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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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25 years of north Cumbria school's African visits

June 1988: Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? hit the cinemas and future chart-topper Adele came kicking and screaming into the world.

Tanzania exchange photo
Alex Forth, left, Conor Johnston and Joan Tulley are making the most of their opportunities

And a group of youngsters from William Howard School in Brampton embarked upon its first exchange with Uru Secondary School, in Tanzania.

Since then, trips by pupils from both schools to either country have been an annual event.

William Howard is now celebrating the 25th anniversary with a visual display in the building, with more events planned for later in the year.

One person who went on the last exchange was Conor Johnston, 17, from Brampton.

He said: “It was interesting and definitely very different.”

His trip saw him work on a variety of projects in the east African country, one of the poorest in the world and was the culmination of two years of fundraising.

“It is hard work,” admitted Conor.

About 20 pupils went out to Africa this summer but still more were involved in organising the trip.

Later this year, Tanzanian pupils will come to Cumbria and in 2014 the latest group will head across to Africa.

Joan Tulley, 16, of Brampton, is one of them.

“It will probably be quite a lot of work, but it will all be worth it,” she said.

Another, Alex Forth, 16, also from Brampton, said: “You have got to try to get as much out of sixth form as possible.”

The link had its origins in a chance meeting between Phil Furneaux, a science teacher at the time, and one of Uru’s governors.

The Tanzanians’ first trip to Cumbria in 1989 provoked some surprising reactions, with many people in Brampton telling the school it was the first time they had seen a black person.

Since then it has become one of the school’s most popular extra-curricular activities.

A veteran of the link is business teacher Liz Wannop, who made her first trip out in 1991.

She said: “Having gone out for the last 20 years, the changes in Uru have been fantastic in terms of the development of the school.”

This has included the physical fabric of the school as well as the teaching methods used.

She added that a more globalised world has also meant that pupils have far better understanding of one another than in the early days.

One member of staff at the school, Jim Connolly, 34, is a former pupil who went on the exchange in 1995.

He said: “It’s really good coming back. I was away from Cumbria for 10 years, and it’s great to see the link still going and still thriving.”

The display can be seen in the school’s foyer and features artwork and various mementoes from trips in the past.

The school is keen to hear from people who have taken part in the link in the past. They can phone the school on 016977 45700.

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