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Poet Zephaniah helps pupils promote Wales-Jamaica link

Llanllechid headmistress Gwenan Davies Jones and Mavisville school teachers Gloria Anderson and Bev Ledgister
UK schools are linked with Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean

Children from a Gwynedd village school are starring alongside writer Benjamin Zephaniah in a film showing their links with Jamaica.

Ysgol Llanllechid, near Bangor, was chosen from over 2,500 schools to feature in the DVD which will be circulated across the world to demonstrate how Global School Partnerships work.

Their relationship with pupils from Mavisville Preparatory School in Kingston, Jamaica, developed because of the sugar and slate connection - the Penrhyn family wealth came from slate quarries at home and sugar plantations abroad.

Llanllechid headmistress Gwenan Davies Jones said: "We're so delighted the British Council has produced this DVD because there is a call for it.

We can't let big business hijack the word globalisation - partnerships like these are what globalisation is really about
Benjamin Zephaniah

"The whole essence of global education and partnerships is sharing and we have tried to share resources such as our own videos to inspire others in the region for several years.

"But to be selected to feature in a DVD with worldwide distribution is something else entirely - it's terrific."

Hanna Huws teaches years five and six and is coordinator for the project. She explained that the partnership is influenced by the children's interests.

"Both schools will agree on a theme each year," she explained. "We've had human rights, multi-culturalism and we marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. Our work is still on show at Penrhyn Castle."

Penrhyn Castle
Lord Penrhyn nicknamed his daughters sugar and slate

In 2008-9 the theme was games, so the children learnt each other's favourite playground pastimes.

"It was a good theme to demonstrate to other schools via the film," said Hanna. "The fact that children don't play out so much anymore, but stay in with their computer games is universal."

Llanllechid began the partnership in 2003 to mark the centenary of the great Penrhyn Quarry strike which affected the Bethesda area, including Llanllechid, so much.

"We didn't know how to celebrate it because so many had suffered," Hanna explained.

"We felt it was more meaningful to look at others who had suffered, too, knowing that Penrhyn Castle had been built on the proceeds of sugar, slate and slavery.

"But instead of being negative, we decided to form a relationship with a school in Jamaica."

Bev Ledgister, Hanna's counterpart in Mavisville, was delighted to accept her suggestion of their pupils becoming pen-pals and has visited Llanllechid several times.

"It's great for our children to learn about another culture," she said on a visit this week.

"They see that children in Wales like the same things - the same food, sport, even computer games!

"Before Hanna got in touch we didn't know about the connection with north Wales.

Llanllechid children's drawings
Benjamin Zephaniah has written and perfomed a poem called We Go Global for the film

"We were aware of the British who owned the great estates when sugar was king, of course. But it was very interesting to learn about Penrhyn and contribute to the exhibition there."

The new principal of Mavisville, Gloria Anderson, intends to continue the relationship.

"It offers important lessons to the children, particularly about tolerance," she said.

"They learn that we're not all that different - children are children, wherever you go.

"The main difference I've noticed is in resources. They are more plentiful here in Wales, so the children have more opportunity to explore and learn."

The Global School Partnerships programme is funded by the Department for International Development. Grants have allowed both schools to arrange teachers' visits.

"You have to do this to continue the connection," Hanna said. "And it's important to the children, too.

"When I ask what they remember most about school before they leave year six, they always say the connection with Jamaica.

"It's important for them to meet someone from the country, too - to hear their accent, learn their songs and taste their food - things you can't do over the internet."

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