensures pupils in both countries become aware of how their opposite numbers view the world.

For instance, the Ugandans have been surprised to learn that Launceston pupils stay in school all day, that their parents escort them to school, that they study in the same age groups and that have water in the classroom. The Cornish children, in turn, have learnt that their Ugandan pen-pals face serious problems: lack of food, being forced to work while still children, abuse, defilment and forced marriage.

The schools' joint work will culminate in producing two magazines, one in each country, on global issues, written by the oldest pupils. The magazines, featuring articles on the millennium development goals the pupils have been studying, will be circulated in both schools for all the pupils to read next month.

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