Learning Realm International School (LRI) located in Kalanki, Kathmandu had just finalised and submitted its proposal to the British Council when the COVID-19 pandemic forced countries, including Nepal to go under lockdown. The proposal they had submitted included a wide range of classroom and outdoor activities for students and teachers of LRI, but given the pandemic, for more than a half year in 2020, all planned International School Award (ISA) activities were disrupted, leaving schools to find new ways of teaching and learnings from the comfort of their homes.

Here, Sameer Bomdzon, Secretary to LRI School Trustee shares his experience of continuing the ISA activities with their partner school overseas amid the pandemic.  

Which school is LRI currently partnered with through the ISA programme?

We have developed a partnership with Pembroke Dock Community School from Pembrokeshire, South West Wales, UK.

Since when did you start the collaboration with your partner school?

Although we submitted a project proposal more than a year ago, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and countries going into sudden lockdown, we could not start any of our planned activities on time. Given the situation, we had to reorganise and plan our activities and resources to ensure full participation of students from their homes. Only on 20 November 2020, on World Children’s Day, we officially launched our project activities online.

How did you manage to collaborate your activities with your partner school to complete the activities during the pandemic?

We completely went virtual. We used different means of communication such as MS Teams, Gmail, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp to stay in touch with our students, teachers, and friends from our partner school. We allocated a separate time to connect with our partner schools overseas and conducted the activities online.

Tell us about some of the ISA activities that you have completed with your partner school so far?

As of now, we have exchanged initial getting-to-know-you activities. Some of the activities we were able to host were:

  • Introduction session: During this session, LRI students and teachers introduced and interacted with Pembrokeshire School representatives and other partner schools from Kathmandu to start the ISA project based on Sustainable development Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 13 (Climate Action). Recording of the session is available here
  • Welsh Music Day: On this day, LRI students celebrated Welsh Music Day and sang songs for the partner school. Recording of the session is available here
  • Q&A session: In this session, the LRI students answered the queries sent by the student of Pembrokeshire School. A playlist of the session is available here. 

Do you have any other activities in the pipeline?

Of course. Currently, we are conducting virtual activities mentioned in our action plan proposed by Pembrokeshire School. Once we resume our physical classes, we will gradually work together and conduct other activities related to Climate Change. It will cover topics related to the effects of climate change in countries around the world, evaluation of the climate in our own country, and creating a collaborative graph to compare the climate in each country (temperature and rainfall) which will lead to research work on renewable energy.

What were the challenges and opportunities of virtual collaboration?

Unlike face-to-face, engaging students for presentations and performances over the Internet was a bit challenging. Everything we did involves technology and the Internet and connectivity was often an issue, but it has also helped students and teachers to enhance their digital skills and become more techno-savvy.

How has the partnership helped students and teachers to develop themselves?

With the help of this partnership, our school teachers and students have become more confident and active. Sharing of information and cultures with partner schools has encouraged them to think more critically – being not just limited to local knowledge but also global.  They are also keen to develop a long-term vision for the school and our students. Also, the partnership has strengthened friendship and understanding between countries and their people.

Why do you think such partnerships are important?

The international collaboration between schools provides a global perspective and offers opportunities for both learners and educators to come together and act as global citizens and not just think about their local issues but think globally with a bigger picture in mind.

What changes have you noticed in your students and teachers after their enrollment in the ISA?

My students have developed leadership skills, confidence, empathy, compassion, and respect. Their politeness towards each other and enthusiasm to understand the subject matter is highly appreciable. Every day, they are growing to become better and responsible individuals.

How the partnership between schools can help in achieving SDGs?

When schools come together, they can initiate educational activities for sustainable development that promotes the enhancement of knowledge, skills, understanding, values, and actions required for creating a sustainable world. The collaborative activities can help educate learners about global issues, initiate conversations, promote volunteering, capacity building, fundraising and most of all build connections to empower change-makers.