Lessons in global issues

20 March 2008

International Development Minister, Shahid Malik, visited Devon to find out how students in the UK are learning about global issues. Mr Malik met students and staff at Plymouth High School for Girls where they discussed global issues and he saw the work they’ve been doing on international development.

The minister was particularly keen to hear about Plymouth High’s link with Ahantaman School in Ghana which is funded by the DFID Global School Partnerships scheme (DGSP). As part of the partnership, students and teachers at both schools have taken part in numerous exchange visits and worked on projects together about topical issues including ethical consumerism, fair trade and food miles.

DFID Global School Partnerships scheme helps schools in the UK and developing world to build lasting and quality links and provide a way for children to learn about the world first hand. Since the schools in Plymouth and Ghana joined forces three years ago to map their eco footprints, the partnership has gone from strength to strength.

During the visit to Plymouth High, Mr Malik, spoke to students in an assembly, saw displays of their work and took part in a geography class. He even managed to fit in a phone conversation with Headteacher, Evelyn Oseiv, in Ghana. One of the students told Mr Malik “Going to Ghana on a Geography fieldtrip was a life-changing experience for me.”

Speaking after his visit, Mr Malik said,

 “I was really pleased to visit Plymouth High School for Girls today and learn about the DFID funded link they have with the school in Ghana. The girls I met have tremendous enthusiasm for the link and it was obvious that their experiences in Ghana have been life changing, opening their eyes to the reality of life in a part of the world that is poor.”

He continued, “As a result, the girls told me they had a much better appreciation of global issues and felt a responsibility to help make a difference. You could tell by the way they spoke about their experiences that they had been fired up by them. I’m proud that DFID played a part in making this happen.”

According to Headteacher, Mary Utton, the partnership has benefited both schools greatly. Not only has the quality of teaching improved, it has also given the students more confidence and broadened their horizons. So much so that exam results in Ahantaman School in Ghana have improved and there are now parents queuing to get their children into the school.

Headteacher, Mary Utton, said,

“I am excited by our partnership with Ahantaman. This provides so many opportunities and helps our girls have a better understanding of global issues.”

Geography Advanced Skills Teacher Pat Frean said,

“Our partnership with Ahantaman has enabled our students to get a real insight into what it is like to live in an African country. They realise how lucky we are to have access to clean water and to have a free school education. It is a truly inspiring partnership and we couldn’t have done it without the Department for International Development funding we have received.”

The Department for International Development is committed to help children get the chance to learn about and get involved in the issues that shape the world they live in. So far, over 1200 schools in the UK are involved with schools across the developing world through the DGSP scheme, which is run by the British Council, VSO, Cambridge Education Foundation and UK One World Linking Association.

Mr Malik’s visit follows the announcement of a new scheme, Platform2, in Birmingham last month for 18-25 year olds to volunteer once they’ve left school in a developing country and raise awareness of the issues on their return to the UK.

Later in the day, Mr Malik visited Groundwork Devon and Cornwall  to discuss the value of partnerships with local organisations in engaging local communities in development.