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In 2011, Portobello High School started developing a link with Kiuriani High School, in the Maara district of Kenya. This partnership, initially one of DFID’s Global School Partnerships, has been made with the aim of sharing learning and resources with our link school.
One of the main aims of the link is to develop pupils’ understanding of citizenship issues, both in their own country and on a global scale, by sharing what they have learned with pupils in their link school. These projects have included swapping videos of traditional songs and music, instructions for making jewellery and charcoal, updates on joint efforts to make school grounds more environmentally friendly and of course plans for reciprocal visits for staff and pupils.
Classes in Kiurani can comprise 30 to 80 pupils and resources are limited, making it difficult to share learning between our schools. PHS has helped by fundraising and purchasing a data projector and printer for Kiurani, which have helped immensely to change teaching and learning styles there.
In 2012 and 2014, the partnership received set Reciprocal Visit Grants from the British Council, allowing initial visits by members of staff and then further visits for staff and pupils from each school to be organised. In June 2012, two teachers from Kiurani High School visited Portobello for a week. During their visit, Timothy and Titus met many pupils and members of staff. They observed lessons, answered questions about life at Kiurani, visited the Changeworks Make Waste History Summit and the Royal Highland Show with Portobello pupils, and of course did some sightseeing to take photos for their pupils and learn more about Scottish culture. They also brought photos of and letters from Kiurani pupils.
Two teachers from Portobello High School, Sophie Coats and Sharon Gallagher, visited Kiurani Secondary School in October 2012. The visit was an immense success, with Sharon and Sophie very well looked after by the Chogoria community and new projects started. The staff and pupils at Kiurani were welcoming and extremely curious about Portobello’s community. They were amazed at the resources available to pupils in Edinburgh and intrigued by the lack of corporal punishment. The pupils in particular were shocked by the revelation that many children in the UK openly say they don’t enjoy school!
A further visit was planned in 2014, however attacks on parts of Nairobi by the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab in June 2014 threatened the safety of the staff and pupils involved and the trip was cancelled. Instead, these pupils and staff were able to show four visitors from Kiurani our local area here in Portobello. Teachers John and Doreen and pupils Fradinah and Gilbert visited for two weeks in September 2014, taking part in and leading lessons at PHS and sharing cultural experiences. As well as discovering Portobello they took in St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh’s centre, and attended local clubs and sporting events, as well as a ceilidh hosted by our very own band, The Spurtle. A dynamic and entertaining time was had by all involved!
A difference between schools which was made clear during the visits is the lack of material wealth in Chogoria. Although food is plentiful and the people are perfectly capable of feeding and housing themselves, schools still require fees and many families struggle to educate their children. Kiurani is a district school, the least expensive of the three tiers of schools in Kenya, however there are over 80 pupils at the school who have been unable to pay this year’s fees. Eventually, these pupils are asked to leave the school, which may lead to their abandoning their studies forever. Girls especially in Chogoria turn to marriage instead of education when they are forced to leave school. It was felt that it is important to acknowledge this difference and that if our two schools are to learn together it is important to give every child at Kiurani a chance at an education. A group of senior pupils from Portobello were linked individually with such a pupil from Kiurani and volunteered to fundraise to contribute to their link pupils’ fees in 2012. This was continued in 2014 when funds not spent on the visit from Portobello to Kiurani were instead sent to bolster underprivileged pupils’ school fees at Kiurani.
The next step for the partnership will be to strengthen existing curricular and extra-curricular projects between our schools. Hopefully another visit will become possible in the future, helping the partnership to make a difference to staff and pupil experiences in both schools.