Alison Leonard1

Abstract: I present an overview of my doctoral research investigating how the process of School Linking affects those in Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. Southern voices are prioritised over my Northern decentred researcher’s voice in order to question the traditional hegemony of the projects I was exploring. My qualitative interpretivist research approach and selection of cases are outlined. The sub-question, “How does the South/North Educational Linking Process (S/NELP) affect local communities in the Global South?” and the inherent risk of creating dependent relationships, are considered. I contend that Southern voices should determine how links accommodate what might be viewed as Northern ‘largesse’. Finally recommendations and implications for the future of the S/NELP are presented.

Keywords: Critical thinking; Development Education; Effective Aid; Global Education; School Linking; Sustainable Development.

Resumo: Apresento um resumo da minha investigação de doutoramento no âmbito das consequências do processo de ligação educativa no Gana, Uganda e Tanzânia. As vozes do Sul são uma prioridade sob o meu papel de investigadora descentralizada do Norte, no sentido de questionar a tradicional hegemonia dos projetos que estudei. Descrevo também a abordagem qualitativa e interpretativista e ainda a seleção dos casos neste projeto. É ainda considerado o risco inerente de criação de uma relação de dependência, a partir da questão: “Como é que o processo de ligação-educativo entre Sul/Norte afeta as comunidades locais no Sul-Global?”. O artigo sublinha que as vozes do Sul devem determinar como as ligações podem favorecer e harmonizar aquilo que é a “generosidade” do Norte. Finalmente, são ainda apresentadas recomendações e algumas ilações futuras para o processo de ligação educativa entre Sul/Norte.

Palavras-chave: Reflexão crítica; Educação para o Desenvolvimento; Ajuda para o Desenvolvimento; Educação Global; Ligação-escolar; Desenvolvimento sustentável.

Resumen: Presento una visión global de la investigación asociada a mi tesis doctoral sobre cómo el proceso de Asociación de Escuelas afecta en Ghana, Uganda y Tanzania. Las voces del Sur son priorizadas frente a mi voz del Norte descentrada para así cuestionar la hegemonía tradicional de los proyectos que he explorado. Mi aproximación a una investigación cualitativa interpretativa está esbozada. Se considera la subpregunta “Cómo el Proceso de Asociación Educativa Sur/Norte (South/North Educational Linking Process, S/NELP) afecta a las comunidades locales en el Sur Global? así como los riesgos inherentes a la creación de relaciones de dependencia. Sostengo que las voces del Sur deben determinar como las asociaciones pueden armonizar lo que puede ser visto como la “generosidad” del Norte “generoso”. Finalmente presentamos recomendaciones y consecuencias para el futuro de los S/NELP.

Palabras-clave: Pensamiento Crítico; Educación para el Desarrollo; Ayuda Efectiva; Asociación entre Escuelas; Desarrollo Sostenible.



In my thesis (Leonard, 2014b) four research sub-questions are explored in the contexts of my Sub-Saharan nations: How important is the S/NELP to participants in Southern schools? How does participation in the S/NELP contribute to understanding of Development Education? What are Southern ‘recipes’ for successful S/N Educational linking relationships? How does the S/NELP affect adults and students in schools and local communities in the South? This paper only refers to the final one, focusing on how local communities are affected. This is reviewed because it is the aspect of the S/NELP for which I had found the least detailed analysis available at the outset of my research journey.

What is School Linking?

In my research School Linking refers to a process in which relationships form between schools in my two East African and one West African country and schools in the UK. I have proposed that a School Linking – Partnership dynamic continuum can identify the inherent nature of these relationships, based on six characteristics: time-scale/sustainability, school personnel, students’ engagement, nature of activities, reciprocity, and engagement beyond the school community (Leonard, 2010; 2012 and 2014b). I contend that all relationships fit somewhere on my continuum; importantly indicator characteristics will shift over time. The continuum shown in Figure 1 is applied to my Ghanaian pilot study in 2008, when this case clearly sat at the School Partnership end. It is likely that this relationship’s position on the continuum has shifted since. Others have noted that the exact status of some relationships may be uncertain; Doe (2007, p8) for example, trawling for UK international school links wrote:

The continuation of all the links found in this search for known links cannot be assumed. In each case a link was counted if there was a public record of its existence and the identity and location of the school could be confirmed.

