Students from Newent, Dene Magna and Lakers schools in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire welcomed visitors from Kenya as part of their student exchange project.
The project is called Tujuane, which is Swahili for ‘getting to know each other’, and is one of the longest running exchange project in the County having started in 2002. The Forest of Dean students have spent the past 18 months raising the funds required to allow the exchange to take place and they will be travelling out to Kenya at the end of June to visit their partner schools around the city of Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria.
David Omollo, one of the Kenyan teachers said of the visit, “This has been a wonderful experience and we have been especially pleased that the English weather has been as warm as the welcome that we have received in the Forest of Dean.”
The visitors took part in the ‘Forest Factor’ talent show at the Forest Theatre that helped raised further funds, as well as showcasing some of the talented Forest youngsters.
They visited Gloucester, where they were most impressed by the 950 year old building, but the highlight of their visit was their trip to London. They all proudly had their photographs taken in front of Lancaster House, at the top of the Mall, where the Kenyan constitution of independence was drafted in 1963.
The local MP, Mark Harper, spoke to the visiting students when they visited Lakers school and talked about the differences between the constitutions in the UK and in Kenya. He also answered the many questions that he received on Brexit and its consequences.
Over 100 students have now benefitted from this highly successful Tujuane Project, which has been supported by grants from the British Council, as well as a local Town Council and the Rotary Clubs. However the bulk of the funds needed to run this project have been raised through the efforts of the students, their parents and some very dedicated teachers from the Forest schools.
The Project has been led, since its creation, by Iain Baird who will be leading a group of twenty UK students and seven teachers to Kisumu at the end of June for a two-week visit. During the visit the UK students will join classes at their partner schools and work together on joint environmental education projects.
Iain left teaching a few years ago in order to set up a consultancy, called World Class Citizens Ltd, to support school linking projects, such as Tujuane. He visits primary school in the UK and provides Kenya activity days during which he gives pupils an experience of Kenyan life, including a meal of ugali and beans.