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Crafty connection to Kenya

A west London school is helping an African community to develop a share in world trade. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

It is an ambitious plan. But if it works, children in an isolated Kenyan community will grow up having jobs and trading on the international market.

Gumley House school, in Isleworth, west London, plans to help its link-school in the African country to set up a workshop making goods to be sold in Britain.

The all-girl convent school has business and enterprise status, and 18 sixth-formers will visit Misikhu Friends' secondary school, in Kenya's Western province, in July to study local industry.

They will bring back items such as jewellery and soapstone products, and talk to UK retailers and traders to see if there is a market for them.

The sixth-formers will report back to the Kenyan school, whose pupils will research further what people buy, how much they are prepared to spend and whether there is a way they can jointhe Fairtrade network. A return visit to Isleworth is planned for 2007.

Gumley House pupils will also take over 10 refurbished computers and teach a group of Kenyan children how to use them so that they can then train their classmates.

Judy Machin, head of science at Gumley House and the teacher in charge of the school link, said the idea originated from the Fairtrade scheme and the Make Poverty History campaign.

"I told the pupils that it was all very well thinking the Government will sort everything out and that children just wear their rubber wristbands,"

Ms Machin said. "They had to do something themselves. So we decided to try to develop marketing opportunities.

"It is an excellent educational opportunity for our pupils to see how international trade works and a wonderful chance for the Kenyans to enter the world trading community.

"The students over there work 10 times harder than most pupils in this country and end up with brilliant examination results because they value education. But there is nowhere for them to go in terms of work because the coffee and sugar industries are not doing well on the world market."

Ms Machin set up the initial contact between the schools in 1999 but this is by far the biggest collaboration between the two.

"I bought several necklaces in Kenya during a visit last year for about Pounds 12 in total, and was being offered up to pound;20 each for them here by people who wanted to give them as presents, or to wear themselves,"

she said.

"I think there are very real trading opportunities here. However, pupils will need to find out what the laws are on importing goods from abroad, so that everything is legal and above-board."

Prizes worth pound;25,000 are on offer for the best school links. To enter the TESHSBC Awards, visit www.tes.co.ukMake_The_Link Got a good story to tell about linking? Email us on Make_The_Link@tes.co.uk

* dorothy.lepkowska@tes.co.uk

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