An interpretivist research approach

I was aware at the outset of my research journey that most School Linking studies are presented from élite Northern viewpoints; in contrast I sought to create largely ‘Southern’ perspectives, giving voice to those ‘marginalised from or adversely affected by global development’ (EU Multi Stakeholder Forum on Development Education, 2005, p5). This is a deliberate, novel characteristic of my research. Enabling Southern research collaborators to name their world (Adichie, 2005; Mishler, 1986) was an important element, attempting to question research approaches typically undertaken by Development Education (DE) researchers. Students and one of their teachers in my Ghanaian pilot study variously described their relationship as a partnership, something beyond partnership and a link. Like Bourn (2015) I suggest that a number of interpretations of DE have become subsumed within broader themes, such as Global Education (Leonard, 2014b).

My thesis research question, “How does the South North Educational Linking Process affect Sub-Saharan African schools, in Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania?” is by its nature exploratory and seeks to discern what is going on in the Global South. Holliday (2010) classifies this as a classic, general, ethnographic question; a qualitative, interpretivist methodology appeared an obvious ‘best-fit’ selection (Robson, 2002). My main regret is that a Northern gaze, not one from the Global South, is the common lens for readers.

My planned case study mixed-methods approach, heavily reliant on semi-structured interviews and Pupil Focus Groups (PFGs) is summarised in Figure 2. Triangulation was attempted, by inviting Southern adult participants to offer input as ‘learner actors’ (Mishler, 1986, pp 122-132). My success in these efforts was minimal; perhaps this was partly because as Holliday (2010) explains such triangulation can be regarded as Western or Northern-centric practice.

Selection of cases

My research focuses on nine linking relationships; the selection was loosely based on known locations of participants in the UK’s largest school linking programme which operated for a decade, from 2003, under the auspices of the Department for International Development (DfID) and was known as DfID Global School Partnerships (DGSP) (Edge et al, 2008). A consortium of four agencies managed DGSP: the British Council, Cambridge Education Foundation, UK One World Linking Association (UKOWLA) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). The consortium worked with a range of development educators, including Development Education Centres in the UK (DECs).

I sought to include different types of school, although secondary schools dominated. Schools in these three countries are funded from government and private sources, including Non-Governmental Organisations (ONGs); so it was important to include both. Three other factors determined my selection: (i) Urban and rural schools, (ii) A variety of forms of School Link, and (iii) A range of links’ longevities. Figure 3 identifies the types of schools which took part and when I visited to collect primary data. Participants were not offered anonymity in my analysis, since many school links are widely celebrated, offering their advice to others interested in the linking process (Leonard, 2014b, p436).

Since access to educational opportunities is not equal for boys and girls it was important that PFGs representing a mix of genders could be created. This was relevant when analysing data, including that relating to gender issues and equality, captured by the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 3 (UN MDG). Bourn (2015) suggests that these are part of a dominant DE message in the Global South, about education and development, typified by a focus on access to education. Although the MDGs, launched before the Millennium were intended to be met by 2015 I contend that they are still relevant to Development Education. Despite criticism that they have a Northern voice and present the Global South from a deficit position (Bentall and Martin, cited in Leonard, 2014b) progress against them is viewed as universally desirable. Here Priscilla, a Ghanaian secondary school student at Krobo Girls describes how her friends or parents may now regard female access to education, partly attributing this heightened interest in girls’ education to her school’s link with its UK partners, Weald:

I’m not too sure that any of the students from Krobo Girls would want to end up in the streets or selling something, when we see the Weald students come: the way they talk, the way they present themselves generally, the way they are able to express themselves the students there are in my school are also motivated to do the same things. So they wouldn’t really want to drop out of school. Then when they go home they tend to maybe tell their friends, who are not interested in schooling, they tend to advise them to maybe worry their parents to send them to school. So I think this partnership is also helping to get more girls or more of us interested in schooling.

The promotion of Gender Equality is an ongoing challenge not just in the Global South; it is required content on the CIE International A level syllabus in Geography (CIE, 2015, p24). This regularly arises in discussions with both students and colleagues in the independent school where I work.

