Brackenbury Primary School and Beza Primary and Secondary School have been partner schools since February 2012. Through Link Ethiopia the schools have been actively communicating, exchanging letters and strengthening their relationship, which enabled them to receive a grant from the British Council and organise a visit.

On February 17th three teachers – the Head Teacher and the Link Coordinators – from Brackenbury Primary School visited Beza School in Bishoftu. The Beza Link Club students greeted them at the school gates, waving the Ethiopian flag, singing a welcoming song.

The Head teacher, the Link Coordinator and the Link Ethiopia Club Representative gave a speech to welcome the visitors, discussing the benefits of the programme – the shared learning activities, volunteer placements and the Library and Literacy Project which Brackenbury School has partially funded.

The visitors observed a coffee ceremony, in which the Link Club students provided detailed insight into the preparation of coffee in Ethiopia, outlining how it is very different from European style with its more leisurely ceremonial process. During the trip, the visitors spent much of their time observing lessons to gain a greater understanding of the teaching and learning styles in the Ethiopian education system. They were also able to explore the surrounding areas of Bishoftu, in particular the beautiful lakes of Bishoftu Town.

There was a lively meeting with the teachers and 134 Link Club members, which was a great opportunity for both parties to ask questions about each other’s schools and countries, sharing and learning about different cultures and practices.

The time came to say goodbye and this was another celebration in itself. The male students performed the traditional Ethiopian New Year song, ‘Hoya Hoye’, beating the ground with sticks to resemble a drumming sound, whilst the female students performed another traditional Ethiopian New Year song, ‘Abeba Yiwosh’, using an instrument called Kebero and clapping to create a powerful and enchanting sound.

The visitors thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Beza School and were warmly welcomed by the students, teachers and the Link coordinators. Brackenbury School is eager to strengthen this link and are looking forward to reciprocating the Ethiopian hospitality during the reciprocal visit.

Mr Fricker, Link Coordinator at Brackenbury, had this to say about the visit:

“The Head of the school gave us a warm welcome as did the two Link Ethiopia coordinators. I was thrilled to be able to meet the coordinators who had been my pen-pals for the last 2 years!

Throughout the week, we were fortunate to be able to observe and participate in a complete range of lessons, including English in the kindergarten, PE in the elementary school and maths in the secondary school. It was particularly delightful for me to see the photos, letters and shared learning experiences we had posted from the link club members at Brackenbury on display in Beza school. Also, we had the opportunity to meet all the children involved in the letter writing programme and I was overjoyed by their warmth and keen interest in their pen pals.

To further strengthen our partnership, we were able to meet and discuss with the owner, head and coordinators at Beza, the next steps in shared learning experiences and a clearer timetable for communication between the two schools.

The farewell ceremony was a display of true Ethiopian hospitality with gifts and messages of love and friendship to all the children and staff at Brackenbury.

It was difficult to say goodbye, following a week of such joy.

The experience was truly amazing and having already returned to school in London, we have been sharing photographs, information and most importantly the messages of friendship from Beza’s students to the children and staff at Brackenbury. We look forward to welcoming the visitors from Beza in the very near future as our partnership continues to go from strength to strength!”