Two pupils present a project on gender equality.

This year, pupils from Kinlochbervie in the Scottish Highlands took part in our Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme by partnering with Sachangwan Secondary School and Nguzu River Primary in Kenya. 

The distance between the schools, which we are reliably told by Kinlochbervie students is exactly 4623 miles as the crow flies, didn’t stop students speaking, giving tours of their schools and teaching each other about their culture.

Via letters, and a video directed by S1 pupils, Kinlochbervie students told their Kenyan peers about otters, lochs, shinty, fishing and snow. In a video response, the Sachangwan students showed off their impressive school grounds, sang, and planted trees in honour of the partnership. There were dance performances on both sides and in footage yet unseen by British Council Scotland, the Kenyan students learned to ceilidh dance.

However the partnership didn’t stop at school tours and dancing. The Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme, delivered by the British Council in partnership with the Department of International Development, provides teachers with the resources and training to teach internationally. As part of this, partnered schools work together on a project focusing on one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Kinlochbervie and Sachangwan students chose to focus on gender equality, exploring the issue as part of their Modern Studies (High School) and Citizenship (Primary School) courses. In the summer, P5-S2 pupils hosted an event in Kinlochbervie to celebrate their work on the project. The event featured live performances from the Scottish pupils and video performances by Kenyan pupils around the gender equality theme.

Kinlochbervie teachers tell us the partnership has been a success; with two of them even visiting Sachangwan Secondary School earlier this year, but in the spirit of the Year of Young People, we decided to ask the pupils what they thought…

First, we asked what they had found out about their partners schools. Answers expressed surprise at the hairstyles, size of classes (40 in Sachangwan compared to 10 in Kinlochbervie), the exam system and the weather. Many talked about their Maths and Physics teacher, Mr Joshua Keitany, who previously taught at Sachangwan Secondary and who the Kenyan pupils ‘like and miss very much.’  Across the board, much delight was expressed that both schools keep pet chickens.

More important than chickens and haircuts, if there is such a thing, were the pupil’s answers to the next question. When asked if they thought it was important to learn about other countries, every pupil, from P4 – S6, said yes. Their reasons included: ‘to learn about other cultures’, ‘to understand other people’ and ‘to know what is happening in the world’.

Ashleigh (P6, Durness Primary School) said ‘If we only learn about the country we live in then it’s boring.’ While an S2 pupil at Kinlochbervie High stated simply that ‘they might learn about us and if we don’t learn about them it would be rude.’

When asked if they thought they would ever visit Kenya, many expressed their interest in visiting the country and meeting the other children that they had been talking to. Grace (P6, Kinlochbervie Primary School) said that she would like to visit Kenya because ‘It sounds like a good place - nice, warm, and the people there sound like they will be kind.’ 

Emily (P6, Kinlochbervie Primary School) said ‘I would love to go so I could meet the person I was writing to and see the animals.’ 

Emily wasn’t the only one interested in the animals, with most pupils mentioning something about the wildlife. One S6 pupil now wants to visit Kenya to ‘learn how people live and see the differences between there and UK’. However when another S6 pupil was asked, they answered in true Scottish style: ‘No because it’s boiling and I hate the heat.’

The partnership between Kinlochbervie and Sachangwan pupils is ongoing with a Kenya Club allowing pupils to continue writing and sending things to their pens pals across the world. 

If you want to know more about Connecting Classrooms and how you can get involved, visit the Schools Online webpage here