College develops Welsh – African partnership

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College develops Welsh – African partnership

The developing partnership between Gower College Swansea and Madungu Primary School in Kenya has enhanced the educational, social and intellectual development of students at both institutions. Over the past nine years, the project has contributed to the alleviation of poverty through improving educational provision in the Sigomre area of Western Kenya and enabled students to develop their knowledge of global citizenship, engage in fundraising activities and take part in life-changing experiences.

Number of learners: 4,660 full-time and 7,400 part-time
Age range: Post-16
Date of Estyn inspection: January 2012

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Gower College Swansea was formed in August 2010 by the merger of Gorseinon College and Swansea College. The college mission is to bring together two complementary, successful organisations to create an institution that will provide outstanding learning opportunities and experiences for young people, adults and employers in Swansea. There are main campuses at Tycoch and Gorseinon and smaller centres at Gorseinon Centre, Broadway, Kingsway, Llwyn Y Bryn, Sketty Hall and Sandringham Park. Gower College Swansea provides a wide range of courses to around 4,660 full-time and 7,400 part-time learners.

Aspects of global diversity and citizenship are included in all tutorial programmes. An increasing number of learners are involved in the Kenya Project, including the Kenya Project day. These learners gain an excellent understanding of global diversity as they support the Kenyan school. The project is designed to offer the school opportunities to help itself, rather than receive direct financial aid. In the most recent development phase of the project, learners built the school library and stocked it with donated books.

The Kenya Project was formally set up at Swansea College in spring 2003 by staff and students associated with the International Baccalaureate and A Level courses. The principal purpose was to create a link between Swansea College and Madungu Primary School in Kenya, which would promote the development of education as a tool to alleviate poverty. This has now evolved into a project that covers the whole of Gower College Swansea.

The specific aims of the project are to:

  • work towards the alleviation of poverty through improving educational provision in the Sigomre area of Western Kenya;
  • raise academic standards at Madungu Primary School for boys and girls and improve the school’s resources and facilities; and
  • promote a mutually beneficial educational, social and cultural exchange between young people in Kenya and Wales.

The long-term objectives of the project are to:

  • enable Madungu Primary School to become self sustaining;
  • establish a network of sponsors for Madungu Primary School children to support their progress through to secondary and higher education; and
  • improve educational opportunities for the wider community in Sigomre by helping to provide classes for adults during the evenings and at weekends.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The distinctive characteristic of this project is that it is not intended to be a charity but a mutual partnership between Gower College Swansea and Madungu Primary School, designed to enhance the educational, social and intellectual development of students at both institutions. Generally, when institutions are involved in helping an African project, the main emphasis is on charitable work and activity. However, in this particular project, Madungu Primary School wishes to become self sufficient within 5-10 years and become a true partner on equal terms with Gower College Swansea, its staff and students. Students at Gower College Swansea also embrace this self-sufficiency goal since the coordinator operates the project as a discrete self-contained group. Student officers undertake principal roles as treasurer, secretary and chair person.

The following timeline shows how the Kenyan Project has developed rapidly over approximately nine years.

December 2002: First parcels of stationery, classrooms maps and sports equipment (e.g. footballs) were sent with money donated by a few students, their friends and families.

April 2003: The Kenya Project became a formal Swansea College student charity with relevant officers and a local bank account.

2003: A variety of fund-raising events took place, including sponsored walks and runs, cake sales, a Christmas Fayre, car boot sales and raffles.

November 2004: Students made a presentation to Swansea Soroptomists at their annual dinner, following which this body adopted the Kenya Project as its international charity that year.

December 2005: First academic prizes awarded to the highest-achieving boy and girl in their national exams at Madungu Primary.

February 2006: We financed and hosted Mr Elvis Ochieng’s first visit to Wales, in which he spent the week (February 12-16) at college in a local primary school (Cila, Upper Killay, Swansea).

June 2006: As part of our first visit to Madungu Primary School, students from Swansea College participated in teaching and organising sporting activities while at the school. We also:

  • financed a feeding programme for over 130 of the school’s poorest children;
  • employed two extra teachers and a cook; and
  • set up the school’s first ever library with 1000 books from college partners.

June 2009: During our second visit to Madungu Primary School, students facilitated the arrival of electricity to some of the classrooms and the installation of a water tank, painted and decorated the classrooms and purchased two cows.

June 2011

This was our third visit to Madungu Primary School, but the first as a merged college. During this visit, the students:

  • financed and laid the foundations for a new library;
  • purchased nine sewing machines;
  • helped initiate the first community classes for young mothers to learn a new skill and earn their own income; and
  • provided first-aid training to all

The long-terms plans are to involve more college students and staff in the project. We intend to achieve this by making the Kenyan Project an enrichment programme, which can be accessed by all students in the college timetable. This will allow students to organise more fundraising activities and facilitate the aim of contacting and enrolling the help of more local businesses and community groups. Specifically the project plans to raise money for a generator for the school, which currently has no electricity.

A ‘sister’ organisation will be developed outside Gower College Swansea so that former students and members of the wider community can continue to support the work of the project, for example in sponsoring children beyond primary education as all secondary education in Kenya is fee paying. Students intend to create a termly newsletter to be circulated to all interested parties. The college plans to visit the school every two years and establish an annual Kenya Project day on all sites.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

When the project began formally in 2003, the main student participants came from the International Baccalaureate course. The aims of the Kenyan Project fitted perfectly into the creative, active and social (CAS) programme.

This involvement helped students to become more internationally aware and to make a real difference socially and creatively by linking with Madungu Primary School.

As participation has been extended to other student groups, they have been able to develop their knowledge of global citizenship, through a sharing of experiences and discussion of interests.

Throughout the project, students have kept in touch with the school through letters. Pupils and staff at Madungu Primary School ensure students are fully informed about how the money is used for education and, more importantly, the feeding programme.

It is the students of Gower College Swansea who identify and organise the fundraising activities, manage the finances and, in liaison with Madungu, determine how the money is spent.
Biennial visits by groups of staff and students to Kenya are of enormous benefit to the college. For many students, these are life-changing experiences that take them beyond their normal lives and provide opportunities to experience an environment that is both frightening but hugely stimulating and rewarding.