From slaves to scholars;Secondary

8th May 1998 at 01:00
Another happy accident led to a link between Hull and Africa. Chief Richard Bonanjah Kings from Andek, in Cameroon, was at Hull University, working on a postgraduate course, and was keen to establish cultural links with the local community. He asked to visit a Hull school and was invited to look round Malet Lambert.

Garry Burnett made the connection straight away. "Hull was once part of the slave trade triangle formed by ships from Hull sailing to Africa and then taking slaves across to the US," he says. "I thought, 'Let's build on that by having a cultural triangle - something positive out of something horrendous'."

A delegation from Hull went to Cameroon, once part of West Africa's slave coast. The trip was funded by the British Council, and the party included Martin Cooper, senior computer technician at Malet Lambert. He is desperate to go back, so the change in thinking and outlook often experienced by visitors to developing countries is something that Malet Lambert pupils might well be experiencing in the near future.

"Andek is an English-speaking area in a predominantly French-speaking country,'' says Martin. "The people are subsistence farmers and they are very, very poor. They have basic housing, no tools, no clean water, no electricity and nothing in the way of roads. People are leaving the area because there's no work for them. In a hundred years' time the Andek people might not exist.

"So, we thought why not have an English school teaching English-speaking people in Africa, giving them qualifications to put them in a better state for getting grants to come to British universities - then they could go back, teach, and standards would get better."

Martin went to Andek to set up computers and a Web site and took with him copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, a video of the film and a teaching video made by Garry Burnett. Joint lessons are not far off, and Neasden Primary, one of Malet Lambert's feeder schools, is joining in with the link.

There has already been Internet chat, and letters are well beyond the "I've got three sisters and a black cat" stage.

"It's like we're friends," explains Kirsty Auld, a Year 9 pupil. "Friends who haven't seen each other all weekend and are catching up on Monday morning in the playground."

Several teachers at Malet Lambert comment on what an insular, inward-looking place Hull can be - but not for these children. "Hull is at the end of the train line, and our children need a better world vision because of it," says Garry Burnett. "It's not penpals they're communicating with - it's people they can see, people they are facing, reality brought closer to them."

Techknowledgy, a Newcastle-based charity, will collect your old PCs, refurbish them, send them to the Third World and ensure they are used. E-mail: techknow@enterprise.net or Telephone Andy Mark on 01835 850755

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