Home-grown for Uganda

1st July 2005 at 01:00
One pupil has been on red alert looking for takers to buy his tomatoes. Adi Bloom reports on an initiative in Oxfordshire.

A small boy sits at a makeshift stall in front of his school, selling home-grown tomato plants to his classmates to raise cash.

With the change he picks up with each sale, he hopes to buy schoolbooks and pencils for 100 pupils crammed into a tiny, dusty bare classroom.

Oliver Wickens's stall, outside his rural Oxfordshire primary school, is a world away from the bustling vegetable markets surrounding Buganda Road primary, in Uganda, where his hard-earned money will be sent.

The seven-year-old and his classmates at Wheatley primary have written to Buganda Road pupils and studied photos of Ugandan classrooms as part of a whole-school link project.

The TES Make the Link campaign is encouraging schools in Britain to set up similar links with their counterparts around the world.

"They don't have very much paper or many pencils in Uganda," Oliver said.

"Their clothes are brown and quite old. Ours are more cheerful.

"They have 100 children in one class. Sometimes I think I'd like that: it would be very friendly, but a bit squashed. I want to buy pencils and rubbers and sharpeners and posters, to help them learn."

Oliver raised pound;23.50 ("enough for probably 50 pencils") for Buganda Road, by selling the plants for 50p each. Wendy Whittaker, Wheatley Year 2 teacher, believes lessons can be learned from his business venture.

"Our pupils go to the supermarket if they want food," she said. "But in Uganda they grow their own vegetables, or pick them up at the market. Their food isn't prepackaged. Ugandan children have lots of responsibilities and not many rights. Our children have lots of rights and not very many responsibilities."

But the link has led to increased responsibility for Wheatley pupils.

After Oliver's fundraising, three Year 5 boys organised a sponsored run around the school playground and raised pound;71.40. They then selected the maths equipment they would send to Uganda.

And the entire school has participated in a series of money-raising events, collecting almost pound;2,000.

Clive Hallett, Wheatley's headteacher, says that it is not only Buganda Road primary that gains from the link. "Their school will gain materially, but our pupils get a greater understanding of global citizenship," he said.

"It's a way of saying we are all brothers and sisters together."

The idea resonates with Oliver. "Ugandan people speak different languages, but they're like us," he said. "If I met one of them, I'd say, 'Hello, nice to meet you'. Then I'd offer them a tomato."

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

Make the Link

The awards

The TES has launched a series of awards for international school links, with two top prizes of pound;5,000 for the international school and FE college of the year, plus pound;3,500 for the best school world link and pound;2,500 for the best school European link.

The awards are sponsored by HSBC and supported by the British Council.

Closing date is July 20. Entry forms are available on our website www.tes.co.ukMake_the_Link, which also carries advice on linking from experts such as Ted Wragg and tips on how to set up a link. Tell us about your link by emailing Make_the_Link@tes.co.uk

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