Namibia meet North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire meet Namibia: connecting classrooms across the globe
Lily Mortimer is a Particip8 volunteer currently working at Nowak Primary School in Tses, Namibia. She and her partner are the first Project Trust volunteers at the project, and have been tasked with managing their school’s recent participation in the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms scheme.
Connecting Classrooms is an online initiative run by the British Council, and is designed to bring schools together from all over the world. Schools can collaborate on specific projects, connect individual classes or set up whole-school partnerships. Through the website, you can also post videos, blogs and even Skype with classes overseas, providing a secure means to link up students with their peers in other countries.
Although our school were already registered when we first arrived in January, there had been no progress beyond a simple written profile that, despite the valiant attempts and admirable honesty of its writer, made our school sound like a terrifying mess of socio-economic issues and crazy students. Not exactly the most appealing summary. My partner and I have spent some time adding a few photos, and have contacted some UK schools about a partnership. To our delight, two schools responded, and we have begun exchanging pupils’ work with one.
We asked our students to draw pictures of traditional Namibian things and write letters to their British peers, with the agreement that the best work from each class would be posted to our colleagues in Yorkshire. The results were somewhat bizarre to read but certainly endearing. One student wrote about that: “Our education is bieng suport by miss Mortermer and Miss Macmillan” [sic]; another girl wins some kind of record for beginning every second sentence with: “My dear pupils”; another boy even invited the whole school to his house because, apparently, his mother gave her full permission.
Telling those students who had been chosen to represent the school was a joy to watch: my students were terrified when they were called outside, but any guilt I felt for scaring the life out of them quickly dissipated when all was revealed. Clearly the scheme was something we had put effort into, and did want to succeed, but I don’t think either of us anticipated how seriously some of them would take this opportunity. They were absolutely delighted, and I think that for many of them it was the first time in a long time that someone had pulled them aside to offer congratulations and a reward as a result of some good work.
We have plenty more work to do with our second contact school, and have already spoken to our current partners about celebrating International Day of the African Child on June 16 with an events programme for both schools. The challenge for next term will also be finding a way to integrate these new partnerships into the whole school, and ensure their sustainability: given their initial success and their potential for our school in the future, we have to make sure that they keep going beyond our time here. Participating in the scheme does take a little maintenance and initiative, but if volunteers are looking to add some value to their projects or are looking to establish some international contact for their students, Connecting Classrooms is definitely worth considering.