During his visit to Kenya, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson found out more about the longstanding partnership between Fairview Primary School in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and a Jebrongo Primary School in Kenya.
The collaboration has been bringing the school curriculum to life at both establishments for over four years with pupils exchanging work and building relationships with their peers in overseas.
“Our partnership with Kenya has played a big part in us meeting the Personal Development and Mutual Understanding requirements of the curriculum across the school. At Key Stage 1 it allows pupils to appreciate the differences and similarities between people, and means those higher up the school can learn first-hand about human rights and cultural diversity.” – Teacher, Kelly McCullough
For the British school, the Kenya partnership has played a big part in the school being awarded the Foundation level of the British Council International School Award, which recognises the global work of schools.
The partnership has also touched the wider community. When teachers from Kenya visited Ballyclare in 2012, they met and exchanged gifts with the mayor and were able to discuss the work that was going on in the school.
During the visit, George and Margaret from Jebrongo Primary School were able to observe the Northern Ireland education system in action by visiting all classes and enjoyed a walking tour of Ballyclare, visiting the High School en route.
Away from the school they went Ten Pin Bowling, visited the Giants’ Causeway at the weekend and watched a production of the musical ‘Annie Get your Gun’ at Mossley Mill.
Teachers from also visited Fairview during a trip to Kenya in 2015.
Preconceptions have been broken down among the pupils thanks to the programme.
“Before we started the partnership activity we asked the children what they knew about Kenya. They expected their partner school peers to be extremely poor and to have elephants living on their doorsteps. They were surprised to see that in Kenya they wear school uniforms and cover many of the same subjects as we do here. It really allowed them to see the similarities as well as the differences, and appreciate that this is what cultural diversity is all about.” – Teacher, Kelly McCullough
The programme also gives pupils a good foundation to build on at secondary level with the local high school maintaining multiple partnerships with schools in other countries.
It has also had a positive effect on the pupils’ work across multiple subjects, which was demonstrated during a recent literacy project:
“The pupils were writing letters to their friends in Kenya during literacy lessons, and the extra effort and care they were taking with their spelling and grammar was easy to see,’ she says. ‘They are improving their core curriculum skills as they improve their cultural awareness, so it’s a real win-win situation.
“It also gives us the opportunity to discuss teaching with people who have a different outlook and set of experiences. We’ve all learnt from each other, and it’s been a real two-way process.”
– Teacher, Kelly McCullough
From finding the partner school in the first place, to gaining the International School Award, the British Council enabled the County Antrim school to welcome the world into their classrooms.
“It’s an approach that I would recommend to any school,” Kelly says.