Centre for African Studies (LUCAS)

Centre for African Studies
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT

Tel: 0113 343 5069
Fax: 0113 343 4400

LUCAS Schools Project coordinator

Richard Borowski

The LUCAS Schools’ Global Citizenship Project – Jane Plastow

Tagged with the keywords: , , , , , ,

[Published in Leeds African Studies Bulletin 69 (2007), pp. 48-61]


The LUCAS Schools’ Global Citizenship Project was a pilot programme that ran from September 2004 to July 2006. The aim of the project was to give an opportunity for African postgraduate students at the University of Leeds to share their knowledge of Africa with young people in Leeds primary and high schools, in order to support both the national curriculum global citizenship agenda and to promote a wider knowledge of African culture, politics and development among young people in the city. The project ran with the financial support of a DfID mini-grant and funding from the University of Leeds Widening Participation Fund, plus in kind assistance from LUCAS, primarily in the form of free administration and project management.[1]

The project worked with four high and six primary schools.[2] Thirteen African students were trained and offered part time employment, and approximately 700 children benefited from the scheme.

The Objectives

The idea for the project was brought to me as director of LUCAS by our board member, Michael Medley, and a then student at the University, Saidie Parker. Parker had previously worked for the Leeds Development Education Association (DEA) and was aware that they administered a mini-grant scheme on behalf of DfID. She suggested that a project taking African students into Leeds schools might well fit with the objective of the scheme in widening community awareness of development issues; in our case from a specifically African viewpoint. We then developed a proposal with the support of Richard Borowski of our local DEA with three objectives:

1.To raise awareness, and assist in the delivery, of the global dimension of the National Curriculum in Leeds schools.

Global citizenship is a relatively recent addition to the UK national curriculum that requires all children to increase their awareness of the world around them and their rights and responsibilities as a global citizen.[3] Many teachers have little or no training in this area and are poorly equipped to deliver teaching on global citizenship. At LUCAS we had an extraordinary resource in the number of African postgraduate students studying at the University who could offer expert knowledge about their continent, and we therefore wished to offer this expertise to the wider community.

2.To raise awareness of Africa’s contribution towards global development.

All too often Africa is presented as a basket case. DfID is concerned that young people engage with a sense of responsibility towards development agendas, and particularly the Millennium Development Goals. However it is also important that wider recognition is given to the achievements of Africa and its contributions to the world in terms of wealth creation, natural resources, culture, language and so on, in order to help children develop a more balanced view of the continent.

3.To raise the aspirations of children in Leeds.

The project wished to support children of African heritage, who have in recent years often under-performed academically in the UK.[4] There are very few black teachers in Leeds,[5] and we sought to encourage aspiration in young people of ethnic minorities by putting African role models in front of them, and raising esteem of and interest in African studies among the general school population.

4.From the point of view of the African students we aimed to contribute to their personal and professional development by preparing and supporting them in working in a UK school environment.

5.For LUCAS we sought to widen interest in and understanding of Africa in the local community, and to widen our outreach into the Leeds school system.

Setting up the Project: Year 1

The Schools
The project began work in the 2004/5 academic year. We approached four local high schools with very varied pupil intake, in order to assess whether different academic environments would affect delivery of the project. The schools invited to benefit from the project (for free) were:
1. City of Leeds High School
This is the school nearest to the University. It is an inner city school with a very mixed ethnic intake. A high proportion of children are from deprived backgrounds, and a significant proportion come with statements of special needs.
2. Intake High School
This is a school operating in a largely white working class area. It is also a specialist performing arts school, with a selected stream of students accepted from across the city who wish to focus their studies on performance.
3. Lawnswood High School
This is a very large school with a 10 form entry. It accepts children from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds.
4. Leeds Girls’ High School
This is a private girls’ high school, near the university with mixed ethnic intake and very high academic standards.

All schools accepted the invitation to take part in the project and were offered up to 20 hours of free classes for year 7 (the first year of high school) pupils. They were then invited to a meeting at LUCAS to discuss their aspirations for the work and to agree which staff would link with LUCAS in a coordinating capacity. We also made it clear at this time that school staff must be in class at all times and that our students would not be responsible for disciplinary matters.

The Students

At the same time that negotiations were underway with schools LUCAS advertised at the beginning of the University academic year for African PhD students who wished to take part in the project. Eight students attended a first meeting with myself, as project coordinator, and our two development education trainers, Saidie Parker and Richard Borowski.

We were well aware that the school environment in the UK was likely to be very different from those our African students had experienced, whether or not they had previous experience of school teaching. In the vast majority of African schools the environment is teacher-centred with large amounts of rote and blackboard learning. Pupils are usually expected to be quiet and disciplined, and corporal punishment remains common.

