?The teachers have become students this week”

20 February 2014
Today we continue our account of the recent WorldWise teacher exchange visit to Londiani. This blog was sent yesterday. It again focuses on the themes of learning and partnership that underpinned our earlier posting and offers a fascinating insight into a school network that reaches across nations — and continents. Wednesday the 19th February 2014 Today was a great day as we spent our time in our respective link schools building the strength and solidarity of the school network. Baraka Secondary School, who are hosting Mount St. Michaels, welcomed the teachers by singing one of the songs they taught them yesterday — A Mhuire Mháthair. In return, the Irish teachers, Mary, Ashling and Marie, sang a Kiswahili song called Baraka which means blessings. After some lovely exchanges of tin whistles and t-shirts, the two sets of teachers worked together on the Partnership Agreement. This is based on equality and friendship and sets the foundation of our relationship. Together the groups made St. Brigid’s crosses and worked on a display board about human rights and responsibilities. The teachers in both schools are very excited about the future plans — including a visit by the Kenyan teachers to Mayo. Scoil Uí Mhuirí from Dunleer spent today in Londiani Township Secondary School, which is on the main street of Londiani town. The school has 160 students and all of the Form 1 students came out for a cultural exchange. The teachers from Ireland — Lorna and Gemma — visited the Form 4 classes and read about Nelson Mandela together. When the Irish teachers return to their school they will read the same book with Irish students and then the classes will exchange book reviews. This way students in both countries can compare their thoughts on human rights. Together the teachers finalised their partnership agreement and planned the way forward. Londiani Girls Academy has been renamed Sacred Hills Girls High School and performed a delightful concert of cultural dances, singing and drama. The common theme was Human Rights and Responsibilities with a little bit of Irish dancing and tin whistle playing from Irish teachers Evelyn and Colm! The Irish teachers then discussed the forthcoming Kenyan teacher visit and projects with the staff. As this is their third year of partnership, they shared contact details so as to improve the communication between staff in Kenya and Ireland. At 2pm, all the schools in the network came together for a sharing of experiences in St. Kizito’s. The other two schools in the network — Moate and Killinarden Community School — were represented by the Kenyan schools Moi Sorget and Kapcheplanga. The gathering was officially attended by the District Education Office and the teachers evaluated the work so far. It has been an amazing experience for the Irish teachers this week. Having left their own schools in Ireland on Friday, and arrived here in Londiani on Sunday, they have been going non-stop since the mid-term break started. Although the weather has been cold and damp, the warmth of the local welcome and chai has more than compensated for the lack of sunshine. Everywhere the teachers go, they are welcomed with singing and dancing and the ubiquitous Kenyan handshake. The ethos of this school partnership has been embodied in the teachers’ approach to learning. The teachers have become students this week, taking in as much information as possible, embracing every opportunity and noting how they can translate this unique week of experiences to share with their Irish students at home. To symbolise the growth of our school network this year, the Irish contingent met with the local education officers at their place of work and together planted a tree. Many comparisons were made between the planting of the tree and the development of the school partnerships. Norah from FOL Kenya spoke about the link with the Education Office and the DEO Mr Martin explained the significance of the tree planting ceremony. Following a short visit to Londiani market and the railway station, the group managed to attract some local smiling children who accompanied them on their tour. Having exchanged greetings, many handshakes and photographs followed suit. Then the Irish group was invited by a local lady, Esther, to join her and her neighbours for a special cultural evening. Songs from each country could be heard echoing across the village of Lelsothet as the African sun began to set. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous day. Each teacher was presented with a local gift and made a speech explaining what the week was like for them. Words like amazing, belonging, gobsmacked, privileged, humbled, thankful, relaxed, blessed and included were mentioned and everyone had a feeling of being grateful for the opportunity. The feeling of being ‘at home’ because of the warm welcomes received was the common feeling between all. The day finished with a gathering of FOL Kenyan staff, Fr. Martin and Fr. Con from St. Kizito’s, representatives of the local choir and the teachers sharing a meal and a sing-song. Although there were songs from every county in Ireland, Mayo and Cork were the most competitive with numerous references to GAA!