As told to Faith Plans by Barasa Wafula, Consultant in Education and Sustainable Development, Kenya
A model partnership
A partnership between two schools thousands of miles apart – one in Kenya and the other in Germany – stands out as a model North-South school partnership to promote Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
Founded by Canadian missionaries in the 1930s, Goibei High School is a girls’ boarding school in Vihiga County, Western Kenya. The school is sponsored by the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) – a Kenya-based Christian denomination established by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Paul-Gerhardt Schule is a Lutheran-sponsored boarding and day school in the state of Lower Saxony, Germany.
A partnership to promote Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
Since 2003, these two Christian schools have partnered to promote Education for Sustainable Development through implementation of several projects. The partnership was initiated by the Kenya Organisation for Environmental Education (KOEE), courtesy of the North-South Partnership program on ESD.
Both schools have vibrant Environmental Clubs that serve as the entry and linking points. The clubs embrace a whole-school approach that ensures every department of the school – from sponsors, management, staff, students and local community – are involved in the partnership activities.
Objectives of the partnership
The main objectives of the partnership were to:
Facilitate exchange of information, knowledge and skills among teachers and learners across the continents;
Promote global peace through cross-cultural interactions among citizens from the North and South, with a view to fostering global citizenship;
Establish and nurture local and international networks that enhance education for sustainable development;
Mobilise the necessary resources to promote sustainable development;
Promote faith values for care of creation through sensitisation of young people and the local communities around the two schools - that care for creation is a divine mandate and responsibility for mankind.
Premised on the above objectives, several activities were implemented in Kenya and Germany. These included, but were not limited to:
Bi-annual exchange visits involving school managers, teachers and students were implemented since 2005. Exchange teams composed of 10–16 students and two teachers who stayed at the host school for three weeks, during which several activities were implemented within and around the school.
With support from the German International Corporation (GIZ), a bio-gas plant that utilises animal dung was constructed at Goibei High school to produce energy used to supplement wood fuel in the school kitchen. The biogas plant was officially launched by the German ambassador to Kenya in October, 2009.
A spring within the school neighbourhood was conserved through planting trees
With support from the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA), a spring within the school neighbourhood was conserved through planting trees, construction of water storage chamber, collection point and installation of pipes for distribution to serve local community. Further, several plastic and concrete water tanks were installed to harvest and store rainwater from the vast roofs provided by the classrooms and other structures in the school.
Some students who could not participate in exchange visits were assisted to acquire pen pals from the partner schools. This was aimed at enhancing interaction and exchange of knowledge and experiences among learners through letter-writing, and artworks such as painting. When the Kenyan school w
as installed with internet connectivity, communication among pen pals switched to the more efficient use of emails.
A nature trail was established in the school forest at Goibei High School, with the objective of conserving biodiversity. This involved planting of a variety of indigenous tree species and shrubs, including medicinal plants.
The trail included a bird-watching site, botanical corner and bee-keeping section. The bee-keeping project was aimed at generating income to support other creation care activities within the school, thereby reducing dependency on external support.
The nature trail was also very instrumental in promoting environmental action learning for science lessons by hosting out-door lessons in the forest.
The bee-keeping project was aimed at generating income to support other creation care activities within the school
Students were directly involved in establishment and management of the nature trail. For instance, they assisted in planting trees and taking care of them, as well as labelling the various species and documenting their importance.
Involvement of learners in creation care is important since it facilitates adults working with, rather than for, the young people – who are tomorrow’s generation. It also enhances passing on of knowledge, skills and experiences from the older generation to the younger generation through informal means.
Achievements and impact
The Goibei-Paul-Gerhardt Schule partnership is an enduring success story whose achievements span the continents. The partnership demonstrated the power in two faith-based schools working together not only to care for the environment, but to collaborate on a wide range of aspects for mutual benefit. Outstanding achievements of the partnership include, but not limited to:
Goibei High School won the coveted best National Eco-School award
Award for best Eco-School in Kenya
In 2008, Goibei High School won the coveted best National Eco-School, an award run by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) through the Eco-Schools Program implemented in Kenya by KOEE. Through this award, the school was recognised as a model for Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) and received some funds from KOEE and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to implement a waste management project.
