Please scroll to the bottom of this page to view the gallery.
Since 2014 Pentrehafod School has been linked with Discovery, the Swansea University Volunteering Service and The Swansea Siavonga Partnership which was set up to help eradicate poverty in Swansea and Siavonga, Zambia. Through the British Council Schools Online programme, we were able to apply for training and funding to support our partnership with Siavonga Secondary School and travel to Siavonga in July 2017.
In 2014, we were linked to Matuwa School in Siavonga and so Mrs Statts the deputy head teacher of Pentrehafod School and the outgoing head boy and head girl travelled to meet the pupils and staff there. In 2015, we were linked with Siavonga Secondary School and Ms Rees and Beth from PAWB visited. In 2016, the British Council did not run any exchange visits but in 2017, Tom Blackwood, Lisa Francis and Beth Thomas travelled to reignite the partnership. The three members of staff from Pentrehafod with varying skillsets travelled to Siavonga in Zambia with six other Swansea teachers to meet with our link schools, strengthen relationships and develop problem solving and critical thinking skills with pupils in both countries.
Siavonga is in Zambia’s Southern Province and is a hilly township that overlooks the great Lake Kariba, about 8km from the Kariba Dam. Many of the pupils at Siavonga Secondary school are local children and young people but some travel from other areas of Zambia to receive their education here under sponsorship programmes. Pupils at Siavonga are either Day Scholars (who return home after school each day) or boarders who live in shared dormitory accommodation and stay on school site for the entire term before travelling home in the holidays.
Before our visit to Siavonga:
Prior to our trip, pupils in Pentrehafod wrote pen pal letters to pupils in Siavonga Secondary School to provide discussion stimuli and to help develop appreciative inquiry amongst pupils and staff. The letters were well received by the pupils in Siavonga School with all pupils replying and providing further correspondence to pupils in Pentrehafod School. Additionally, we researched and spoke with one another, finding out all we could about the school in advance.
The three members of staff who went to Siavonga from Pentrehafod are Beth Thomas, Lisa Francis and Tom Blackwood. Beth is a Participation and Children’s Rights Worker not only for Pentrehafod School but for many more schools in Swansea. Beth makes sure schools are performing to a standard of the Level 2 Rights Respecting Schools Award, fully embedding children’s rights throughout the schools she works in including policies, practice and ethos. Lisa is the Key Stage 4 Attendance and Wellbeing Officer at Pentrehafod, it is her role to; monitor the attendance of Year 10 and 11 pupils, support pupils with pastoral issues, involve parents with strategies to support their children. Tom Blackwood is an ICT Network Officer at Pentrehafod School, maintaining electrical equipment, fixing computers and other technological devices, looking after the school’s network, and doing lots of ‘behind the scenes’ maintenance to ensure things are running smoothly at the school.
An insight into our time at Siavonga High School:
The Sustainable Global Development Goals overarch this project and our continuing theme of work is Zero Hunger. With this in mind, we travelled to Siavonga to build upon our existing partnership and create new links within the school and the local community. Our Zero Hunger project looks at life in Swansea and Zambia through a Child Rights lens, with work focussed on embedding and upholding the rights of the child in both schools.
Whilst visiting our link school we were invited to observe lessons and noted the similarities and differences between the Zambian curriculum and the curriculum in Wales. There were also many similarities and differences in the way the school is run and the responsibilities that pupils have.
In terms of sustainability in school under the banner of Zero Hunger, Siavonga Secondary School showed us how they self-sufficiently grow their own vegetables (cabbages and tomatoes) that are then used every day to make the school meal. Pupils of the school council told us that they would like some variety in the meals that they eat as they eat the same meal daily. Pupils in Pentrehafod School are involved in decision-making processes when it comes to the school menu but are not involved in the direct cultivation of the food that they go on to eat. We believe examples like this show how both schools can learn from each other to provide rights respecting, sustainable approaches to developing the school community in both countries.
We shared good practice with teaching staff and held workshops with the school council to gather opinions and feedback on how the two school councils can work together in future. We started a collaborative art piece with the pupils of Siavonga School that we hope to continue to populate with artwork from Pentrehafod school as time goes by.
When visiting the classrooms and observing lessons it was interesting to see how committed all of the pupils were to their studies. Free education for all children ends at age 14 in Zambia. All of the pupils who attend a Secondary School have parents/family members paying for their fees or they have received sponsorship from an organisation such as the Swansea Siavonga Partnership or church groups in order for them to attend. All of the pupils that we spoke to had very high ambitions for themselves and their families such as Engineer, Surgeon, Medicinal Researcher, Aeronautical Engineer, Journalist and Pilot amongst others.
Some teachers encouraged pupils to take over the lessons to show that they understood the lesson and were able to pass their knowledge onto others. Pupils were supportive of their peers, applauding them and treating them with the same respect as their teachers. There was little to no work-avoidance or procrastination amongst the pupils and the teachers seemed busy but relaxed. There was a very positive attitude to learning with all pupils appreciating and respecting their right to an education. We witnessed one teacher teaching three classes simultaneously and walked past several rooms where classes were unsupervised so pupils carried on with independent study. Many classrooms were left unattended throughout the day but would soon be filled with groups of pupils or individuals choosing to further their studies. Prefects run the library on their own without staff intervention or support. The library was well used and respected by pupils who were learning independently.
Pupils’ level of questioning during the lessons showed that they had engaged with their learning and employing critical thinking to their own learning. One pupil was heard asking a maths teacher to explain what would happen if the equation they were studying had appeared in fraction form. The teacher praised the pupil for her question and explained that they would be learning that topic next lesson. The teacher advised the pupil to read up on it independently before the next lesson so she could explain it to the rest of her peers at the start of the new topic.
Pupils were supportive of each other’s learning and appeared to be competitive amongst themselves when they were copying off the board or answering exercise questions. Many of the day scholars choose to stay on after school to complete study time with the boarders from 7-8pm, resulting in a 12-14 hour school day for most pupils and staff.
Only one member of staff is present in the dinner hall to supervise as the children cook and clean on a rota. A prefect welcomes pupils in to the hall in single file and then everyone sits at their assigned seats. After the prefect leads the room in prayer, pupils are encouraged to share food and chat to each other before another class of pupils cleans up afterwards. The rota of cooking and cleaning means that they system is never abused and pupils are brought up with responsibility to respect their food and mealtime environment. The prefects, cooks and cleaners received respect from the rest of the pupils that proves young people can have responsibility at different times throughout the school day.
Siavonga Secondary is a large well-equipped school with computer rooms, scientific equipment and a large assembly hall among other things. Class sizes are much larger than the UK with around 40-50 pupils in a class at one time. Classrooms were bare apart from wooden desks, chairs and a blackboard. There were no visual aids or learning resources to support pupils leaning; all of the teaching and learning involved ‘chalk and talk’ where teachers recite or copy onto the blackboard and pupils copied the work into books and answered questions independently.
Zambian school staff have requested resources and teaching material from Pentrehafod School staff. Pentrehafod School have requested their vegetable patch plans and support to grow, cook, and eat sustainably in school.
Despite the British Council not providing training and funding for reciprocal visits, we hope to continue our partnership with Siavonga Secondary School by hosting a self-funded visit from teachers where they will get to experience observations and meetings in Pentrehafod before working with the Student Parliament and putting plans in place for the future.