Chiswick School forges new international link
Chiswick School’s status as an International school is beingenhanced by a new link to Lakshmipat Singhania School in Rajastan India. ‘We the management, staff and students are very excited with our partnership agreement; they are also very keen to know your
staff and students and work with them. It would be a wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn from each other’, said U K Jha, the principal of the school. It will be relatively easy to undertake a joint project with the school as they have good access to the Internet. Mr Parsons Moore who arranged the link, replied: ‘On behalf of our school community, can I say how excited we are at the prospect of forming a long and fruitful partnership with Lakshmipat Singhania School. We look forward to building relationships with the staff, students and the wider community, and working on joint projects to extend our knowledge and understanding’. As well as our link with Chamboli high School in Zambia and our German exchange school in Wolfsburg, Chiswick is adding a third with the school in India. Further links to schools in Australia and the US are also a possibility. Chiswick has achieved an Intermediate Award for developing International links and is now well on its way to achieving the full award.
CHAMBOLI HIGH SCHOOL VISIT – JUNE 2011
I guess one can honestly say that few experiences in life can genuinely be described as “life-changing”. I can however state that in a period of 10 days last June, I travelled to a continent that I had never experienced before, met people who had little to give but yet gave everything, saw the true value of education and by way of a bonus; made strong friendships that I know will stand the test of time.
Although reasonably well travelled, I left Heathrow bound for Ndola via Nairobi with very little idea of what lay ahead. Communication with the staff at Chamboli High had proven difficult, e-mails were returned but often with three-week gaps from when sent, postal mail went astray. All we had to confirm the trip were a few text messages from one of the school’s senior staff, Nalukui.
The flight was long but trouble free, I arrived at Ndola early on Saturday morning to be greeted by a large group including the Headteacher, her Deputy, the school bursar, the chair of the PTA and five other members of staff. I was warmly greeted and immediately whisked to a local town where district football finals were being played. I had mentioned my love of football in a letter sent some weeks previously and Chamboli had four students in the Kitwe representative team. The quality of football was high, even though the pitch had little in the way of grass and appeared to roll in every direction at once. After a 3-0 win for Kitwe against an Ndola side, I was introduced to the captain who proudly in turn introduced his team.
We left the tournament before Kitwe went on to reach the final. In conversation during a match, I mentioned that my brother had worked on building a school near Ndola with a British charity. After some animated discussions with the driver to agree direction, we made our way to an impromptu visit to the school. The journey to this school passed through a local township and for the first time, I saw indicators of real poverty. The main street in the town was noisy as stalls and bars competed noisily for attention. The school was empty, and through conversation with the site manager it was clear that despite being finished a year ago, it was not yet fully functioning as a school, an example of how the best made plans can quickly go astray in Africa if not closely monitored.
The evening came quickly and after a light meal I was glad to creep into my mosquito net and fall quickly asleep.
There was no time for breakfast the next morning as I had been asked by text some weeks before if I was a Christian. Having answered positively I was picked up at 7.00 am and whisked to a packed Catholic Church where I was privileged to take part in a full Gospel Mass. The singing and celebration put my usual 40-minute service at home to shame; in fact the sermon itself was 45 minutes in length! After a two-and-a-half hour service I was driven to the Headteachers Church to meet her Minister. Two hours later and I emerged from an Evangelical service complete with drums, guitars (3) and singing so good it had to be heard to be believed.
Monday morning and I was picked up at 6.45 am for the short journey to school. The journey in passed through Kitwe itself and as we headed out to Chamboli we passed students whom I later found had walked up to nine miles to reach school by 7.30 am when the gates were closed for the day to latecomers! This was my first taste of just how highly regarded education is in Zambia. The other side of the dust road saw farmers pushing bicycles piled high with produce on the way to market.
The school was bigger than I had expected (even though the school caters for almost 2000 students I had for some reason expected something smaller). It was also incredibly well kept and ordered. I was taken into staff briefing where every member of the teaching team was introduced to me, one at a time. Then it was announced that I should follow the Headteacher into assembly. As we approached the main hall, which had the appearance of a large aircraft hanger, the singing had already started. I made my way to the stage and various speeches were made welcoming me to the school and stating how this was the start of a major partnership between Chamboli High and Chiswick Community School. Students sang a song for Chiswick that they had prepared weeks before and I had the opportunity to talk to the students from the stage.
As I sat on the stage I could not help but notice just how well presented the students were. Despite their long and arduous journeys to school, every one was immaculately presented in full uniform. Chamboli students are proud of their school and this was obvious from their appearance and from the way that they moved around the school, in and out of lessons.
After a tour of the school, the rest of the day was spent in lessons. Class sizes of 50+ made learning challenging at times but I was immediately struck by the good interaction between staff and student, and the lack of any behavioural distractions – these students were here to learn!
Over the course of the next three days I observed nine full lessons, from English, Maths and Science to Technology. Each lesson was well structured and students were fully involved in the learning process. Students stay still and teachers move to them where practical. All lessons are held in English although for most, this was not their home language.
On Wednesday evening I joined 8 members of staff as we set off in the school minibus to Livingstone, an overnight journey of some 1000 Km. This appeared to be made at frankly ridiculous speed on heavily potholed roads – interesting at times!
Over the next two days I was treated not only to Victoria Falls (no coats allowed Chiswick staff, a tradition has been started)! But we also travelled to a National Park and game reserve where I was “fortunate enough” to be just feet from where a crocodile emerged from the Zambezi River!
I was dropped off by the staff at Lusaka Airport at 10.00 pm on Friday to start the long journey home. We have made close friends in Kitwe and I was sad to leave them.
This short account does not do the journey justice. It does not tell of the welcome dinner complete with African dancers who moved their hips in completely unnatural ways until I joined them for a dance, of traditional dishes that resulted in me eating caterpillar for the first (and last) time, of my visit to meet Kitwe’s Mayor which resulted in me being made a freeman of Kitwe for the duration of my stay, of my journey to a snake farm complete with Pythons capable of spitting venom 8 metres, or of the staff v student football match played in my honour (with many students playing barefoot), It also does not do justice to the wonder that is Africa and the wonderful friendships that await Chiswick staff over the years to come.