Friday 19 April 2019

Gaelscoil strengthening Kenyan links

Gaelscoil students forge links with Kenyan school

In 2018, the children, parents and teachers of Gaelscoil Chnoc na Ré Sligeach, took the exciting decision to establish a link with a primary school in Africa.

The focus of this was to broaden the children's knowledge and understanding of life and childhood in a developing country.

One of the Gaelscoil families has close long-term links with Kenya and arranged for the school to twin with Tumu Tumu Primary, a rural school based in the Central Highlands of Kenya where the main tribe is the Kikuyu Tribe.

Kikuyus make up about 25% of the Kenyan population and speak a distinct Bantu language called Kikuyu.

This is the working language of the school which also teaches Kiswahili (the National language) and English.

Most of the children are trilingual from an early age similar to the bilingualism of the children attending Gaelscoil Chnoc na Ré.

Tumu Tumu Primary School was founded in 1908 by Scottish missionaries.

Today it is a multi-denominational co-educational school with 256 pupils, very similar to the numbers in Gaelscoil Chnoc na Ré with an even mix of boys and girls.

The school has twelve teachers, two in the pre-primary section and ten in the primary section.

Like the Gaelscoil there is a preponderance of female teachers with only three male teachers!

Children in Kenya must pay school fees and have a uniform to attend school, so most family income is put towards education which is very important to the Kikuyu people.

There is virtually no private transport in this area and all the children walk to school every day, with many walking several kilometres to and from school.

Equipment and furniture is basic. There are no whiteboards, no laptops and very limited sporting or musical facilities.

There is rarely money for extracurricular activities.

The school day is much longer, and children are regularly at school from 8am to 4pm.

In July 2018 the Gaelscoil family who have links with Tumu Tumu, were on a planned visit to Kenya and arranged a formal visit to Tumu Tumu Primary School to meet the staff and pupils and to present the school with the proceeds of fundraising events.

A significant sum of money had been raised from a Boston Tea Party arranged by Cairde (the parents' committee) and generous donations of money and musical instruments were also made by families whose children attend the Gaelscoil and families linked to Fred Finn CCE. Cairde received a fantastic donation of 48 Cúl Camp Jerseys and sweatshirts from the local Kelloggs GAA Cúl Camp organisers, which were transported seven and a half thousand kilometres by air to the playing fields of Kenya!

The official school visit took place on July 21st, 2018. It was a truly wonderful and memorable experience.

Two hundred and sixty children lined the laneway to the school and gave a wondrous welcome in song and dance.

A seven-hour reception followed with a tour of all the school buildings, a performance by every class and speeches on behalf of the teaching staff and board of management of Tumu Tumu Primary School.

The excitement at the presentation of the cheque was surpassed only by the eruption of pure joy when the tin whistles and football kits were produced. Tumu Tumu Primary School had not had a school football kit before this and as the Principal Mrs Wachiuri said, "We shall be the talk of the district!".

Indeed, the school has made fantastic use of the football kits and has played several matches in them already.

This link is a very exciting development for both schools. Tumu Tumu Primary School does not have access to computers or laptops or skype, therefore most communication will be in the good old-fashioned way of writing letters and sending photographs.

It is also hoped to facilitate an occasional contact by skype or video link.

It is the aim of all involved that both groups of children will learn a lot about each other and explore cultural and educational similarities and differences.

Sligo Champion