From Bradford with love: Lockdown letters help students stay in touch with Kenyan friends

Ruth Peterson | July 10, 2020

10 July 2020

They may be almost 7,000 miles apart but the connection between Bradford College and a school in Kenya remains strong with students exchanging letters of friendship.

A selection of handwritten letters from Jolaurabi
Letters from Jolaurabi to their friends in Bradford

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) 16-18 students at the college sent letters to children in Jolaurabi School near Nairobi before lockdown began.

Encouraging students to write

For many years the ESOL department has supported Jolaurabi School, created by charity Educate the Kids. In February ESOL lecturer Esther Wilkey and Curriculum Area Manager Vanessa Philimore visited Jolaurabi to help deliver teacher training and share best practice. 

To coincide with this ESOL lecturer Marie Pacchiarini asked her students to write letters to the children there. She encouraged them to tell them about themselves and life in Bradford. Marie said: “I’m always looking for authentic writing tasks for my learners to engage in, so I encouraged them to write the letters to introduce themselves and make new friends.”

The students used the Flight Tracker app to ‘watch’ them being delivered from Bradford to Kenya.

Teaching some Kiswahili words

Jolaurabi children “very excited” to read post

The children in Jolaurabi were very excited to receive the post and were supported by Vanessa and their tutor Khadija to write back. The children even had photographs taken with their penpal’s name written on a board.

Esther and Vanessa brought the letters back to the UK – but both Bradford College and Jolaurabi went into lockdown in March. So the letters were placed online so the ESOL students could read them.  Marie said: “It was amazing to get the letters to the learners in lockdown. Many had such positive messages and drawings. Seeing the photographs of the children reading the letters was also uplifting. While they are all teenagers, their lives are different in many ways and it brought up a lot of very interesting conversations.”

A selection of letters
From Jolaurabi to Bradford with love

A unique partnership

As part of the partnership with Jolaurabi, the college has also provided Wi-Fi, flip charts, books and other equipment. The college’s Central Media department has also donated 3D virtual headsets to every teacher.

In November the headteacher Edward Bwire Bwire and deputy head Kriss Bakassa visited Bradford College to exchange ideas and inspiration with students and staff.

And last year Jolaurabi’s choir, the Singing Children of Africa, brought music and joy to the college when they performed traditional and contemporary African songs and dances.

About Educate the Kids

Educate the Kids began in 1998 when Ian and Maureen McIntyre travelled to Utange, Kenya. They decided to support people there by securing land for and building Jolaurabi School. The school supports 600 children who would otherwise not have access to education.

About ESOL

Are you aged 16-18? Have you moved here from another country? Would you like to learn the English language? If yes, then a full-time ESOL course is perfect for you!

Or if you’re aged 19+, our part-time courses are for you. Find out more on our website.

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