Brum talks to townships

17th July 1998 at 01:00
The world seemed smaller and a lot more equal in Soweto, South Africa, as students from five township schools communicated live via the Internet with five schools in Birmingham, UK.

The day began with students at both ends preparing accounts of their lifestyle in a portfolio of text and digital images. These were then exchanged and printed out both ends so that South African students could see shots of the Bullring and Hamstead Hall High School. Earlier, shots of schools, shops and homes in Soweto had been sent.

The contrast was stark at times. Many of the township residents live in shacks in small shanty developments. Clare Short, Britain's International Development minister, said at the live event in Birmingham that "every child should have the right to education, regardless of where they live and should understand the forces that are shaping the world. This link is one step towards meeting that goal."

As they "chatted" in English and their mother tongue, the 30 students learned that more than five mother tongues were spoken by the participants, and the long-term education potential of seeing perspectives from other countries became clear.

The Link Project - which will run for one year is organised by Interaid - a UK body aiming to link schools around the world to the Internet. The Web pages and chat transcripts can be surfed at http:www.netschools.org

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