A female student shares a light moment with her colleagues during break time
Connecting Classrooms ©

Mat Wright

Connecting Classrooms is a global education programme for schools run in partnership with the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID). It is designed to help young people learn about global issues and become responsible global citizens, with the skills they need to succeed in a global economy. Working in over 50 countries, it offers school partnerships, professional development courses, school accreditation and opportunities for educators and policy-makers to share best practice with international counterparts.

In Uganda, the programme is building the capacity of teachers, head teachers and policy makers to support them to embed 6 core skills into the curriculum, therefore improving learning outcomes for young people.Core skills, sometimes referred to as deep learning skills or 21st century skills, introduce young people to new ways of working, thinking, and living in a global world. Developing these skills will help young people grow into creative and critical citizens, ready to shape the future for themselves and future generations.

Through the Connecting Classrooms programme, British Council is raising aspirations and supporting young people to live and work in an increasingly globalised world thus contributing to the stability and prosperity of our societies. Managed by the British Council and funded in partnership with UKAid, Connecting Classrooms aims at bringing about long-term systemic change to education systems worldwide.

Partnership between Namugongo Girls Primary School,Uganda and Bure Park School, UK

Namugongo Girls is a catholic boarding primary school for girls from low and middle income families. Located opposite the world famous Uganda Martyrs Shrine about 17km outside Kampala, the school has 1,364pupils.

Its partner Bure Park School is one of UK’s biggest primary schools. It has an enrolment of 520 pupils which is large compared to other schools in the UK that do not exceed 300. It is found in Bicester, Oxfordshire about 50miles outside London.

The Namugongo — Bure Park engagement started in 2003 as a result of links fostered by the Ugandan government. “We were invited by officials from the Ministry of Education and Sports and it is there that we were informed that we had been linked to Bure Park Primary School,” says Agnes Nakabugo the head teacher of Namugongo Girls.

“The ministry officials at that time were collaborating with the British Council through its Global School Partnerships programme to link schools.”

Over the past ten years, the partnership has grown from being primarily focused on professional teacher development to improving the creative and innovative abilities of their pupils.

Agnes commends the partnership for creating a channel through which valuable learning materials that are beneficial to the pupils in both schools can be exchanged.

“We have so far received text books from them and when their tutors came here they were keen on learning our culture”.

Each year the two schools choose a theme under which they can innovate and be creative. So far they have successfully engaged in projects such as   My Art and Green Your Environment.

Moving onto her experience in exchange visits Agnes says, “When I first visited Bure Park, I was astonished by how much the teachers encouraged pupils to think and be creative.”                                                         

“While there I made a number of observations especially in the teaching and learning areas. However, it was the teaching methods that got my attention.”

Agnes strongly believes that it is that tutor attention to every pupil that has propelled learners in the UK to higher standards and it is something her school is focused on improving.

“Their teaching is majorly learner-centred. Teachers talk less and learners talk more. There is a lot of creativity in terms of ideas and the teacher guides the pupils along using lesson plans. I also noticed that classes had teaching assistants to render extra help to the pupils where needed.”

“That experience really widened my notion on teaching best practices and immediately after returning, my staff and I started working towards incorporating some of their methods in the way we teach in Namugongo,” she adds.

So far, various staff members of Namugongo Girls School have been to the UK four times in the past decade, thanks to grants totalling to over £3000 from the British Council.

According to them, the distance that separates the two schools has been shortened this engagement.

Fred Grace Primary School adopts new disciplining methods

Fred Grace Primary is a rural day school for boys and girls from low income families. It is located in Masindi district about two miles from Masindi town. The school that has an enrolment of 330 pupils. It is privately owned by Naome Mpairwe who also serves as the head teacher.

On the other hand, Compass Point School is located in South Bristol, with approximately 270 primary age pupils.  Alongside the primary school, it has a nursery class and children's centre.

Previously Fred Grace Primary School was linked to St. Anna’s school in the UK however, that link expired in 2006 and with the advent of the Connecting Classrooms programme a new one was fostered with Compass Point in 2011.

The Fred Grace – Compass point partnership is one that has thrived on the sharing of best teaching practices.

On the impact of the partnership to the school, Naome notes how one of the skills they have picked from the partnership is on how teachers discipline their children.

“At Compass point they do not cane children like we used to. Instead they talk to them gently or warn them if they become too stubborn. That is something we have also adopted here,” she says.

She adds, “I directed teachers in the school to tone down on their harshness and I abolished caning. Since then the demeanour of the pupils has changed, they are happier and more active. Last year we registered an improvement in the Primary Leaving Examinations with a 35 percent pass rate – a rise from below 30 in the year before.”

“Besides discipline, their methods of teaching are unlike anything we have in our Ugandan education system,” notes Mpairwe Naome.

