Two Ugandan teachers were welcomed into schools at the end of January as part of the Queen Elizabeth Parks Twinning Project.
Clanfield Junior School and Liss Primary School were lucky enough to be visited by Molly Natumanya and Byaruhanga Yowasi, representing Kafuro Primary School and Bukorwe Primary School in Uganda respectively.
The Queen Elizabeth Parks Twinning Project brings together the communities and staff of Queen Elizabeth Country Park in Hampshire and Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda, focusing on wildlife conservation.
One of the keys to its success is its education initiatives.
Clanfield Junior School is twinned with Bukorwe Primary School and Liss Primary School with Kafuro Primary School.
Regular contact between the two schools and a number of exchange visits have been a great boost for the children in both countries.
Mark Pickering, headteacher at Clanfield, said: ‘The project is very important to our school.
‘At a time when Ofsted and the government have a relentless focus on test results, we feel that the link we have with our twinned school in Bukorwe provides our children with the opportunity to gain a far broader view of the world.’
During the visit, Yowasi helped out at a lunchtime Mancala club (an African board game), games lessons and a School Council meeting. With the project having a focus on conservation, it was useful for the Year 5s of Clanfield to discuss conservation and sustainability with Yowasi, comparing the two parks.
Tyler Lodge, nine, said: ‘Yowasi is a lively and a brilliant person.
‘His presentation was entertaining. I learnt about Ugandan animals, schools and homes.’
At Liss, Molly taught the children some of the rudiments of Runyankore Rukiga, the local language in the south west of Uganda, including counting to a hundred and forms of greetings.
She also told traditional Ugandan stories and shared with the children what life is like in her home country.
Freya Bloomfield, nine, said: ‘I enjoyed counting up to one hundred in Runyankore Rukiga because it was great to speak in a different language.’
Assistant headteacher at Clanfield Rebecca Buckle, who herself has travelled to Uganda to visit Bukorwe School, said: ‘Rarely do the children have an opportunity to meet in the flesh, face to face, with a friend from a different continent and a place so different from their own, only to discover so many surprising similarities.
‘These exchange visits really bring everything to life, making our relationship with our twinned school real and purposeful.
‘We hope that we are making links and building a firm foundation of global awareness that will serve our children well for the rest of their lives’.
The Queen Elizabeth Parks Twinning Project has started planning an event for the beginning of May at the Country Park to raise funds to build an environmental education centre at Bukorwe.
To find out more about the scope of the Queen Elizabeth Parks Twinning Project and the other schools involved, visitqueenelizabethparks.org.
Thousands of miles apart but close in many ways
When Hampshire ranger Steve Peach attended the International Ranger Federation Conference in Kruger National Park, South Africa in 2000 and met Ugandan ranger Charles Etoru, little did he know what would transpire.
Both worked at Queen Elizabeth Parks, one a national park in western Uganda, the other a country park in Hampshire.
They talked about their work and, despite the difference in wildlife – elephants in one, badgers in the other - they found many similarities in the issues they faced around wildlife conservation and the environment.
The Queen Elizabeth Parks Twinning Project was born, aiming to connect the communities and staff of Queen Elizabeth Country Park in Petersfield and Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda.
The project, now operating under the umbrella organisation Nature’s Frontline (naturesfrontline.org), works in three key areas, all with conservation at their heart: ranger exchange visits and training, school twinning and education projects, and community engagement initiatives.
Ranger exchanges between the two parks promote skill sharing, training and mentoring opportunities, as well as within the communities they serve.
Believing strongly that community support and understanding is key to successful conservation, the project works with rangers to create positive connections between themselves and the people in and around the parks.
Fourteen Ugandan and UK schools are currently involved in the school twinning and education part of the project.
The scheme facilitates regular teacher cluster group meetings in both countries and has also organised environmental and sustainability training events.
The schools are in regular contact, sharing information and news from their classes, aided by the use of tablets and laptops donated by the UK to their Ugandan counterparts. Exchange visits also aid cultural learning and environmental and citizenship aspects of the school curriculum.
The project also visits community groups in Uganda and the UK to talk about the role of rangers and how community involvement in wildlife conservation can be beneficial for all. In Uganda, the Project supports communities involved in ecotourism initiatives, social enterprises and environmental improvements.
Over the next few weeks, we will bring you a series of articles about specific aspects of the Project, showing how a simple exchange programme has developed into an effective way to tackle wildlife conservation at community level in both the UK and Uganda.