Two Northern Ireland schools partner with schools in Kenya under the Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme
In May 2020, St. Eugene's Primary School, Derry and St. Mary's Primary School, Altinure partnered with two schools in Nakuru, Kenya as part of our Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme funded by the British Council and UK Aid (FCDO). They paired with Nakuru East Primary and Crater Primary School, both in the town of Nakuru, which is about 100km north-east of Nairobi on the main east-west road that stretches through Kenya.
Nakuru is well known for Lake Nakuru, one of the Rift Valley soda lakes. At an elevation of 1,754m above sea level, Lake Nakuru is saline and boasts an abundance of algae that attracts a vast quantity of flamingos. At times, there are so many flamingos that the lake can often appear pink!
It's thought that Crater Primary gets its name from the Rift Valley, with Lake Nakuru being a crater lake.
Forging an International Partnership
An international partnership was a natural project for the NI schools cluster lead, Dr Ciara Herron.
Before Ciara became a teacher, she worked on research projects at the Ulster University’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology and spent time working in Kenya, Tanzania and Australia. Ciara was keen to use the International Partnership (IP) programme as an opportunity to develop pupils’ interests and inquisitiveness about other countries. She is in a unique position in that she works part-time in both of these schools - she also coordinates WAU in both schools and is an assessor for Eco-Schools.
The head teachers of the Northern Ireland schools, Teresa Duggan (St. Eugene’s PS) and Mary Redmond (St. Mary’s PS Altinure) were also keen to use the opportunity of the IP programme to develop opportunities to embed global learning. St. Eugene’s PS has previously connected their work with Schools of Sanctuary, which promotes cultural awareness.
Both schools were matched by the British Council in May 2020, at a time where schools in both countries were in fact closed, but this didn’t put them off! Ciara was quick to get in touch with the Kenyan teachers using What' s App video capabilities, so they could get to know each other and agree on areas of learning they wanted to focus on for collaborative pupil learning.
All teachers agreed to explore SDG3 Health and Wellbeing in response to the unprecedented disruption from Covid-19 and the impact the pandemic has brought to children across the globe. They felt that working in partnership could also be a key driver for developing pupils' resilience in the year ahead.
Online Teacher Professional Learning
In August 2020, both NI schools undertook two joint Teacher Professional Learning sessions through interactive lessons that focused on 'Introducing Global Learning in the Classroom' and 'Approaches for Integrating Global Learning into Topics'. The TPL sessions were delivered by Lisa Rose and Laura Rio Fernandez, trainers from the Centre for Global Education.
Importantly, these sessions provided teachers with opportunity to reflect on the emotional and educational impact of lockdown experiences.
A group work activity, ‘What do we need to do to help our children become citizens of the future?’ generated a lot of discussion and highlighted teachers’ collective desire for their pupils to possess resiliency and critical literacy; the current global health crisis has demonstrated the need for skills to address the seriousness of global issues such as climate change, without overwhelming young people.
A few weeks later, each school held an individual sharing practice session that allowed teachers to reflect on some of the ideas and activities they had tried out in the classroom. Teachers had embedded global learning through a range of different topics covering ‘food miles’ to ‘making choices’ to ‘pen-pal exchanges, with their partner school in Nakuru’, looking at the worldwide pandemic and how experiences had been either similar or different.
Together, teachers in both NI and Kenya developed an action plan to guide opportunities for learning. Firstly, getting to know each other and learning about life in their partner school’s country, followed by learning about wellbeing, then investigating how children in each country experience wellbeing.
It was hoped that the Kenyan teachers would visit Northern Ireland in October 2020 as part of the programme's funding that covered reciprocal visits. Unfortunately, though, Covid-19 put a stop to global travel, but it didn't stop all teachers and pupils from driving their plans to focus on collaborative learning activities that would create a positive impact on pupils’ health and wellness!
Sharing a Typical Day at School!
Pupils from Year 5 at St. Eugene’s made a video to introduce school to their peers in Kenya, showing them what a typical day in school looked like, from numeracy lessons to the daily exercise mile, then investigative work for a history topic. Similarly, pupils from Crater PS shared a video of their end of term assembly, which took place outside - with singing and dancing and an offering of thanks for the abundance of food grown in the area. Food that included plantain, cassava, bananas and pineapple.
The children were highly creative, with pupils in Years 1 and 2 at St. Eugene's making ‘hands of friendship’. Pupils made a print of their hands with paint, added a photograph of themselves, and on the painted fingers wrote what they believed were some of the qualities of friendship.
Year 6 and 7 pupils at St. Mary’s wrote letters to their new friends in Kenya telling them about their local area, their school and a little bit about themselves, as well as reporting on their favourite food and hobbies - and what they thought of their teachers!!!
Meanwhile, pupils in Kenya continued to send photos of daily school life that showed pupils involvement in growing and tending crops, and harvesting them.
The pupils from St. Mary's PS found creative ways to introduce themselves: Pupils in Year 3 drew pictures of themselves and recorded short videos introducing themselves and highlighting what they liked about school, while P4 pupils from St.Eugene's shared what their local area was like by drawing ‘views from our window’ showing their school building and the outside play areas.
Getting to know each other
Now that the pupils have got to know each other, they're focusing on learning related to wellbeing. Pupils from both Northern Ireland and Kenya have shared photos to evidence how their experience of school has changed, from learning in class bubbles to having lots of space between the desks.
When schools get back after the lockdown in 2021, they are planning to start introducing the SDGs.
Ciara Herron is particularly pleased with how the partnerships are working out so far. Even though there are lots of unknowns about travel and general uncertainty, all the teachers feel that a good connection has been established and that pupils on both sides are benefiting from understanding and witnessing the experiences of partnering with peers in another country, and in real time.
When asked about her experience Ciara says, "I’m happy with how it’s going so far, particularly considering how much we’ve been able to achieve in the middle of these lockdowns and restrictions. We’ve made a lovely connection with the Kenyan schools, even though it’s still early in the project, and I’m excited to see how it will develop."
Justine Okuto, the principal of Crater Primary School added "We are striving towards realising improved performance amid Covid-19 challenges. The hurdles will not deter our commitment to achieving the Connecting Classroom set goals."
Lastly, Thersa Duggan, head of St. Eugene's finished by saying, "Connecting Classrooms has been a positive experience for our pupils during this global pandemic, despite the challenges posed through Covid restrictions and lockdowns. The children are not only developing knowledge of school life in Kenya but have grown in their ability to empathise with others. With improving ICT skills, increasing resilience and awareness of social responsibility, our pupils will be well-equipped to appreciate the learning opportunities for all within our global classroom.
If you would like to join these schools and form an international partnership building on global learning and resilience in pupils, visit our Connecting Classrooms page to learn more or email email@example.com.