t the beginning of Last week I attended a two day seminar on DFID Global schools (DGSP) at the AEE guest house in Kabeza. The seminar was organised by VSO Rwanda representing the British Council for DFID Global School Partnerships.
The main purpose of the seminar was to orient the participants, who were teachers from different schools in Rwanda, on the dynamics of establishing and maitaining partnerships between schools in Rwanda and schools in the United Kingdom.
The chief co-ordinator of the seminar Ms Mel Whitney-Long and her colleagues laboured to explain to the participants the aims of a partnership and how to sustain one once it has been established.
The facilitators clearly brought out the fact that partnerships with UK schools should be based on equality. This is because the aim is largely to create a global approach to learning in schools not to provide aid.
In other words a partnership is meant to help the students and teachers of a Rwandan schoool to learn more about the lives of their counterparts in the UK. It should thus be a mutual and equal relationship, not one where one party expects to benefit from the other without reciprocating.
The seminar was largely a successful one despite attempts by the weather to dampen the mood of the proceedings. There were some representatives of schools in Rwanda that are already in partnership with schools in the UK, who talked extensively on how they acquired the partnerships and the challenges they have faced to maintain them.
One teacher told us of how they went to UK with a contigent of four teachers and about six students only to have the students disappearing. Just like atheletes and footballers the naive boys considered this a chance to escape the pungs of African poverty.
This was identified as one the biggest challenges because most people here have got the wrong perceptions about the Western world. Many think that Europe or America is simply paradise with pearls on the streets for anyone to pick.
A lot of emphasis was put on clearly explaining to the participants of the seminar the reality so as to correct some of the erroneous perceptions that may be held by teachers and even their students before they can engage in a partnership.
The major aim of a partnership programme is to raise awareness of global development issues and equip them with the skills and knowledge to become active global citizens through the development of joint curricular work and exchange visits.
For a partnership to be successful it was stressed that it should be educational where teaching and learning are central to the union. Pupils or students of the same age should be in correspondence with their age contemporaries. More importantly it should be kept at an institutional level where a class or school is in touch with another class or school not one between individuals.
Secondly, a successful partnership was said to be one that is sustainable. To achieve this, many stakeholders need to be brought on board. It should, in other words not be a project for the school director and one teacher. Other teachers, students and even parents need to be involved so as to ensure that the partnership can outlive personalities.
The third point was that a successful partnership is one that is based on equity. There should be honest and mutual interactions between the people involved in the partnership. Transperancy and clarity are very crucial in engendering a fruitful relationship.
The organisers of the seminar assured us that more seminars will be organised in future to further the idea of schools’ partnerships between Rwanda and the UK. Further information about the DFID Global School partnership can be obtained from the VSO Rwanda office at Kisimenti or by contacting Ms Mel Whitney-Long by email at firstname.lastname@example.org