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Excellence Scholarship winner Georgia Batchelor Robbins in the Catalyst building.A first-year teaching student is combining her studies with planning a third trip to Kenya to support an educational initiative in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Africa. Her endeavours so far have been rewarded with an Excellence Scholarship.

Georgia Batchelor Robbins from Tamworth is planning on bringing books with her to support the Project Elimu initiative, set up by ex-professional dancer Mike Wamaya aimed at improving education standards through extra curricula activities in Kibera.

“I had seen a video about Mike, teaching ballet to children in the slums, and they were asking for donations. I had realised this was near where we were going to be staying so I contacted him via Facebook and asked him what they needed.”

Dance clothes are much-sought-after for the group and so Georgia set about thinking of ways to collect.

“At a dance festival I started to collect as many items as I could. I also contacted dance companies and costume shops who generously gave; we ended up collecting over 250 items.”

Georgia met up with Mike and the group on Christmas Eve 2017, being shown around the school and seeing the students perform, as well as distributing clothes. Through this initial meeting subsequent visits were planned.

“The school was made up of corrugated iron and had concrete floors, a chalk board and very limited teaching resources. They then showed off dances from the Nutcracker that they had recently performed at the National Kenyan Ballet, we moved the desks and tried to remove as much dust from the floor as possible so there was room to dance.

“It was so special to be able to meet the children and to see them opening the clothes, it is something I will never forget; to see how much of a positive impact dance has on the children and how it can bring everyone together, even if they are from different countries.”

The Primary Modern Languages Education with QTS student witnessed similarities with the UK education system, hindered by large class sizes and limited resources.

“They are classed as private schools meaning the parents pay a couple of shillings for the children to attend,” Georgia said. “However, some still can’t afford this. I found this incredible because even though they don’t have anything, they will still pay to enable their children to have an education.

“They take on children from all primary ages, like in the UK, and have separate classes for each year group which tend to be the same size as in the UK – but that differs. In a public school in Kibera there would be around 200 students with one teacher in a class.

“I was surprised to see that the things they taught were very similar to the UK but with very limited resources. For example, instead of using whiteboards and paper to write the children use bottle tops to practice letter formation.”

Noted as being the largest urban slum in Africa – Georgia compares Kibera to Birmingham in size – she was amazed at some of the sights she witnessed.

“The people don’t have anything; in one of the schools there was an open sewer running through it with chickens running around. All children and teachers at the school live in Kibera. The headteacher has been the head for 20 years and she still lives in the slums; she has never earned enough to be able to move out of Kibera.”

Georgia returned to visit the school in July and taught English and dance. She has set up a GoFundMe page to help fund her next trip, in early 2019, when she intends to bring over some much-needed books to the school.

“The focus of the trip is about inspiring a passion for reading. I’ll be working with the teachers to implement a reading for pleasure scheme and a creative writing project to hopefully inspire a passion for reading. I’m trying to collect children’s books, especially ones that the children can relate to.”

Georgia aims to teach overseas after graduation, having already gained work experience at a school in Barcelona. She believes Edge Hill University is the right place to support her in realising her goals.

“Being able to specialise in Languages and EAL [English as an additional language] will train and prepare me for teaching abroad. The university is also very student-centred. They provide so many opportunities relating to your course as well as extra curricula opportunities. For example, I’ve been able to take lessons in Spanish, volunteer in schools and sign up for a trip to China.”

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