So what do the schools actually get up to in a school link? It’s one thing saying that a school on the vast African continent is partnered with your own in the UK or the US, but there has to be more to it than that.
On starting up a school link, the UK/US school receives a very fulsome and detailed Welcome Pack which introduces them not only to Ethiopia itself – its history, its wildlife and its culture – but to the exact community where the link school is situated. Link Ethiopia describes in this pack the daily life of the community, what the adults and the children get up to in a typical twenty-four hour period and the sort of activities that fill the lives of the people who live there.
The pack also has a detailed description of the Ethiopian school itself, where it is situated, how big it is, what it is proud of and what it hopes for its future.
Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, the link school receives a sturdy and sizeable noticeboard for the wall of its library on which is displayed pictures of the UK/US school and its occupants, details of the school’s geographical situation and particular characteristics, etc.
Both schools receive their copy of the Link Ethiopia Handbook in which is described all the details they need to get moving with their communications and their sharing of experiences.
It tells how the letter-writing works and gives lots of advice as to the best content and presentation of those letters. It details the way in which the Shared Learning Activities work, supported in both countries by curriculum materials designed in-house and focused carefully on the different age groups and educational standards involved.
Link Ethiopia feels very strongly that these school links should be of a sharing and caring nature. There are frequently very great differences between the level of educational resources in the two schools and both schools work towards an improvement in that area.
A resourcing priority is therefore identified in the Ethiopian school during discussions between Link Ethiopia’s staff and the Director and teachers in that school. This priority is then carefully budgeted and planned, with both schools taking their share of fundraising towards that project.
Meanwhile, each school provides occasional displays for their partners, often based on an annual focus topic of important world interest such as Health or Nutrition or Climate Change. They swap pictures and they exchange ideas, heightening awareness in both schools as the the real nature of such issues.
With the rapid improvements in communication technology, Link Ethiopia are hoping to get shared internet blogs going between pairs of schools in the very near future, with the School Links Development Officer having this project as a major focus during his upcoming visit to our northern and southern offices.
Link Ethiopia facilitates all manner of activities for the schools concerned but, when all is said and done, the best school links have energetic Link Coordinators at their centre, one in each school, whose energies drive things forward and make sure that every pupil and every parent are aware of the link and can see its results around the school.
There is a lot more that one could say about the activities involved in school linking with Link Ethiopia, but there is no doubting that the very best way of appreciating a link of this sort is to get involved and to make the leap that allows a link to get started.
And Link Ethiopia stays alongside at all times, advising, managing and guiding as much as is necessary.
Do you work in a school where this concept would be an exciting addition to its activities? Do you have children or know children who might introduce this idea to their schools next term? Why not get in touch and show your interest? Drop a brief email to [email protected] and find out more.