CIE- Cambridge International Examinations- is part of the Cambridge Assessment Group, a non-profit organisation that is part of the University of Cambridge, England. CIE qualifications are taken in over 160 countries and recognised globally by universities, employers and education providers. The CIE AS and A levels are taught to 16-19 year olds in over 2000 schools in 127 countries2.

How the School Linking process affects local communities in the Global South and the inherent risk of creating dependent relationships.

It is the potential for dependent relationships to grow from the Linking process that is particularly problematic (Egan, 2010; Leonard, 2012a; Thakwalakwa and Najda, 2012); this is especially true if funds are transferred from the Global North to the Global South (Egan, cited in Leonard, 2008). Egan and Najda held important roles in the UK at the British Council on DGSP; Thakwalakwa worked for the British Council on DGSP in Malawi; he is currently Programme Director for DfID in Malawi.

Equity is a key issue for development education and North-South partnerships.There is often an expectation on both sides that the UK school will provide material support for the African partner. This can make establishing equitable, professional relationship(s) difficult. (Commentary from slide 4, Learning together for change, Thakwalakwa and Najda, 2012)

In this respect the S/NELP mirrors issues associated with International Aid. Just as schools may become dependent on their linking partners so too if outreach from a Southern school into its local community is partially reliant on a linking relationship neo-colonialist dependency, critiqued by Postcolonialists, can occur in those schools’ local communities (Wesonga, in Leonard, 2014b). Those who base their work on that of the Brazilian liberationist educationalist Paulo Freire and his key work, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (1996)3, seeking to promote participatory techniques and empower indigenous communities to secure their desired change (Bourn, 2015), might argue that the risk of dependency represents expediency in the Global South. I have asserted that perspective (Leonard, 2010, p17):

Southern schools choosing to participate in the S/NELP may seek different outcomes from their Linking relationships to those of their Northern partners. Their aspirations may appear to contribute to a new ‘linking’ or ‘charitable dependency’, resonant of ‘colonial dependency’. If the outcomes for Southern schools and the communities which they serve are considered desirable by Southern linking participants perhaps Northern critics of their stance need to accommodate such views? … Southern schools should surely be free to choose outcomes which suit them, rather than those imposed by Northern S/NELP critics.

Quist-Adade, a Ghanaian academic working in Canada, and one of my Southern ‘learner-actors’ (Mishler, 1986) wrote to me in 2009:

While I am skeptical (sic) about foreign aid to Africa, since much of it tends to be palliative, merely touching the symptoms rather than root causes of the continent’s problems, donations of books and computers are exceptions. They are worthwhile investments in human development; the appropriate books and relevant technology can empower and pave the road to self-empowerment and self-reliance… twin problems of irrelevance and environmental hazard ha(ve) exercised my mind for a very long time, but until African governments can set their priorities right and invest in appropriate technologies and create and, at least, assemble their own computers, I am afraid, this is where we must go for now.

My findings across all three sub-saharan african countries showed that a range of benefits from School Linking can accrue in local communities in the Global South. Primarily these relate to citizenship in action, facilitating human capacity building, and my ‘Three As’, Active participation, Aid and Assistance (Leonard. 2014b), which help to promote Sustainable Development; local morale and self-esteem, and sharing of professional expertise, particularly when Visitor Exchanges are part of the process. This paper focuses on two effects in local communities:(i) my ‘Three As’ and (ii) locals’ morale.

Figure 4 shows how my ‘Three As’ affected the Ugandan schools’ local communities where I’ve worked. These effects may partially be attributable to the involvement of NGOs in two schools’ linking relationships or the longevity of the relationship between Kisiki College, a rural secondary school near Namutumba and the UK town of Ross-on-Wye, partly established through the auspices of Anglican bishoprics in the UK and Uganda. All aspire to the contested term Sustainable Development.

In Figure 5 I adapt Andreotti’s dispositional shifts (2011) to encourage ‘critical, creative and rigorous thinking’ (Bourn, 2015). These aims are promoted through Philosophy for Children (P4C), a methodology which like the web-based Open Spaces for Dialogue and Enquiry methodology (OSDE) Andreotti had helped to develop, encourages learning through dialogue and enquiry.

