Two very special visitors came from Kenya to visit Abbey Meads Community Primary School in September as part of a British Council funded global partnership project to increase professional, educational and cultural links and understanding, writes Juliet Platt.
Reuben Mbwiko, headteacher of Mwitasy Ano Primary School and Cosmas Nzilili, who runs the neighbouring rescue centre for abandoned and abused children spent a week in Swindon, getting to know the teachers and the methods they use to help pupils learn.
Visit coordinator and school bursar Julia Hirons chose to establish links with an African school after experiencing life in Kenya in her previous job. “I left my heart there,” she said.
Speaking of the differences between schools here and in Africa, Reuben said: “We have 467 pupils altogether in our school with only seven teachers. We have no electricity and no library and we rely on chalk. Here the technology seems to help with better interaction between teachers and pupils, although there is much that we can do to improvise with our resources and create a friendlier atmosphere in our school, just like here.”
Cosmas, who himself grew up as a street-child in Mombasa before receiving a Save the Children scholarship to attend school and university in Nairobi, said: “Here you let the children experience their own thinking rather than trying to force learning. It is almost play.”
Reuben and Cosmas take drastic steps to ensure children in their surrounding county get the education they need, including rescuing children from harmful circumstances and knocking on doors to bring children to school.”
Reflecting on his own experience Cosmas said: “When you go to work in the city you leave problems behind without doing anything to solve them. In my life people I never knew assisted me, and now it’s time to do the same for other children.”
In October Abbey Meads teachers Liz Arblaster and Claire Walsh will make a reciprocal visit to Kenya to learn first-hand about the differences.
Explaining the aim of their trip Liz said: “The focus will be on the responsibilities of the children so we can come back and convey this to our pupils.”