Imagine that you live in a small village in rural Uganda and have never used the internet.
Then one morning, you arrive at school to find your classmates on a Skype video call with students thousands of miles away in England. What’s more, a world-famous author is leading a discussion about poverty and hunger — and he wants your point of view.
That’s exactly what happened on June 7. Roger Thurow, author of “The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change,” led a discussion on global hunger with students at the Petchey Academy, a secondary school in Hackney, England and the Buyinja School in Kasangati, Uganda.
The interactive student session was arranged by Speakers for Schools in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Skype in the classroom. Sylvia Mwichuli from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) facilitated the discussions.
For the 20 students at the Buyinja School, this was the first time participating in a Skype video call. The school is located in a rural area about 10 miles from Kampala and is not online. Special arrangements had to be made for the event with help from Skype in the classroom partners, CHAT to the Future.
Zion Arinaitwe was thrilled by the opportunity, “We got to discuss ways of solving the hunger and poverty problems, especially in Africa and the world as a whole.” Classmate Kate Namulindwa was excited that “we established a relationship between the students of Uganda and the students of UK.”
It’s a relationship that Petchey Academy teacher Fiona Dyke hopes will continue. Although she had not previously used Skype to collaborate with other classrooms, she plans to arrange periodic video calls with the Buyinja School so the students can continue their conversation.
“There is so much value for students in learning directly from other young people about their experiences.”
Hearing from someone of Roger Thurow’s stature was very exciting for her students, she said. But it was when her students were able to interact directly with their peers in Africa that the excitement became “palpable.” That’s why she hopes to make Skype video calls a continuing classroom activity.