Young traders have business off to a T

When pupils at Northfleet School for Girls in Kent got involved in a T-shirt printing project, they also got involved in international negotiations.

Abderrahmane Benjeddi, the innovations leader at the specialist business and enterprise school, set up the project through Rafi.ki - a website that enables pupils around the world to work together.

The brief was for pupils in Ghana, Uganda, Gambia, Morocco and the Philippines to design T-shirts. They then ordered them from 60 pupils in England who would manufacture and ship them back.

The project was explained to pupils, and they were taught to use the site. Schools working with them had already been contacted and lesson plans shared. Students could then communicate with each other and they were responsible for trouble-shooting problems as they arose.

Mr Benjeddi said: "One of the first things which surprised our students was that the others spoke English well enough to communicate with them. They thought about why they have to make that effort? It was teaching culture as much as business.

"We didn't want to impose our designs. We wanted to reverse the roles - instead of manufacturing in Africa and selling in Europe, we wanted to manufacture in Europe. They were the consumers and we were the labourers."

A local firm lent the school machinery that enabled students to print designs on to the 200 T-shirts, and a Ford-style production line was set up on the day. The T-shirts were printed, packaged and sent off.

Youssef El Assali, a teacher at Al Massira College in Morocco whose students received the T-shirts, said: "The experience we lived with Northfleet School, designing T-shirts, was really fruitful and beneficial."

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