For the Ghanaian case too an emphasis had been put on Sustainable Developments at Tortibo village, guided by advice from a local Ghanaian director of the Discover Ghana Company, who assisted in Visitor Exchanges between the Ghanaian and UK parties. Quist-Adade and van Wyk (2007) place considerable importance on the requirement for local personnel to be engaged as advisors or contractors when International NGO projects are implemented in Africa. In my thesis I applied their five questions to establish ‘Effective Aid’ to several Ugandan local community ventures (and a proposal to print Braille textbooks for Tanzanian blind and visually impaired pupils, (Leonard, 2014b, p336)). One is shown in Figure 6.

The school’s bursar commented on how opportunities for employment arose from this fish-farm venture. The need to employ a workforce local to the school is perhaps made in the light of earlier less successful linking projects, in which scaling up from a family enterprise to a larger scale operation had not factored in the requirement for labour during school holidays:

Because when we construct that fish pond, people are getting employment. We are employing people there and we employ the people who are around the community that are around the school. So jobs are created, which can even help the people around. Their students again can get jobs, from what we have got from the link. Like now, we are hoping to open up a hostel, being constructed by the link, and the people will get jobs, the people around, because we can’t employ a person who is far from the school.

From my qualitative research it is hard to isolate exactly which factor has been responsible for successful outcomes in schools’ local communities. In my Tanzanian findings what Odora Hoppers (cited in Bourn, 2015) describes as exposing learners to different experiences and approaches is evident; the S/NELP there resulted in similar types of positive effects to those that I had identified in Ghana and Uganda. Here, for example, a Head Teacher in Zanzibar relates collaborations between UK visitors and those in the local hospital:

When Aston comes here… they bring medicines, and they go to help the doctors, teach us at the cottage hospital there, while they put some, like these things, everybody who goes to the hospital may gain from it. There are pieces of medicine, pieces of material, to be used by doctors, in trying to make different physical quantities of, like thermometers, and other medical instruments… they are given there and they are used to the communities, as their working materials. So, they gain, of course.

The computer room at the Zanzibar secondary school, partly funded through its S/NELP, if suitably maintained, was intended as a community resource; its equipment was not reserved for school purposes. Resourcing of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) within this S/NELP demonstrates this partnership’s aspiration to durability and sustainability, and its DE aim of ‘whole community involvement’. What was less certain was how future funding would be secured, to ensure that the computer equipment could be maintained and repaired. How the project could achieve commercial viability, or how its Internet service charges would be financed was not secure in 2011, as discussed by the partnership’s Linking coordinator:

Lack or absence of communication means in Zanzibar, the current come off most of the time and most school have no internet services; by October our internet services in school will cut off and we have no other money to repaid considered that we are the coordinator for other school at the South region, meanwhile they have no internet… The organisations like British Council should help means of communication. No communication no partnership.

Bourn and Cara (2012) reviewed the installation of the NGO Link Community Development’s (LCD) Solar Connect ICT equipment, facilitating solar powered Internet hubs, in thirty schools, in four African countries, as part of their ‘Partners in Development’ project. They identified several instances of locals agreeing to supervise, burglar proof and resource schools’ Solar Connect equipment. Community involvement was also a criterion for schools being selected to have this equipment installed. Until LCD closed its School Linking programme this NGO, like DGSP, had been a major player in UK/African School Linking (Bourn and Cara, 2013). LCD’s linking programme, like that of another NGO, Plan, had emphasised educational provision (see for example Bourn and Cara, 2012), instigating the S/NELP between UK and African schools, applying a model with an overt Development agenda in the South, funded from UK parties. A criticism made of Continuing Professional Development materials provided by these agencies is that they are often published only in English (Regester, 2011). There is evidence in research commissioned by LCD that through its now-ceased linking programme the NGO’s involvement in the Ugandan educational sector introduced more interactive teaching methods to those able to attend its workshops (see for example Bourn and Bain, 2012 and Bourn and Cara, 2013).

