School links with our overseas neighbours bringing signs of growth

School links with our overseas neighbours are helping grow the church here in the Diocese of Leeds.This is the message from the Tanzanian Link officer, Arthur Mauya who is here with Melina Galibona, diocesan assistant links officer to renew friendships and establish new school links.

There have been parish links between the dioceses of Mara, Tarime and Rorya and the two Episcopal Areas of what was the historic Diocese of Wakefield since 1988, but schools links are relatively new. They only started being established around the time the new Diocese of Leeds was formed in 2014.

Arthur and Melina met with the Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs who chairs the Board of Education, to ask him to bless the school links and support them because of the huge impact they are having here in the Diocese of Leeds and back in Tanzania. Bishop Jonathan promised to take that message to all the bishops and senior staff in the Diocese.

Earlier this year a group of teachers from our diocese visited our link dioceses in Tanzania and came back with educational material to make new video resources for our schools - and a heart for Mara.

Arthur, a lay canon at Wakefield Cathedral, and Melina are here for three weeks – and after just 10 days visiting churches and schools in the Wakefield and Huddersfield Episcopal Areas, Arthur said he had seen evidence that school links were growing the churches here. (pictured left is Arthur in Windmill School, Batley)

He said: “I can see the church growing because of the schools links. Children are leading the way in church growth.

“Pupils go home tell their parents what they have learned in school; the parents ask about the church.

“You don’t have to be at the altar giving long sermons. This is another way. The church in Mara is full of young children and youth, and this is what we want to bring to the church here.

“Your church numbers are mainly elderly; but if you can teach children from an early age about friendship, they will see the value of loving each other, giving to others and the value of working together with groups.

“We have seen this with Darrington and Normanton - they are showing us how to do it and it is having an impact on their church congregations.

“We can go a step further for the betterment and future of the church here, he said.

Arthur became Link Officer in 1995 and this is his 15th visit to our diocese. It is Melina’s second trip here. It is hoped that 40 schools here will double up together to link with 20 schools there.

Said Melina: “There are so many things that are different, the pupils are very lucky to be so well-equipped , but the major difference between our schools and the way we teach our children – is the children’s confidence. They are not afraid of asking questions and answering questions; they are inquisitive.

“You can feel the love and the relationships between the schools and the links out there. But also they are committed to the links – for them to take the time out to try Tanzanian things, shows they are passionate for what they are doing.

“That is very different to us. I have been struck by the care and compassion they have for the other side of the world,’ she added.

Pictured here Melina high fives pupils at St James's church primary in Crigglestone.

Windmill Church of England Primary School has just forged a link with Mugango school. One of their support assistants, Mrs Sarah Thompson visited Tanzania on the Diocesan Education Trip earlier this year. She has told her pupils all about Mara – and they held a Tanzanian day earlier this term. They tried to run the day in the same way. There was no electricity, no heating, no overhead projectors, no whiteboards,no computers….see right - they had to admit to Arthur and Melina that they didn’t last the full school day!

At Horbury Bridge Primary Academy, which has an established link with Mmazami school – the children have been learning to build mud houses, cooked Tanzanian food, learned to carry bowls and buckets on their heads and learned to drum. Their headteacher and a member of staff both went on the Diocesan Tanzanian trip earlier this year.  They presented Arthur and Melina with a wonderful banner full of photographs of the pupils and their newly acquired Tanzanian skills - see picture at bottom of story.

At Horbury, Melina and Arthur were treated to a musical theatre performance and a proper afternoon tea and sandwiches with the crusts cut off – followed by a Ceilidh they joined in.

Melina also visited schools to talk to pupils and staff wanting to forge links. At Ackworth Howard CoE Primary School and St Chad’s Brighouse – she answered pupils’ questions – such as: How long does it take to get from home to school in Mara: Answer: two hours. Do we have pets: No: What do you eat: Ugali; and what subjects do children learn in Mara.  Are their classrooms the same as ours: No!

Another school wanting to link was St James’s Crigglestone – it’s parish of Chapelthorpe has an existing link with Ragata –  and the school would like to link with Ragata school. At the school, Arthur and Melina were treated to a virtual bus tour round the sites of Wakefield, before school sports day where they high fived pupils, and met and talked with parents and school governors and staff.  

The most established school link is Darrington and Normanton All Saints with Buhemba Primary school.  Arthur and Melina visited Darrington which had been joined by Normanton All Saints – and parents - for the visit. There were forward rolls, other gymnastics, singing,  presents, Tanzanian flags and evidence that the school link was flourishing – both ways. 

Said Arthur: “There are real gifts here, the children from both schools are coming together, they brought their parents; the schools and churches have both been growing, and there is a lot of love.”

The Revd Gill Johnson, Schools Adviser and SIAMS Manager for our diocese said: "This is faith in action. It's alternative ministry."

The banner for Arthur and Melina to take back to Mmazami Primary School featuring children from Horbury Bridge School learning Tanzanian skills like cooking, building mud huts, carrying loads on their heads and drumming. 

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