Masindi SecondarySchool is located in rural western Uganda in Masindi District which shares borders with Lake Albert where oil was discovered recently. It is a mixed day and boarding school for children from low and middle income families.
Henbury School is a state secondary school with an academy status in Henbury, Bristol, England. The school was opened in 1958 by Earl Attlee former Prime Minister.
The partnership between Masindi Secondary and Henbury School started in 2002.
“We were linked up by a local education official. From 2004 to 2007 the British Council was supporting the exchange visits, footing the cost. However after 2007 our partner school started paying for everything,” explains Birungi Margaret, the deputy head teacher of Masindi Secondary.
The engagement between Masindi Secondary and Henbury has been one that has evolved and rooted itself in the sharing of the curriculum and teaching practices.
“We were very observant during their lessons and picked on some of the elements from their curriculum; content that would be applicable to our system,” says Birungi Margaret.
According to Margaret, over the last decade the curriculum projects the two schools have embarked on are mostly related to Art, Geography, English and Food Technology
“Picking on some of their content for example in the field of food technology has helped enrich our syllabus. We are able to give our pupils an all-rounded education as a result of that.”
Masindi Secondary School has adopted some of the Henbury methods of how to ensure discipline amongst students;
“Previously, even before it was outlawed by the Ugandan government, we used to carry out corporal punishment as a form of ensuring order but not anymore,” says Ruth Rugongeza, a teacher at the school.
“After visiting Henbury and seeing how they go about disciplining their students – which is in a diplomatic way – they talk to them and warn them. We were inspired to apply the same in our school and it is working well.”
On exchange visits, She says that each year, they send at least one teacher in November out to Henbury to develop the link, work on Curriculum links and advance their professional development and each year at least one of Henbury’s comes over to Uganda.
“Throughout the time that we have had the link, we have sent 12 Ugandan teachers to Henbury and welcomed 12 British teachers over to Uganda.”
On how the partnership has changed perceptions, Ruth gives an example of when Henbury School sent audio tapes of its students talking about what careers they would want to pursue in future.
“We first let our pupil’s voices out. Many said they wanted to be doctors, lawyers and all sorts of big professions,” grins Harriet.
“They were shocked to hear that their counterparts want to be barbers, drivers and all sort of modest goals. This not only changed their perception of their counterparts but also humbled them.”
Margaret says that the biggest challenge this partnership faces, is its sustainability. “Yes I do, foresee financial challenges in the near future and it is for that reason that we are reverting back to British Council's funding.”
“We are applying for Connecting Classrooms grant this year so that going forward; we can maintain the visits and ultimately the link.”
The Redland Park church where Henbury School is located was encouraged by the partnership to donate to the Masindi School.
“They gave us a donation with which we channeled towards putting up chemistry and physics laboratories at the school.” Says Margaret.