“A teacher never goes into a class without an attendant and in each classroom there is a computer where the teacher usually sends their notes prior to the lesson.”

In 2013, Compass point fundraised for the construction of a girl’s hostel on the school premises which was completed this year.

“They have also benefited from us by learning our culture. We send them our poems, rhymes and stories,” notes Naome.

Naome however, notes that communication is still a challenge to the partnership. “We are in a remote area, electricity connectivity is unstable and internet access is equally poor.”

However, they usually call their counterparts in the UK directly by mobile .

Partnership between St Kizito Secondary School and Deptford Green Secondary School

St. Kizito Secondary School is a private school that was started by the Catholic Church in 1997 and it’s located in Bugolobi, a Kampala suburb. It is a mixed day and boarding school with an estimated enrolment of 911 students.

On the other hand, Deptford Green School is a co-educational secondary school in Lewisham with approximately 1100 pupils. Deptford Green has specialisms in Humanities, with English, Citizenship and Drama as its flagship subjects. 

Rainbow College in Nigeria, founded in 1996 and located at km 39 in Ogun State is also part of this partnership.

Gasper Obua, the deputy head teacher of St. Kizito narrates how the partnership started, “It began in 2004 where we were linked under the British Council’s Global Schools Partnerships programme. However, when we applied to join Connecting Classrooms one of the requirements was partnering with an African school – that’s how Rainbow College came on board.” 

He says that from the partnership engagements – which have mainly been with Deptford – they have been able to work on several learning projects like Interactive learning which advocates for student centeredness and also deals with special needs learning. 

“Currently, we are applying the interactive learning model and teachers have been paying more attention to the progress of the students. In circumstances where the students do not feel satisfied, they have learnt to openly appeal to the teacher to repeat,” explains Gasper.

“We registered a tremendous boost in the confidence of our students,” says Gasper. He gives an example of Catherine Akello, a 17-year-old that visited Deptford the previous year. The once crowd-shy girl is now a councillor of her class after returning.

“I was amazed by how open the students in Deptford are. They interact with their teachers like they are casual friends,” says Catherine Akello. “I used to fear my teachers and addressing large crowds, but not anymore.”

Apart from sharing learning outcomes and the curriculum, St Kizito won the prestigious International School Award – in 2010 and 2012. The award is only given to schools that are experienced in working with international partners on various projects and sustaining them.

“The key is sustainability.  Some members do not understand where the scope of this programme ends. Others think it is for monetary benefit. The case here is; sharing teacher and learner best practices,” notes Gasper.

Moving to exchange visits, so far the two visits between Deptford and St Kizito have been funded under the Connecting Classrooms programme. 

“Our first visit was in 2012 and the most recent was in 2014.When I visited the UK I realised that content is there but students have to discover it themselves which is different from our Ugandan system where we provide everything for the student” notes Gasper.

He adds, “I realised that the global understanding of things is an invaluable benefit and it is through Connecting Classrooms that we have tapped into it.” 

He concludes, “Gaging by what we have accomplished over the decade, I would say this partnership was meant to be.”

Connecting Classrooms Transforming Special Needs Education

Kampala School for the Physically Handicapped (KSPH) is a primary school catering for educational requirements of children with special needs in Uganda. It was started in 1968 by the Uganda Spastic Society and is a government aided school.

Its partner in the UK, Three Ways School is an Academy Trust, operating as a Community Special needs School. The school provides for 176 children with a wide range of Special Educational Needs.

Samuel Okiria, the deputy head teacher of KSPH narrates how the partnership started “In 2005, a visiting teacher Rosemary was renting in a guest house nearby the school. One evening as she was taking a stroll in the neighbourhood, she stumbled upon the school and was stunned to discover that it was an institution for special needs children. She told us how she worked for a school that is similar back in the UK and inquired whether it would be possible to have a partnership between the two and we agreed.”

Samuel recounts how within a year, teachers from Three Ways School visited, something they later turned into an annual thing. However, KSPH could not do the same as they had limited resources – In this case money to foot the transport and welfare bills. It was not until 2010 that the school finally sent teachers to the UK

“It took some funding from the British Council for us to repay their visits and at the time it was through the Global School Partnerships programme and lately it has been under Connecting Classrooms.” Says Samuel

Since then, aside from the annual exchange visits, teachers from the two schools communicate often through other channels as well such as calling direct and exchanging emails.

Apart from the exchange visits, the two schools have been engaged in skills exchange projects. One of these projects is in farming where they are innovating with sack and table garden beds – elevated platforms that are adapted by the physically handicapped to carry out gardening.

“We started this and they took on and bettered it. Last time we were there, I noticed they had put up numerous table gardens made out of much better material like plastic. With the resources they have, I would not expect any less,” Samuel says.

