John Kyrle High School (JKHS) in Ross-on-Wye has recently had the pleasure of hosting three esteemed guests from its twin town, Namutumba in Uganda.

This remarkable visit marks the continuation of an enduring 30-year educational link between JKHS and Kisiki College, a bond that has weathered the storms of recent years, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

Guests of honour included Winifred Babalanda, Headteacher of Kisiki College, James Mugenyi, one of the founders of the twinning link, and Art teacher, Paul Natta. For Winifred, this marked her inaugural visit outside of East Africa, while James and Paul are no strangers to the UK school.

The visit, extending over two weeks, was a fascinating cultural exchange for the staff and students of JKHS. Winifred, James, and Paul spent significant time engaging with the students, particularly Year 8 and 9, through humanities lessons. They facilitated insightful comparisons between life at their Ugandan school and JKHS, fielding a myriad of inquisitive questions from the students.

Paul Natta collaborated with JKHS’s Head of Art, Kelly Davies, to deliver a thought-provoking lesson to A-level artists. The visitors’ influence reached into the technology, maths, and English departments too, including a unique lesson on Ugandan culture and poetry in a Year 7 English class. Students delved into the ‘Song of Ocol’ by Okot P’Bitek, sparking a wider conversation about gender roles across different cultures.

The trio also had lunch with Year 11 and 12 students, who eagerly await their planned visit to Namutumba next July.

Beyond the confines of JKHS, the visitors interacted with local feeder primary schools and community groups, such as the Lions, town council, and local churches. These interactions not only allowed them to share updates on ongoing projects but also facilitated discussions about potential future collaborations.

The visitors were accommodated by the current and former staff of JKHS and enjoyed an evening of camaraderie with old and new friends over a barbecue. Headteacher Winifred delighted guests with a traditional Ugandan dish of steamed matoke.

Reflecting on the visit, Mr Mogan of JKHS noted, “It has been wonderful to continue this important link founded so many years ago. The mutual learning and excitement for the future of the partnership have been incredibly enriching. Thanks to everyone who has been involved in this amazing visit.”

Winifred Babalanda expressed her gratitude, stating, “It’s great that we have been able to recommit ourselves to sustaining the mutual friendship and support. Watch this space for ideas about how you can be involved.” The visit has undoubtedly reaffirmed the mutual commitment to nurturing the longstanding friendship and educational alliance between the two schools.