Abbey Meads reception teacher Liz Arblaster and Y2 teacher Claire Walsh travelled to Kenya in October to visit Mwitasy Ano Primary School and children’s rescue centre, building on the British Council funded global education partnership project that started in the summer when headteacher Reuben Mbwiko and rescue centre founder Cosmas Nzilili came to Swindon.
Liz and Claire stayed in the rescue centre with Cosmas, his family and the children he has brought in, and took with them numerous donations, including football kit, laptops, pencils and uniform items.
Claire commented: “Cosmas treats all the children as if they were his own, and they all attend school which is a five minute walk away. We went along to school everyday and got to meet all the teachers who, unlike here, are mostly men.”
Liz and Claire also took with them pieces of art work produced by year 4 children, depicting the scenes they can see from their window. Liz explained: “Everyone was really keen to find out about our education system, and the older children in particular were very well-informed and asked loads of questions about politics and government.”
During their visit Liz and Claire were interviewed by a local radio station and were presented with traditional shawls representing typical sustainable crafts of the region.
On the last day the whole community held a celebration in honour of the English visitors, when hundreds of parents and local government ministers joined the staff and children to share a meal and perform poems and songs.
Reflecting on what she took away from the experience Liz said: “It was really valuable to get first-hand experience about how people live. It made us appreciate how much our children have got.”
The next step is to further develop joint curriculum projects touching on colonial history and geography, and for children to become pen pals. It is also hoped that two Kenyan teachers will be able to visit Abbey Meads in 2013.