Friday, 01 June 2012 16:08

Learning to love their neighbours

The most important thing we can teach our children is to love your neighbour as yourself.  For young children it can be difficult to answer the question ‘who is my neighbour?’  For many of them it can just mean those who live close to them.

Holy Cross Catholic School, Plymouth has had a link with St John Vianney School in Gambia for over three years.  The link was celebrated during the Holy Father’s visit to the UK in 2010 at The Big Assembly, Twickenham.  

Working with children to form links with other children and schools around the world such as our link with the Gambia answers this question in a way that it is easy for the children to understand.

Since 2010 there have been two further visits by Leah to the Gambia to continue and support the link.  During the visits Leah has been able to concentrate on learning from the Gambian teachers as well as sharing staff training in a variety of teaching and learning areas, such as speaking and listening and phonics.

The children in both schools have continued sending to each other a variety of projects ranging from Animal fact files to Malaria information shared through dramatisation and video footage.  

Although Leah has visited the Gambia and has supported opportunities for key staff to visit the UK, Leah felt it was extremely important for the children to meet and further develop their relationships.  

In February 2012 Leah took her own children to visit St John Vianney  School.  Her son attends Holy Cross School and therefore a perfect opportunity for the school to engage pupil to pupil.  Her daughter is an ex pupil of Holy Cross and she ideally made a good link for the older pupils who had been part of the link from the beginning.  

During the family visit they held an assembly with over 1000 people.  The children shared prayers and hymns together.  Leah’s own children reflected afterwards on their relationship with the children and how the link has grown through mutual respect and Christian care for each other.  

Leah reported that on her visit this year her son, Charles and husband, Andrew taught the Gambian children Tag Rugby, a game with the language of sport.  Leah’s daughter, Daisy went to the nursery and worked with the very young children there.  Leah and Daisy spent time with the Gambian girls learning about their lessons, such as home economics and their cultural lessons including Batik.                                    

The Head teacher of the Gambian link school has started a new career in Gambia as an educational reporter.  Leah met the new Head teacher during her recent visit Mr Mendy, who is keen to continue the link.

Leah said ‘I have been contacted by various schools in the UK who have taken up recent links with schools in third world countries.  I hope  my liaison with them has been useful to support the early development of links and support staff visits to the Gambia in terms of realistic advise  the staff need before a visit and the types of projects that can work when communication is a key difficulty due to lack of  technology and money deprivation’. 

Leah continued ‘It has been a fundamental part of the link for the children in both schools to learn about each other‘s culture and their faith.  St John Vianney School is a Catholic school with a high percentage of pupils who are Muslims yet the mutual respect and unity both faiths have for each other is a real testimony and lesson for us all’.  

The children in both schools share prayers for each other and have a real understanding of faith and growing together through faith.  This is a key part of the link that is shared with the children and the adults.

Juliet said ‘When we send work to them or they send work to us it ties us together with a better understanding of each other, brings us close and makes us neighbours’.

 Leah Bartram, Head of Learning and Juliet Wilde, RE Co-Coordinator at Holy Cross Catholic School Plymouth
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