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Sadness as school ends African link

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By Abbey Morton
Sadness as school ends African link

A LONG running school partnership between Lockerbie and Africa has come to an end.

Lack of staff time, a breakdown in communication from Thawale School in Malawi and threats saw senior management team staff at Lockerbie Academy take the ‘difficult decision’ to end the 13-year partnership.

Depute headteacher Kerry Galbraith Currie made the announcement to staff and pupils last week via a letter, and said that money raised last summer has yet to reach the school.

The letter read: “There have been a number of contributing factors – lack of time being given to any member of staff who could oversee this; a breakdown in communication and updates from Thawale Primary on how our sponsored pupils are progressing; some disturbing messages from staff at Thawale, making threats that their life was in danger if we did not transfer money; year on year, it has been more challenging to raise £2000 to support and sustain the scholarships in Malawi; and running a school through a pandemic, priorities have changed.”

She also explained that the Scottish Malawi Partnership has been involved in some communications following the fundraiser last summer.

The letter continued: “The money was transferred before Christmas, but has yet to reach their new account. We were unable to transfer the funds before this due to not having confirmation as to where it was being sent.”

The link was established by Mark Turner, a teacher of modern studies, back in 2010 and was continued by now-retired English teacher Helen Wright.

Helen has disputed the reasons given by Lockerbie Academy for the breakdown of the partnership, and says that changes and absences of staff at both schools hampered things.

She also claims that the school opted for the ‘slowest means’ of sending money.

Ms Wright, pictured, said: “It’s a sad state of affairs, but I could see it coming.

“Many pupils who were on the African link committee and who went to Malawi with me are so angry and upset.

“Lockerbie Academy used to pride itself on being outward looking.

“The link’s aim was to provide opportunities for internationalism and partnership working for the Lockerbie pupils and school community.”

Her comments were echoed by Mark Turner who explained the connection was made to try and raise the profile of global citizenship in the school community.

He said: “The school, 15 years ago, was a real positive place in relation to giving pupils opportunities to experience travel to and the culture of many different countries.

“The school really did offer lots for its pupils then.

“As a teacher of modern studies I wanted pupils to experience the day to day lives of people in a developing country. Both the links with South Africa and then Malawi were perfect for this.

“The school used to pride itself on its citizenship programme and this was one arm of it, which really became a huge positive for both communities in Scotland and Africa.

“I am incredibly disappointed to see the programme end.”

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