Our Church has a partnership with Alloway and Doonfoot Primary Schools and Bandawe Primary and All Girls Secondary Schools in Malawi.
Ayrshire Post Article 20th March 2019
Pop UK 2019 - Pupils from Alloway Primary School and Doonfoot Primary School sing their hearts at Alloway Parish Church.
In 2007, the Kirk Session of Alloway Parish Church set a priority to focus on Youth and Children’s Work, and appointed a Youth and Schools Worker. The whole focus of the partnership is based on relationship and trust.
The working relationship between Alloway and Doonfoot Primary Schools and Alloway Parish Church is seen as a pleasure and privilege by all of the staff involved. The Schools Worker invites many members of the congregation to be a part of school life, and indeed the schools support the church.
Activities cover helping pupils to think about the importance of belief in our lives and in society, and also include fun and fellowship building.
The congregation have made a financial investment into the schools by providing “Mission Weeks”. Pupils have enjoyed the Scottish Bible Society Bibleworld Trailer, have learned about Creation through drama, crafts, games and storytelling with church members and also workers from Christian Aid and absolutely love taking part in Pop UK, when they learn and record seven pop songs with strong moral messages, sharing their talents at concerts for the whole community, in the church.
At the beginning of each session the head teachers plan together with the Schools Worker the support the church can offer to the curriculum, including assemblies and class visits, and an agreement for SU clubs is arranged.
One of the highlights of the school calendar is the powerful, sensitive and respectful observance of Remembrance Day and Holocaust Memorial Day. For Remembrance P7 pupils investigate a name of one of the fallen in the village and at the service share their learning. The whole community comes together; remembrance is in safe hands here in Alloway. Mrs Butler at Alloway PS said, “The children have been empowered by the church, and now lead this service with such dignity and respect.”
Offering pastoral support for teaching staff, pupils and parent and carers, is a privilege. Journeying through difficult, sad and testing times, as well as celebrating joyful events together will never be taken for granted. Over the many years, signposting to outside agencies who can offer the best advice and support to each other is very much valued. Prayerful support is always given.
The children are incredibly talented, and it is always well received when the school choirs, orchestra, and individuals come along to services to share their talents with the congregation, who love to share in the success of them all.
In 2008 a partnership was established with Bandawe PS and the two primary schools in the parish. Bandawe PS is next door to Bandawe All Girls Secondary School, the partner school of the church.
This is a curriculum partnership where pupils at all of the schools take part in the same lessons through Rights Respecting Schools Week, Scotland learning about Malawi, and Malawi learning about Scotland. At the end of the week on “Malawi Day”, pupils in Scotland raise funds for their partner school by organising a Fayre and coffee afternoon for the community. Work is exchanged.
Over the years of partnership the learning environment of Bandawe PS has been improved significantly by the efforts of the children and staff here.
One of the most significant events between the partners has been the Alloway Malawi Mission 2018, when both teaching staff and church members worked jointly on the traditional mission station of Bandawe, in northern Malawi. The teachers worked with the teachers in our partner schools, and the church members ran a holiday club and Bible study for the children.
In order for the trip to be possible a huge amount of fundraising was undertaken jointly, and a staggering £62,000 was raised in total. The pupils of the schools have benefitted hugely from this visit as their understanding of world poverty, climate change, faithfulness, gender inequality, and third world education has been increased significantly.
Lifelong friendships have been forged between these very diverse schools and with the church, and as we write this, we are reflecting on a very successful visit from the two partner Head Teachers from Malawi here to Alloway in March. This helped consolidate the learning undertaken last summer, and also enabled the whole community to come together in celebration of the partnership as we each learn from our overseas brothers about church and school life, their faith, community building and sharing.
Reading stories as part of the Scottish Government’s Literacy Project allows church members to sit in the public library and read about Christmas, St Valentine and Easter. These sessions allow for questions and interest in the themes.
Within the Early Year’s Centres at the schools many activities are organised for the very young children; stories, music and dancing being the utmost favourites. Organising “Coffee and Chat” sessions in the church halls, allows both pupils and parents and carers to come along to the church for fun sessions, where the grownups enjoy home baking and a cuppa provided by congregation members, then a play session with their children before finishing with stories. The feedback is always very positive and parents and carers feel welcome. The church are able to publicise events for families, and many have attended Messy Church and Family worship following these sessions.
It was following the first of these days that the schools requested that “parenting courses” be organised at the church, and we were delighted to call on members who had provided these for the local authority to run sessions free of charge in the church halls. These were well attended and thoroughly enjoyed.
The church are able to offer pupils an opportunity to learn about the global community, and support the schools in making a difference to those in need, whether in our own community with the Foodbank, by buying a monthly treat from the Fairtrade tuck shop, or by being involved in the “Alternative Gift Schemes” offered by Ayr Presbytery, where mosquito nets, solar powered homework lamps and seeds and fertiliser have been bought.
The congregation and the whole community enjoy reading articles written by the pupils in the parish newsletter and the annual magazine distributed to every house in the parish. Articles have included curriculum activities, trips, fundraising ideas and activities and sports and music success.
Our partnership seeks to support the schools in any way possible. It is wonderful to have a relationship that allows open, honest and constructive dialogue. Everyone offers practical solutions when difficulties arise, for example lending chairs, staging, costumes, attendance at events and trips to make sure that pupil/adult ratios are met, helping at sports days, judging competitions, etc.
Whenever possible, staff from the schools and staff from the church have attended meetings in support of one another.
We are very proud of all that is achieved in this partnership and look forward to the relationship developing and changing over many years to come.