Wider perspectives

11th March 2005 at 00:00
A school in Cumbria shows the benefits of linking with schools in other countries, Jessie Anderson reports

Last week The TES launched the campaign Make the Link to support schools who want to form partnerships with schools from around the globe. Teachers who are interested in finding out more about linking with developing countries should visit the Department for International Development on the Global Stand.

Not only does the department hold an online database of more than 500 global citizenship resources, it provides advice and support to schools wanting to set up North-South links.

One school that has already taken the leap is William Howard School in Brampton, Cumbria, which has teamed up with Uru Secondary School in the District of Moshi in Northern Tanzania.

A chance meeting in 1987 at a conference in Cumbria between physics teacher Phil Furneaux and a governor from Uru Secondary has led to a long-lasting relationship between a number of Cumbrian and Tanzanian schools. Following the initial exchange of visits, 10 Cumbrian primaries now have links with 10 primaries in Uru, and a secondary school in Essex is developing a link with a new government secondary in Uru.

In December last year, a group of sixth-formers from Brampton visited Uru and, with its unpainted walls, corrugated iron roof, but idyllic setting amidst lush green lawns and a profusion of shady trees, it was certainly a little different from Cumbria. "The trip was amazing and we made some great friends," said 18-year-old Laura Rowntree, "but it was a real culture shock."

Uru Secondary seems a world away from Britain, until you see the brightly painted mural on the end wall of the science block. It depicts two clasped hands, one black, one white. Over them are the words, in Swahili and English, "jambo, hello" surrounded by the statement, "We are people of the earth, in the shadows of one sun". Below, the inscription "William Howard School, Brampton UK, 5,900 miles" proclaims the link between the two secondary schools.

Mostly the primaries have concentrated on exchanging letters and photographs, following visits from Cumbrian teachers to Tanzania, but some have raised money to fund sports and music projects and one small Cumbrian school recently sent money for desks to its linked school.

Links between Uru and Brampton are consolidated every year with visits between the schools. In alternate years, 16 seniors from the William Howard and 10 students from Uru spend some weeks at each other's schools.

At Uru Secondary, the energetic headteacher, Paulin Kiwia, a combination of pragmatist and visionary, has made enormous strides in the school's development, despite limited resources, since he took over three years ago.

(His target for 2007 is to have the whole school painted.) He showed me two work preparation rooms nearing completion. A computer room, currently just bare walls and an earth floor, would, he assured me, be ready in a few weeks to house 24 computers. Money for these has come from the William Howard link.

The chemistry department furnishing and equipment was crated over from Brampton some years ago when William Howard School acquired a new science block. This was followed by a visit from the Cumbrian school's head of science to ensure that everything worked satisfactorily.

At Uru, with its 420 students, including 220 boarders, teaching is in English and the students are also expected to speak English in the playground. To remind them, there are "Speak English" notices attached to the trees.

In the cool workroom and library, a large notice proclaims: "The vision of Uru Secondary School is to be a centre of excellence in good behaviour, hard work and outstanding academic performance." At first, many books were donated without much thought for their suitability. Now the school prefers to receive money to buy books relevant to the Tanzanian syllabus.

With the formation of the Brampton Tanzania Trust, a larger community involvement has grown from the original schools link which has raised many thousands of pounds to support educational, health and community projects in the region.

"In both countries the young people of today are the leaders of tomorrow," says William Howard's headteacher, Roger Alston. The schools' link gives them "an awareness not only of their cultural but also of their economic differences".

Brampton in Cumbria and Uru formed a long-term successful partnership by chance. But for schools that want to form links now, there is help at hand with organisations such as the Department for International Development.

Global Stand PV7 TESStand A710

* Visit The TESstand to find out how your school can make international partnerships with schools in Europe and further afield in developing countries. Over the coming months, the Make a Link campaign will provide information, contacts and ideas that will help schools develop cross-border ties.

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