The partnership helped achieve closer working relationship between Goibei High School and the local community by eliminating the antagonism that existed before. This was because the benefits from the North-South partnership trickled down and spilled over to the local community.
The conservation and rehabilitation of the spring and the roof water harvesting projects provided clean water to the local community, thereby addressing a perennial water shortage problem that persisted before. With the spring running throughout the year, the burden on the girl-child to walk long distances in search of water was removed – creating more time for her education and recreation.
The burden on the girl-child to walk long distances in search of water was removed
Many students from the partner schools were mentored into environment champions. Some of them chose to study environmental science related courses, while others carried on with the passion for creation care to influence their local communities after school. Some students from Goibei High School won several regional and national awards in writing essays and paintings about conservation initiatives.
Student volunteer service
Several students from Germany were hosted at Goibei High School for internships as they prepared to join higher institutions of learning to pursue their dream careers. This experience helped them broaden their understanding of the variety of global socio-cultural, political and economic conditions.
A number of Kenyan orphans and vulnerable students were supported through their education, including payment of school fees. This mainly benefited students affected by extreme poverty and the HIV-AIDS pandemic.
The Stretcher magazine served to document and report partnership projects and activities
School environmental magazine
Through sensitisation campaigns, awareness on care of creation among young people and the larger local communities around the two schools was increased. This was further enhanced through a bi-annual publication – The Stretcher – a magazine that served to document and report partnership projects and activities. The magazine was widely circulated through the networks that grew from the partnership – including to schools and churches in the neighbourhood.
Success of school partnerships
School partnerships provide an important avenue for promoting education for sustainable development. Partnerships can be local, regional or international, and, in most cases, involve schools sponsored by a particular faith group. Whichever the case, some general factors determine the success of such school twinning programs:
Support of school partnership initiatives by management and sponsors of the partnering schools is very critical. This can be by providing the necessary guidance and mobilisation of resources, training of teachers, as well as forging useful networks with other stakeholders, including the private sector.
School partnerships do require financial and other resources
For all practical reasons, school partnerships do require financial and other resources to implement activities such as educational trips, exchange visits, micro-projects and public campaigns for the environment. Therefore, mobilisation of resources from multiple sources is critical in ensuring sustainability and success of partnerships.
Good partnerships are where the twinning schools attain mutual benefit from the relationship. So, the coordinating parties from either side should always work towards this. To help this, some form of agreement should be entered at the beginning of the partnership, in form of guiding principles for the partnership. This helps address any divergent interests that may come along the way, thereby creating harmony and flexibility in working towards the common good.
Ensure clear and regular communication flows between the partners
Since twinning schools are inherently different entities with distinct visions and missions, there is need to ensure clear and regular communication flows between the partners. This may be in form of postcards and letters, emails, phone calls and physical visits. Planning to implement certain activities jointly also helps enhance communication and bonding between partner schools. For instance, scho
ols could do a clean-up exercise at a chosen local market or town. This provides opportunity to walk, work and talk together, thereby bonding more.
Learners and teachers who may not be members of the club ought to feel part of, and support, the partnership
Whole school approach
Every effort should be made to ensure as many departments and people from partnering schools are involved and engaged in the partnership in one way or another. This helps address apathy that grows among other members of the school who may feel alienated from the partnership.
Even where the entry point for the partnership may be the school environmental club, learners and teachers who may not be members of the club ought to feel part of, and support, the partnership.
One way to achieve this is plan activities that could accommodate as many participants, such as a tree planting exercise in a local community forest.
To find out more about how to develop your own Faith Plan, and the importance of focusing on schools and youth, visit Faith Plans Key Area 2: Education & Young People.