Tibberton CE Primary School is situated in a delightful village not far from the Shropshire town of Newport, UK. We were awarded 'Outstanding' by OFSTED in 2013 and are very proud or our school, it's children and staff. Tibberton School aims to provide each individual child with an attractive, stimulating, caring learning environment, where all members of its community are valued. High standards of work and behaviour are insisted upon and achieved.
This partnership was a long time in the planning. It was a real step into unknown territory-we had never been involved in any links with other schools before and were unsure what to expect. All we agreed upon was that it was an opportunity not to be missed to enable our pupils and our wider school community to engage with another school in a distinctly different setting and culture-to engage with the people in the school at a more than superficial level, to bring some reality and direct experience of cultural diversity. Both our schools are bound up in a Christian ethos and this would be a shared point of reference and a good starting point for the link.
The partnership began with our Anglican School's Adviser, Mrs Rosemary Woodward, who was keen to create a partnership between the Lichfield Diocese and the Kimilili area of Western Kenya. The first team to go out in 2008 was 8 schools, including Tibberton, and it is now so popular that over 80 schools across Telford & Wrekin, Shropshire and Staffordshire are linked to schools in Kenya. Quite an achievement. Tibberton has been lucky enough to travel out to Kenya 4 times and twice we have hosted Kenyan teacher, Mrs Catherine Musila and Mr Alfred Barasa Mucha.
From the moment we arrived in Kenya we were greeted with overwhelming kindness and interest in our respective schools. The week spent at Makunga SA Primary gave me an opportunity to work with different members of staff including the leadership team and to teach a range of age groups and subjects across the school.
The staff were very interested in teaching methods and the different challenges each of our two school face; class sizes, workload issues, curriculum and testing. Work from Tibberton Primary was shared with great interest and the reciprocal work from Makunga is being shared back at school. Pupils are preparing to respond and the whole staff at Tibberton are writing to a member of staff at Makunga-Makunga is considerably larger than Tibberton but we wanted to ensure that all staff had a contact. Discussions with the leadership team gave me a good insight into the management of the school. The Headteacher and both deputies were very open and interested to share the workings of their school with me. I was particularly interested to observe, and become involved with the standard 8 Nothing can prepare you for your first visit to Kenya – no books you read or research you do – will ever compare to the real thing. Kenya is a land of extremes and it stays with you long after you leave.
"Arriving in Nairobi, after a long flight, was real assault on the senses. Almost as soon as we left the airport the extremes of rich and poor were apparent. The sparkling, high rise, glass fronted building juxtaposed against the shanty town, slums that covered huge areas of the city. The wealth of the few contrasted starkly against the poverty of the majority.
The long journey to Kimilili, in the Western Highlands of Kenya, took us on a long drive through the Great Rift Valley, back across the equator into the Northern hemisphere, past lakes covered in flocks of flamingo and zebra grazing at the roadside and though the many small towns and villages that straddled the highway. When we finally reached our destination, ten hours later and six thousand feet above sea level, we were tired and drained.
After a good meal and a long sleep under a mosquito net, we all excited about our first venture out into Kimilili itself. Shouts of 'Muzungu' (white face) and 'How are you?' followed us everywhere we went. Everybody we met was pleased and excited to see us and eager to talk. The people were incredibly welcoming to us and this was to remain one of the outstanding features of Kenya; the warmth and hospitality of a people, whose generosity is humbling.
We soon met the Head Teachers of the schools we were to be teaching at and over the next week spent our time teaching curricular subjects, the 'Kenyan way'. The smallest of the classes numbered around sixty! There was the expected lack of resources - six children to one text being normal – no electricity or running water, pit latrines, no glass in windows, holes in walls, dirt floors and cows grazing on the school fields.
The children, however, were fantastic. All listened attentively in all their lessons and worked extremely hard. Discipline is not an issue in Kenyan schools. Education offers these children a way out of poverty, in a country with no welfare state, they make the very most it. Parents value education for the hope that it holds for their children's future and attendance is high. Those who missed out on primary education before it became free now take the chance to return to school. It was not unusual to have 'children' of twenty-five years of age in a primary class!
However, it is the happy smiles of the children that will remain my strongest memory, along with the incredible singing and dancing of the school choirs, the stories and experiences, I shared with the wonderful people I met and of course, marching into worship with the Salvation Army Band on a bright Sunday morning!!
We all fell in love with Kimilili and the people we met there and owe a debt of gratitude to Rosemary Woodward, the RE advisor for the Diocese of Lichfield, who arranged the visit. We all have plans to return and I have no doubt, that whilst the twinning of our schools was the objective of the visit, all who visited will remain linked with Kimilili forever."
The school holds the full International Schools Award which recognises schools which effectively integrate both local and global dimensions into their curriculum.
As part of this work and our links to the church, we have a successful link with a primary school in Western Kenya. Staff have visited the school, Makunga S.A. Primary, and a member of their staff paid us a visit in May 2012 to give everyone some first hand information about life in Kenya.
Work projects, school work, letters and gifts continue to be exchanged.