Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Over the past five years our educational partnership with the Dioceses of Kirinyaga and Embu in Kenya has grown from six to 54 schools taking part in exchange visits.

Hundreds of members of staff and thousands of children have experienced and enjoyed cultural diversity and have discovered for themselves what it means to be a global citizen. 

School partnerships started in 2007 after the idea of extending the partnership between Chelmsford and the Kenyan Dioceses of Kirinyaga and Embu into education was suggested during the visit of Bishop John Gladwin to Kenya in 2006. The first school visits involving six primary schools from each country took place in May 2007 and the programme has grown and flourished.  There are now fifty four schools in total with hundreds of members of staff and thousands of children discovering for themselves what it means to be global citizens.  The programme also now includes schools from a third Kenyan Diocese, Mbeere, non-church schools and secondary schools

The fifty four schools are divided into four phases in various stages of their partnerships. The last phase, Phase 4 began their partnerships last year and the reciprocal visits took place in April and June this year.  The visits are mainly funded by the British Council but many of the schools have also funded their own teacher visits by fundraising or setting aside money from their school budgets.

The schools in both countries have benefited in rich and varied ways as the emphasis has always been on learning and children learning from one another.  Many of the schools in the Chelmsford Diocese are small and rural and it can be a struggle at times to convey to their pupils an understanding of cultural diversity.  Similarly, in the rural schools of Kenya, students often have a limited view of the world outside their village and the opportunity to meet and talk with people from a different culture prompts huge excitement and curiosity.  Members of staff are able to return to their schools having had first-hand experience of another culture and as with anything, if one is hearing someone’s own story it is so much more powerful and inspiring than reading about it in a book or searching for information on the Internet. 

At the moment the programme has come to a crossroads.  The British Council has changed the funding arrangements and Kenya is not one of the countries to be given priority.  Also, the older partnerships, having already received grants under the old arrangements, may no longer be eligible.  Schools are considering ways in which they can continue the friendships they have been built up over the last five years so that their communities can continue to benefit from the experience of learning first-hand about another culture.

Lyn Hillier
Diocesan Schools Adviser
August 2012

For more information please contact Lyn Hillier
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