Saturday, November 7, 2009

School twinning

This week I received the first letters from schools in Canada that are twinned with schools here in Sierra Leone. I received three letters, all from grade 6 classes, and all from schools in Nova Scotia. The letters were from Mount Edward Elementary School, twinned with SLMB Primary School in Mabarr Line, Gbonkolenken Chiefdom; from Madeline Symonds Middle School, twinned with Makambray Community Primary School in Makambray, Paki Masabong Chiefdom; and from Shannon Park School, twinned with Mapaki Primary School in Mapaki, Paki Masabong Chiefdom. A few photos of the Sierra Leone classes are posted online in the school twinning album.

Doing the twinning visits was a lot of fun. I visited all the schools in Sierra Leone this week to share the letters. It was really interesting to share information with the schools here, and find out from them what they wanted to share with and ask their new Canadian friends. Generally, for ease of understanding with translation and in order to make sure the content is as relevant and interesting as possible, I don’t read the letters exactly word for word. Instead I share the main ideas in the letters, and any questions the Canadian students have asked their twinned school. The Canadian students at each school shared a lot of the same information in their letters: games and sports they enjoyed, subjects they studied at school, and how they spent their free time. They asked questions of the Sierra Leonean students about what the country was like, the seasons, the animals, and any famous people here.

The schools here in Sierra Leone were very interested in the letters and seemed happy that students in Canada were thinking of them. Some of the students asked me to ask the Canadian students to visit them here, eager to get to know their new friends better. Students here were curious about students in Canada as well. They asked about the weather in Canada, the food, if students liked to play the same games and sports as them, and if they had farms. Generally in the twinning visits I focus on sharing similarities between the students rather than differences. Also, the focus of the twinning is on friendship and sharing, and not on material support, although in many cases the Canadian schools do raise money to support our work with schools here.

I have already sent the reply letters back to Canada and am looking forward to another round of twinning visits. I think it’s a great for students in both countries to learn more about each other and about global issues in general through the twinning process. Peaceful Schools International is right now in the process of examining how we can expand the twinning program. There’s been a lot of interest in school twinning, both from schools in Canada and the US and from developing countries as well. The main challenge is the distribution and interpretation of letters in developing countries. In many cases, schools don’t have access to computers or to the internet to be able to receive letters that way, and the mail systems are often not reliable. The twinning program in Sierra Leone works because there is a volunteer here available to receive the letters that come by email and take them to the schools. Once we figure out this challenge, PSI hopes to be able to implement a more comprehensive twinning program for our member schools from all around the world.

If you want to find out more about PSI's twinning work, please see:

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