Bourn and Cara, (Ibid) found in their analysis of African data for schools in an LCD programme that 39/44 teachers’ participation in the S/NELP had precipitated changes in the methodologies used in their classrooms, (30/44 noting that it had changed these ‘a lot’). These changes included increased use of discussion and ‘discovery methods as well as child-centred methods’ (Ibid p25). This echoed findings by Bourn and Bain (2012), from Masindi district in Uganda, where primary schools engaged in the S/NELP had become exposed to approaches ‘from outside their own area’ (Ibid p20), subsequently leading to Ugandan students’ intercultural education, with greater reflection on their own culture and values. Lack of cost-effectiveness of LCD’s long-established Linking programme led to its closure, although the NGO is still committed to educational improvement in Ugandan schools (Bourn and Cara, 2013).

My findings showed however that on occasions linking relationships can become overly reliant on the largesse of UK partners, or that cultural education outcomes may be negligible, or simplistic stereotypes held about the Global North may remain unchallenged for some Southern adults. The former local Tanzanian agent for the small NGO Village Aid, Kenneth Mwanampalila, supporting linking relationships in the Buigiri community, for example, explained that some linking outreach ventures had been stopped, such as the provision of clothing shipped from the UK. The Head Teacher at the Primary School urged me to act as an advocate for his school, claiming that Village Aid funds to support the connection of his buildings to the electricity supply had been inadequate, a claim disputed by Kenneth. This mirrors criticisms of other unfinished educational projects in the Global South, such as those aired by a former LCD-funded Global Teacher, who had worked in East London, South Africa, on her placement (Edwards, 2012, pp8-9):

Donors had given money, but failed to stick around to see the project through to its end. Between 2004 and 2009, this did not feel uncommon. As I remember, the Eastern Cape landscape was littered with half-finished school buildings. This leads, naturally, to bitterness and resentfulness.

Opportunities for critical pedagogy that Bourn (2015) seeks for Development Education, and I advocate, may not easily arise in Southern schools’ local communities; perhaps they are more readily secured in the schools taking part in the S/NELP, rather than for those in the communities that they serve.

Local morale and self-esteem

Bourn and Cara (2012, p36) found in their analysis of relationships established by the NGO LCD, through its School Linking programme, that:

A key theme to emerge in terms of impact on African schools is the sense of pride in the school, feeling closer to its needs and development. By hosting UK teachers, the parents and the wider community were able to celebrate and promote what the school is achieving.

I found something similar in my research. Here a Ugandan secondary school’s linking coordinator relates how those in his local rural community in Nakigo reacted to visitors, from their UK partner in Kington, Herefordshire:

You see, there are… some of them, it is the first time they are meeting, and it is not really negative, it is, I tend to think it is very, very positive, because it is learning to see how the cultures are, from in Britain and in here – the food, the eat- and have you seen that even the people here have been wondering how the Whites can come and enjoy our food and I think this is quite a positive effect, they have had. They have been thinking that maybe someone from Britain might not be able to eat our food or they look down upon it, or what? They have been interacting and eating it with us and I think that is quite positive.

His observations suggest that unreliable stereotypes were addressed and through interactions between people from different cultures critical thinking was promoted, with his neighbours and UK visitors learning together. I, like the British Council and UNESCO (2006), identify this as an example of intercultural education.

This former linking coordinator at the long-established partnership in Zanzibar gave another example of critical thinking, for those at both ends of this relationship:

Maybe when our friends come to Makunduchi maybe they have their stories, maybe something that maybe people are sleeping on the trees and something like that. But when they come here they found that it is quite different; people are very amicable, living happily at the time, saying something like “Karibou”, something like that. And also found that in your country, maybe in England, that people are too far advanced…They come to learn that habit and culture, because it is not only students, but the full grown other one that, who experiences oh, this is good and this is better.

Thakwalakwa and Najda (2012) summarised what I have found to date in my ongoing work with Southern research collaborators, noting how much we all still have to learn from each other.

Recommendations and implications for the future of the S/NELP

To conclude this paper I now relate my recommendations to secure successful linking relationships. The submission, emergence and personal knowledge which I enjoy in the S/NELP after more than a decade (Holliday, 2010) have enabled me to become increasingly visible as a researcher, even acting as an advocate for the Southern collaborators.

