Links with South Africa
As a school we have formed a link with a school in South Africa called Ntabenkonyana High School, named after the hillock upon which it is situated. The school is centered between its three founder villages; Njwaxa, Mbizana, and Ngwenya and is about 3km away from each village. The school was founded in 1976 out of a great concern for children who had to travel long distances to get to school. Community members from each village came together and following discussions with teachers and the department of education the school opened on January 27th 1976.
Ntabenkonyanas' vision is to build a community school that provides quality education through effective teaching, learning and assessment by dedicated educators, learners' and parents.
Every household in the three villages contributed a set out of money to the building of the school, and several community members helped in the construction of the school and transportation of materials free of charge.
The school started with only one classroom, and when this was full a rondavel (traditional African style house) in Njwaxa owned by a community member would be used. At this time the school only had two teachers; Mr. S.S Lindani (the first principal) and Ms. Yeko T.V. By the end of 1976 plans to extend the school were made and by the end of 1979 the school had five classrooms, an office and a store room. By this tim,e the school had six teaching staff, some of whom lived in purpose built cottages near the school as they lived so far away. These cottages were built by local women from the three founding villages.
Up until 1994 the school was junior secondary school for children aged between 12 and 16, but in 1994 this was extended to include students up to the age of 21! By 1995 the school had 835 students. A few years on, the department of education offered the school thirty computers - as long as there was a secure building to house them. The founding villages along with community members of three more villages (Saki, Sityi, and Gqadushe) worked together and contributed money to construct a secure computer lab.
In 2011, the school has 796 students and 28 teaching staff, with Mr. M. Kuze as the current principal. There is a vast range of subjects taught at the school now, along with the core subjects courses in hospitality, tourism, and agriculture are available along with many more.
Links with Ghana
Our school recently formed a link with a school in Ghana. A member of staff at Bury Church of England High School has a relative who works at the Mystical Rose Academy, a primary school based in Accra on the Sowutuom. When upgrading a set of laptops recently in school, we sent the laptops being replaced to the Mystical Rose Academy; they were very appreciative and sent us a thank-you letter along with photos of the students using the laptops.
Links with Namibia
Bury Church school has developed a link with a high school in Namibia. The school is called Mavuluma Junior Secondary school and is in a town called Katima Mulilo. Katima is the largest town in a remote part of the country called the Caprivi Strip. Pupils at the school are of similar ages to years 9, 10 and 11 in our school, but they are held back if they fail and so some are as old as twenty!
Mavuluma Secondary School has about 420 learners aged 14 and over, with 18 teachers, 2 clerical staff and 3 cleaners. The learners study nine subjects; English, Maths, Silozi (a regional language spoken in Namibia), Physical Science, Life Science, Business Management, History, Geography and either Agriculture or Accounting. They are supposed to have a period a week in each of Art, PE, Life Skills and Basic Information Studies but this often doesn’t happen, particularly PE and Art, as there is a lack of facilities and equipment.
Most of the teaching is formal chalk and talk with teachers giving out information. There is a lot of chorusing of answers by the whole class.
The school uniform consists of white shirts, navy blue ties and navy blue trousers for the boys and skirts for the girls. No trousers for the girls. In the colder weather they are supposed to wear navy blue sweaters but you get an array of colours because of the expense.
At Mavuluma, they have empty classrooms and they are currently working to set up a Mathematics room. One room is allocated as a Physical Science lab and the teacher has made this into a well-resourced and pleasant room. Unfortunately, there is no water or electricity in this block. There is a room set aside for a library that has some books. The school also have ten computers in a computer room- but no access to the Internet!
The classrooms are a good size and have sufficient desks and chairs. There is a reasonable blackboard in each room but the walls are often grubby and the lights only work in some blocks. The whole place is very dusty but the cleaners sweep the corridors and the learners themselves sweep the classrooms.
The learners have to be at school at 6.50am when class teachers check on attendance. Lessons start at 7am. There are 4 x 40 min lessons until break at 10.10 am. The second series of 4 lessons starts at 10.10am and ends at 12.50 am. Learners return to school at 3pm for afternoon study, as working at home is difficult.
Every Monday morning the learners line up in the classes for an assembly. The teacher responsible reads from the bible, the Lord’s Prayer is said and the National Anthem is sung. Sometimes learners read a poem they have written or sing a song.
Education is supposedly free up to grade 12 but all schools charge school fees. At Mavuluma, learners have to pay N$250 (Namibian dollars) a term which is about £25. Many cannot afford this. Orphans and vulnerable children do not have to pay if they have the correct documentation but the government does not make up the short fall. This year the ministry of education in the Caprivi has run out of paper and exercise books for the schools so every learner has been asked to pay N$5 a month towards paper for the school. The school then hopes to provide tests for learners on paper rather than just written on the board.
In summer 2011, twenty six pupils from Bury Church High School took part in a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Namibia to visit and work with Mavuluma Junior Secondary School. The students from Bury Church were able to meet with, play sports with, and even dance with their counterparts from Mavuluma, alongside building some important pathways between the classrooms and decorating classrooms. The students and teachers alike made many friends at the school and have all had a life-changing experience over the course of the expedition. The trip, led by teachers Ben Redmond and Claire Moore, took the students trekking up the imposing Waterberg Plateaux, watching wild lions, rhinos and other African animals on Safari through Etosha National Park and to visit the spectacular Victoria Falls in neighbouring Zambia.
The expedition was the culmination of two years hard work on behalf of the students, who had to raise all the funds for the trip themselves, and prove their fitness during practice expeditions across Holcombe Moor and though Ashworth Valley. Teachers at Bury Church were impressed with how hard working the students were in their fundraising efforts, with many selling their own produce, such as homemade cakes and marmalade, in school, and organising special events, such a bag packing days at local supermarkets.
The school link between Bury Church and Mavuluma JSS was established five years ago through Mr Redmond’s parents who worked at the school and in the town as part of a four year placement with the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation, has proved fruitful for both schools over the years, with students learning about each other in a variety of lessons over the years before the trip. Now that Mr Redmond, Miss Moore and the students have returned from Namibia, bearing not only the tales of their time at Mavuluma but gifts that we can use in our lessons, and return trips already under consideration, the bond between the two schools can only strengthen over the coming years.