THEY may be almost 7,000 miles apart but the connection between Bradford College and a school in Kenya remains strong with students exchanging letters of friendship.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) 16-18 students at the college sent letters to children in Jolaurabi School near Nairobi before lockdown began.

For many years the ESOL department has supported Jolaurabi School, which was created by charity Educate the Kids. In February ESOL lecturer Esther Wilkey and Curriculum Area Manager Vanessa Philimore visited Jolaurabi to help deliver some teacher training at the school.

To coincide with this, ESOL lecturer, Marie Pacchiarini asked her students to write letters to the children there telling them about themselves and life in Bradford. Marie said: “I’m always looking for authentic writing tasks for my learners to engage in, so I encouraged them to write the letters to introduce themselves and make new friends.”

One student said it was "amazing" to get the letters to Africa during lockdown.

Students used a Flight Tracker to ‘watch’ them being delivered from Bradford to Kenya.

The children in Jolaurabi were very excited to receive the post and were supported by Vanessa and their tutor Khadija to write back. The children even had photographs taken with their penpal’s name written on a board.

Esther and Vanessa brought the letters back to the UK – but as both Bradford College and Jolaurabi then went into lockdown in March, the letters were placed online so the ESOL students could read them. Marie said: “It was amazing to get the letters to the learners in lockdown as many had such positive messages and drawings. Seeing the photographs of the children reading the letters was also uplifting. While they are all teenagers, their lives are different in many ways and it brought up a lot of very interesting conversations.”

As part of the partnership with Jolaurabi, the college has also provided Wi-Fi, flip charts, books and other equipment. Furthermore, the college’s Central Media department has donated 3D virtual headsets to every teacher so that the Kenyan pupils can experience what it is like to go on safari and explore different parts of the world.