Only the Northern, UK lens is applied, building upon Southern advice known at the conclusion of this research journey and corroborated evidence from other interested parties. The recommendations relate to all four of my research sub-questions from the concluding chapter of my thesis (Leonard, 2014b.) In gaining greater confidence in my qualitative interpretivist expertise and researcher’s voice the respondents’ voices too were championed in a more forthcoming manner, when confronted by social justice issues. My ‘reflexive excavation’ (Holliday, 2010), through implementing repeated, persistent attempts to delve deeper into the S/NELP and “persistent and continued efforts to get to the bottom of things” (Ibid, p17) enabled some unexpected realities to surface.

Finally I share seven implications for the future, addressing policy makers, practitioners and the academe.

Recommendations to secure successful relationships

Some links may not aspire to partnership; whatever the Southern school and its partner institutions are seeking from their nascent relationships should be clarified at the outset and then regularly reviewed.

Formalising schools’ participation should be encouraged, representing a commitment to work together, whatever the preferred timescale.

Advice from UK agencies such as the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms and UK One World Linking Association (UKOWLA) personnel and/or publications can guide potential linkers; their materials familiarise all concerned with pitfalls such as unwitting creation of dependency relationships which otherwise might ensue.

Prior to establishing a link those considering embarking on the S/NELP should ideally read literature written from a Postcolonialist persuasion; risks of dependent relationships forming would then be apparent. This awareness raising should then ensure that participants do not contribute unwittingly to their creation.

If schools’ participation in the S/NELP is to evolve into enduring sustainable partnerships, “high momentum” links (Edge et al, 2009) or even more powerful relationships enduring over the decades, like Kisiki College’s link or the Aston-Makunduchi partnership, Southern schools and, ideally, Northern partner/s must establish an evolving cohort of adults whose expertise and experiences of the S/NELP are routinely reported and shared with colleagues.

Linking relationships must not rely too heavily on individuals. If a post of Linking Coordinator is established this individual must ensure that the relationship is ‘owned’ by the school and ideally its local community.

As in any relationship the parties engaged in the S/NELP need to maintain contact with one another. Letter exchanges, reliant on postal services may prove problematic, with a risk that packages are lost in the post. Additionally, the cost of such communication to Southern parties is not negligible. Email, whilst not necessarily accessible on site at Southern schools can be a substitute, especially if Southern parties are pre-warned of such communications by text message.

Dissemination of advice, ideas and linking materials can happen first-hand, through face-to-face meetings and participatory action-research focused workshops; Sazani Associates’ Healthy and Sustainable Schools (HSS) Framework programme and the Aston-Makunduchi Partnership, in Zanzibar, Tanzania, both use this method (Leonard, 2012). Sazani Associates, working with marginalised schools in Wales, UK and Zanzibar have focused on shared learning and curriculum enrichment. MacCallum (2015) a Director of this NGO describes the nature of the project, based on a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative as “innovative, creative, niche”. Three clusters of schools on the island now work towards different levels of the HSS Award. Trainers in Zanzibar are locals, from early participants in the programme, meeting Quist-Adade and van Wyk’s requirements to employ local personnel and respond to Southern agenda (2007). From its instigation in 2000, comprising two schools, one in Zanzibar and one in Wales, their transformative approach to global learning has evolved into a Global Professional Learning Community (GPLC) of over 40 schools in both countries (MacCallum and Salam, 2014).

As Internet access becomes increasingly affordable in the global South, I suggest that the British Council’s (BC) “Connecting Classrooms/Schools Online4” materials should not require users to have registered first on their website. It is prior to forming a link that advice is particularly beneficial. In 2015 “Funding for partnerships under Connecting Classrooms is currently under review”5; linking relationships should become self-reliant financially.

The British Council’s SchoolsOnline website6 gives basic advice, entitled “Establishing your link”. LCD’s wealth of archived materials, developed over its 15 years’ experience of the S/NELP, should be hyperlinked to the Connecting Classrooms/Schools Online website.

The S/NELP should not be seen as consisting of two schools, but rather linking should be viewed as a process. My research in Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania, has shown how the S/NELP works effectively when others take part, including NGOs and commercial enterprises.