“Our pupils have been able to attain the hands-on training in farming without difficulty and their colleagues in the UK too, are now able to get fresh foods from the garden.”

On the other hand, Three Ways has given back by contributing heavily towards the advancement of ICT in KSPH.

“They have given us projectors, digital cameras and adapted computers which we set up in a computer room for our pupils to do their learning,” notes Samuel.

That aside, Three Ways School helped KSPH to develop a curriculum that suits children with special needs. “We have adopted some methods we use to handle our pupils,” says Juliet Tumuhairwe, the headmistress of the school.

She gave an example of TacPac, a therapeutic activity that the school picked from Three Ways that combines touch and music to promote communication and social interaction and emotional development.

“Ever since we started applying it (TacPac), it has been effective in stimulating the sensory areas of the pupils. They are more alert today to what is happening around them, their performance is improving and they are lively too,” she smiles

The school was also able to build on its therapy department courtesy of a £8000 donation from the rotary club of Bath where Three Ways School is located.

Connecting Classrooms gives Mityana Schools Hope

14 February was a fun filled day with different activities that included sharing best teaching practices, learning materials and visits to the rural communities of Mityana District. The session was led Reverend Dodie Marsden the schools partnerships Coordinator at Winchester Diocese in the UK.

A delegation of teachers from 12 UK schools met teachers from their partner schools in Uganda at Enron Hotel, Mityana that morning.  Smiles, hugging and lively debates were scenes of the day as each group found representatives of its partner school.

“All the partnerships amongst these schools were fostered by Mityana Diocese” says Canon John Musasizi, who was representing Mityana Diocese. 

“The partnerships among these schools are very positive and have been well led by both the Ugandan and UK head teachers”, notes Rachel Butler, the school partnerships Coordinator at Winchester Diocese in the UK.

She added, all the schools have benefited from exchange visits funded by British Council which have helped to sustain these special partnerships.

Patrick Luyima, the head teacher of Kawoko Primary who visited Burghclere Primary in March 2012 observed, “Learning in the UK was very democratic, the students were very assertive and above all their punishments were negotiable- aimed at correcting not hurting”.

According to Patrick, the partnership has inspired them to work harder in order to lift their performance as a school, introduce democracy in the school by allowing students vote for their prefects and above all change in the way punishments are carried out.

Tebukooza Samuel, the link coordinator at Kawoko Primary School said, “they helped us in developing our curriculum and gave us learning materials

in form of books, mathematical sets among other things”. He adds that, they adopted table tennis from Burghclere which is now a popular game in the school.

According to Samuel, the story books given to them have improved the standards of English in the school both written and spoken. “Students can now express themselves in English and are able to write to their fellows in the partner school” says Samuel.

Canon John Musasizi says “The partnership has lifted living standards in the schools and in the community, new staff houses have been built and some income generating projects like piggery have been started”. He adds some of the pigs have been given to the community.

Patrick however notes that the challenge of communication still hinders the partnership. 

“We are in a remote area, electricity connectivity is unstable and internet access is equally poor,” he says.

“We have so reasonably way to go in terms of, rights and responsibilities, environment protection, health and nutrition, among others things in order to match our new partners” says Patrick.


Interactive Whiteboards

Students actively raised their hands during Arnold Wambwe’s literature lesson as they competed in writing a summary of Laye and Koyate’s struggles at school on the white board in front of the class. Laye and Koyate are characters from a book, “The African Child” written by Camara Laye.  As Arnold moved around the classroom probing the senior three students for answers, he engaged them in a discussion about Laye and Koyate’s struggles at school. Arnold Wambwe is a literature teacher at Bishop Cipriano Kihangire Senior Secondary School, Uganda.

Interactive is the key word in his class at Bishop Cipriano Kihangire Senior Secondary School. “The whiteboard mounted on the wall in front of the classroom is a large computerized white screen which allows Internet access, video and audio demonstrations, digital assessments using remote controllers and recorded lessons for replaying later. This is an initiative of British Council’s Connecting Classrooms programme.” said Arnold. 

Connecting Classrooms is an international education programme, which offers funding and resources for school partnerships, professional development for teachers and gives children the opportunity to prepare in taking their place in the 21st century.

As Eve Achire, a student at Bishop Cipriano Seconadry School took her turn on tapping the board with the controller pen to write a summary about how Laye and Kayote were bullied by the big boys at school, it was quite unmistakable that she was having fun while learning the day’s lesson.

In that classroom and 30 others across the entire school, the traditional chalkboards that had been the teachers’ primary tool for presenting content since the school was set up in 1991, were finally erased from classrooms in 2009.

“This initiative has enhanced my teaching and improved the students’ engagement. On the whiteboard you can present material in a way you cannot do with a chalkboard,” said Arnold when questioned about the transition from the chalkboard to the ‘smart board’; as it is commonly referred to at the school. 

