Altrincham school makes friends across the cultural divide

Taken on the front steps of GEMS, this photograph shows Bob, Lynne and Liz and Lori (Head of GEMS) and staff and pupils too. Kunwar (Village leader and Lor's husnband) is stood to the right

Taken on the front steps of GEMS, this photograph shows Bob, Lynne and Liz and Lori (Head of GEMS) and staff and pupils too. Kunwar (Village leader and Lor's husnband) is stood to the right

First published in News Messenger Newspapers: Photograph of the Author by , Arts Reporter

TWO schools in very different countries and from very cultures have formed a lasting friendship.

Bob Merrell, headteacher at Oldfield Brow Primary in Altrincham, said pupils now exchange letters and gifts with their classmates in India.

He was first made aware of the school, located in the foothills of the Himalayas, by a student teacher called Charlie Beard.

She taught at the establishment as part of her training and felt it shared many of the same values as Oldfield Brow.

The two schools have been working together for the past 12 months and have exchanged everything from books and emails to film footage that shows how similar many of the lessons are.

Last year, accompanied by two members of staff, Lynne Thornton and Liz Brash, Bob spent two weeks teaching at Garhwal English Medium School (GEMS). He said the English-speaking facility is located 2,000 metres above sea level near a village called Sainji in a largely agricultural area.

The 48-year-old said: “It wasn’t life changing, it was life affirming. The things that I always thought were the important things like how people should get on together, I found in India. The big difference is the attitude of the people. They focused on what they have, whereas possibly in the West we focus on what we don’t have.”

He said the school in India is located in a ‘poor area’ but he added: “But it’s very important to me that the children don’t see the children in India is being impoverished because they are so rich. It just doesn’t happen to be in material goods.”

* An exhibition about Oldfield Brow’s visit to GEMS is being staged at the Altrincham Forward office on Shaws Road, Altrincham, until the end of February.

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