Crucially, to minimize the risk of dependent relationships forming, those in the South should determine funding solutions, so that local challenges are solved using local knowledge. West (2014) suggests that a questioning of “the taken for granted and oppressive forces in a life” (Ibid, p165), with its resultant internalising of radically different ideas, represents ‘significant’ transformational learning. This is very important, since it contrasts with some Northern attempts at linking (Edwards, 2012). This may include collaboration with NGOs, the commercial sector, Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and multilateral funding agencies, such as the World Bank.

Implications for the future

I believe that Northern teachers and young people in multicultural communities and Southern schools may prove rich areas for future S/NELP collaboration. Opportunities exist in School Linking to work together to aid the learning of those for whom the formal language of education is an additional language. Schools and HEIs should explore how such work can be instigated.

S/NELP participants need to consider collaboration beyond schools. Cross-phase and linking clusters should be encouraged; schools should work with institutions providing teachers’ professional development, such as HEIs, in the UK, the African continent and other Southern locations. Linked schools, particularly ICT centres of excellence, should act as educational ‘hubs’, engaging in outreach to wider networks of schools.

Schools should seize curriculum opportunities. New DE teaching and learning resources, created within the S/NELP should be disseminated for wider use. Geography curricula lend themselves well to this. Young people in German cities whose schools or youth groups include participants from a range of cultural backgrounds, may wish to share what they know about Development Education themes with young people from similar Diaspora communities (Scheunpflug, 2008). Schools in Romania might wish to link with those whose families are from the Roma Diaspora, in a range of Northern settings.

Ideally, those promoting critical engagement should work collaboratively with adults and students in Southern schools to devise activities similar to the OSDE web-based materials. A ‘P4C’ approach is also appropriate. Again Geography curricula lend themselves to these.

Southern schools receiving books and/or ICT provision in their S/NELP can ensure that local communities access these resources, by serving as community ‘hubs’. Educational publishers (such as Pearson, already part of the UK’s Development Education consortium, appointed by DfID to deliver its Global Learning Programme from 2013) should consider how they could support such initiatives, perhaps as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility remit.

Critics who question the underlying motivations of linking participants, including some postcolonialists, may remain opposed to the inherent asymmetry in the S/NELP. More South-South relationships need to be developed.

Most importantly, in Southern schools S/NELP projects should only be introduced in response to Southern demand; these need to implement agreed completion criteria. Upon successful implementation these should represent ‘models’ for others.

Reflection on how this research relates to Development Education beyond the UK

Much of what I researched is UK centric; for example any linking initiatives associated with DfID funding. Since the linking relationships researched all had a UK school/schools at the Northern end this is an inevitable consequence. However, I suggest that the findings reported here are relevant more widely in Europe and beyond, whenever participating educational establishments experience very different contexts and whenever critical pedagogy is promoted or global learning related to social justice is aspired to. That is partly why I have suggested that more South-South relationships need to be developed. Teachers, youth workers and students in Australia, Brazil, China, Finland, Ireland, Mozambique, Portugal, South Korea and Tobago might desire to link with their ‘neighbours’ in distant places outside Sub-Saharan Africa (see for example: Church of England (2015), and Lambert and Morgan (2011)).

I maintain that in learning how to sustain a school link between schools in Francophone countries in West Africa and educational establishments in France, or between Portuguese-speaking participants, wherever their establishments are located in the world, my research findings are still relevant.

There is a danger of reliance on a single story (Adichie, 2009); this research does that, partly because of its dependence on the use of materials in the English language.


It is hoped that my reflexivity as the researcher in this article and throughout my doctoral thesis will aid others’ understanding of South/North relationships, including those established in the S/NELP. Future researchers on School Linking may adopt methodologies from a different approach.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

[1] Alison Leonard completed her doctorate at the Development Education Research Centre, Institute of Education at University College London, University of London in 2014.

[2] See the document here. Accessed 16 April 2015.

[3] See the document here. Accessed 15 April 2015.

[4] See the website here.

[5] See the website here.

[6] See the website here. All last accessed 30 March 2015.


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