He concluded by saying, “Technology is a must have in order to capture the student’s attention these days.”

Gerald Muhumuza, the deputy head teacher, did not see it that way when he was asked to give up his chalkboard for a whiteboard. At first, he was reluctant to make the change. Now, not only is it a prominent feature in all of his lessons, but Gerald also gives computer training to his colleagues.

After years of drawing on a chalkboard during physics and maths lessons, or having students view formulas in textbooks, Gerald can now display brightly lighted sums on the whiteboard that can be expanded and solved as needed. “I went from, ‘no’, ‘I don’t want it’, to being obsessed with it,” said Gerald

Bishop Cipriano Kihangire Senior Secondary School is one of the few schools in Uganda that show the depth and breadth of change to these interactive white boards and what they do to promote great practices in the classroom.

Masindi Secondary School and Henbury School Partnership based on curriculum exchanges.

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.

Connecting Classrooms transforming ICT in Gulu Police Primary School

Gulu Police primary school is a public mixed day and boarding primary school located in Gulu town, Northern Uganda. It was founded in 2001.

In 2008 as a result of linkages conducted by a local Charity Organisation called African Revival, Gulu Police primary school was linked to Hinchley Wood secondary school in the UK.

The Hinchley Wood – Gulu police primary school partnership is unique for being the only one that features a primary school linked to a secondary school.

“We were also baffled when we first realised it that we had been partnered with a secondary school in the UK by African Revival,” recounts Justin, Okot, the Connecting Classrooms link coordinator at the school.  

“Immediately after entering the partnership, we conducted exchange visits under the British Council’s Global School Partnerships programme,” recalls Justin who adds that since its inception, they have had four exchange visits.

Since the partnership began in 2008, Hinchley Wood School has been sending new computers to Gulu Police primary to help in the harnessing and teaching of ICT and the skills that come with it. 

So far, Hinchley Wood School has sent 20 computers. It has also installed internet and a computer room manager to monitor, train and ensure that the technology is maintained and efficiently utilised.

“The ICT skills that our pupils have gained, have not only improved on their performance but also their ability to take on various kinds of jobs for example secretarial jobs within the township”, says Justin Okot.

During the holidays people come in to surf the internet and learn computer. They are free to do so because this school is a community asset.

However, Justin stresses that their engagement with Hinchley Wood has not been a one way street.

“We may not have much to offer, but from us, they have picked the asset that is knowledge. They get videos, literature and other cultural information that may be of value in their study of African culture,” he explains.

“We are writing a joint magazine. We are collecting articles and currently, we are waiting for them to send theirs. Last term we sent a collection of local cultural written stories by our pupils to them and I hope that gives them an insight into the African culture.”

Justine attributes the blossoming partnership and the strong bond that has been formed with their UK partners for the last six years to sustained and frequent communication.

“African revival had initiated many partnerships in our Gulu area but when they left, most of them collapsed,” notes Justin Okot


How can I get involved?

Schools are able to register online through the British Council Schools Online portal where they can receive free professional development modules, teaching materials and pedagogy support. Partner schools and offices also receive opportunities for face-to-face training in school leadership, pedagogy and information communication technology (ICT).

Participating schools can apply for grants to establish national and international school partnerships. These partnerships use joint projects and international exchanges to enhance learning outcomes for students, providing new classroom skills and improving education methods for teachers.

All schools are eligible to apply for Connecting Classrooms. Visit British Council Schools Online for more information and registration details.

Our success so far

Since introducing the Connecting Classrooms programme to Uganda in 2002, British Council Uganda has:

  • connected almost 500 classrooms across UK, Ugandan and other African schools
  • facilitated more than 600 teacher exchange visits between the various countries.

263 Ugandan teachers took part in British Council ICT and Global Citizenship training in 2012.

Over 300 Ugandan schools received funding for further international partnerships, with more funding available for similar purposes in 2013.

As a result of participating in Connecting Classrooms, young people:

  • have more cultural and international awareness, understanding more about other countries and various cultures globally
  • have a better understanding of global issues in general
  • understand their rights and responsibilities as global citizens
  • are better prepared to work in a global economy, working towards a fairer and more sustainable world.

As a result of working with and participating in Connecting Classrooms, teachers and school leaders:

  • have a greater understanding of other countries, their cultures and their education systems
  • are better equipped to teach on global issues in order to develop relevant skills and understanding in young people.
  • are able to improve their own teaching and curriculum by sharing best methods and knowledge with international counterparts.

It made the head teacher more approachable and the relationship with staff and students is now good. They also consult the head teacher in cases of problems, which was not the case before the training. – Adonyo Lily Odongo-Fatima, Aloi Comprehensive Girls School.

See also

External links