When was the last time you received a letter - a proper, handwritten letter from a friend? With text, FaceTime, emails and social networks, writing letters seems to be a thing of the past. However, getting a letter delivered can still be exciting - especially if you get it from somebody in another country, someone you don't even know: a pen pal. When a school in Kenya links with a UK school, the advantages it brings to both schools are numerous.
As a teacher with a class of Year 6 students, our first letters from our adopted school, Kombaka, offered countless opportunities to discover a culture at a level that no DVD or textbook could offer. Learning about a day in the life of a ten year old in rural Kenya threw up so many questions about our own values and lifestyles. When Ofsted interviewed my students, they were able to give details of what life is like on another continent - names, ages, school life, home life and even impressed the team by explaining the daily struggles that these Kenyan children have to experience. Needless to say, the team was impressed.
It was when I visited Kenya for myself that I realised just how significant this school link was for Kombaka as well. With mud walls and tin roofs and three students to a rough wooden bench, a letter from England was a thing to be treasured. The excitement generated by our arrival really astonished us. Greeted with songs, dance, poetry and speeches as we sat in a line in front of a full assembly of the school. Speaking with the teaching staff later on in the day made me realise that these teachers rely solely upon their own knowledge of their subjects. No smart boards, interactive programmes, DVDs, computer, Internet or even, in many cases, textbooks. Their lessons depend upon their students learning by rote as exercise books for recording work are a luxury and not usually something that these children can afford. I returned back to the UK very humbled and full of news for my own school about their linked Kenyan school, Kombaka. Our link continues to this day. Letters, photo journals, culture boxes, lessons plans and books have been shared and we have all learnt from the experience. Kombaka has become a key element in our PSHE, Citizenship Studies and Geography.
I recommend trying a link with your school. Over the period of a year it is possible to have up to 6 sets of letters taken out to Kenya by members of Amani UK. New ideas are being tried by the schools that already have links and there is support for your school if you wish to go ahead. It costs nothing and gives so much.
Please contact Amani UK and ask to speak to me, the Schools Link Co-ordinator for more information. There are many Kenyan schools waiting for you to link with them now. What's stopping you? You will never look back!
Schools Link Co-ordinator
Adviser to Amani UK