Linking school children in Britain to their counterparts overseas can have great benefits in enhancing an understanding and deeper learning of different cultures, as well as helping to shed preconceived stereotypes from a young age.

Ashleigh Callow discovers the benefits of the initiative that links school children in Britain with their counterparts overseas

“That’s my card!” shouted one of the pupils at Barlborough Hall when I showed them photos of my trip to Zimbabwe. He was delighted to see his work being received by a pupil at Makumbi Primary School. Bit by bit the Companions’ Programme is burgeoning, with many schools wanting to establish contact with the outside world and be a part of the global village.

One of the aims of the programme is to create an awareness of one another; and in getting to know that “other” to start shedding preconceived perceptions and stereotypes. Africa, for example, is not full of starving people alone; there is a vast richness of culture and heritage to be shared.

Exchange between the schools has already begun. There has been the sharing of local folklore through stories, and cultural artefacts have been exchanged. (This included bringing a large axe from Zimbabwe which I opted to put in my suitcase. I thought I’d encounter problems if I walked through customs with it tucked under my arm!) Young children have illustrated letters of the alphabet using local images. One of the schools did not have access to coloured pencils, but that did not deter them in any way as they decorated their posters with sand and grass instead. Pupils at St Aloysius, Glasgow have gathered letters, postcards depicting Glasgow and, of course, a small Loch Ness monster to put in their culture box for St Aloysius, Kibera.

When I asked a group of children at Barlborough Hall near Sheffield how they could be children ‘for and with others’ without using money, one little boy astutely responded by saying, “We can give each other respect.” A wise young man indeed! Respect means taking the time to learn and understand; realising that there may be no quick fix solutions.

Through the regular exchange of activities, learning can take place and with personal contact, deeper learning can take place. A teacher and two pupils from Stonyhurst went out to Zimbabwe to visit St Peter’s Kubatana; all were touched deeply by the visit. The headmistress at St Peter’s Kubatana remarked, “The contact with the outside world has boosted morale. May contact and communication grow so that we can learn from one another.” For further information on the Companions’ Programme, please visit the website of the Jesuits Missions.

 Jesuit Missions

http://www.catholicsocialteaching.org.uk/themes/solidarity/stories/companions-leads-deeper-learning-respect/

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