We wished to excite and interest Leeds school children about Africa and we therefore required students to take part in a training programme during the first semester, prior to going into schools in the period after the Christmas holidays. This training was to introduce students to more pupil-centred, activity-based teaching models, and to support them in devising individual packages of lesson plans. We also knew it would be vital for students to visit their schools in advance as the school room environment would be radically different from any they were used to. If students successfully completed the training they would be offered teaching of up to 20 hours at £20 per hour plus travel expenses. We would also seek to help them deliver lessons focussing on particular areas of expertise.

Eventually four students took part in the training programme.
• Henrietta Abane is a political geographer and would run a 10 week course in Ghanaian geography at Leeds Girls’ High School.
• Oluseyi Ogunjobi is a Nigerian artist and performer and would run a four week performance project for children at Intake High School focussing on Nigerian art forms.
• Adesoji Adeniyi and Prosper Ogonga are also Nigerians but working in the area of social sciences, would collaborate in working on PHSE curriculum areas at City of Leeds and Lawnswood Schools.

Undoubtedly the biggest shock for our students was going in to the classroom on initial observational visits. All were amazed – and to some extent appalled – by the latitude given to children in terms of their behaviour, and the way they sometimes spoke to members of staff.

For LUCAS the early problems centred around getting some students to attend training regularly, and the lack of time for project organisation. Due to the small budget for the pilot I was coordinating the project alongside my normal duties; though with invaluable help from Saeed Talajooy, the part time LUCAS administrator, who also had his usual work to get on with. Undoubtedly this lack of dedicated organisational time was a problem throughout the project; most notably in terms of ensuring good communications between all parties: students, schools, trainers and LUCAS; but also at times in producing materials and schedules, supporting evaluation, and making sure students were paid promptly and properly.

Our trainers were devising their programme as they came to understand student needs and ability. The focus, however, was always on child-centred participatory learning, and students found this fascinating, though at times a considerable challenge.

First Year Delivery to Schools

Ultimately in the first year we worked with only three schools. Despite numerous liaison attempts it became evident that no teacher at Lawnswood School really wanted to take on the project. Enthusiasm for the scheme had come from the head teacher; but when we found responsibility seemed to have been left with an un-briefed teaching assistant we decided to suspend work at Lawnswood for the year.

At the other extreme our greatest success was probably at Intake High School where both Deputy Head and a number of arts teachers showed great enthusiasm for the performance project for Year 7s, based on African story-telling, that was delivered by our experienced workshop leader and theatre PhD student, Oluseyi Ogunjobi.

At Leeds Girls’ High School, Henrietta Abane had a relatively straightforward job teaching Ghanaian geography. The only issue here was that the programme was not fully delivered as we had not been informed of interruptions to the schedule occasioned by training days and special events.

City of Leeds probably presented our greatest challenge. The PHSE teacher, Pat Santin, had been extremely supportive of the project, but after a few weeks she contacted us to say that she did not feel our two Nigerian students were able to manage the class – and for the remaining sessions they worked in support of the teacher. At her request I went to observe one the classes taking place. Although I had worked on a voluntary drama project at the school before, this was different. The group had extremely challenging behaviour, and it was evident that only a highly skilled, experienced teacher, would have any chance of managing such classes. We agreed that the following year activities would take place in close liaison with the teacher and under her control.

Lessons from Year One

By the end of year one we had learnt a huge amount. The key lessons we took away to develop were:
• The need for improved communication with all parties.
This was basically a matter if putting more effort in to ensuring that everyone knew what they were doing, when; and completing more promptly all the necessary paperwork, phone calls, visits and emails.
• The need to modify training arrangements to encourage full participation.
We decided to move training to fewer, but longer sessions on Saturdays, and to pay students £5 per hour to attend training and lower the teaching rate to £15 per hour.
• The need for fully committed lead teachers to collaborate in ensuring the smooth running of the project.
We had found that to maximise effect one really needed support from both head teachers and the classroom teacher who worked with the project in its delivery stages. We would therefore try to ensure more meetings with staff and visits to all schools by the project coordinator and by students in advance of teaching taking place, as well as making sure they knew who to contact if any difficulties arose.
• The need to continue to reinforce participatory learning methodologies in training and seek out students with previous teaching experience.
Our trainers would seek to further support participatory learning in the training programme and be more available to students to consult once teaching began. We would also recruit African MA students from the School of Education since their prior training in education methodologies would be helpful to the project.

One other key factor affected developments in the second year of the project. Both Lawnswood (now back on board) and City of Leeds High Schools belonged to the same ‘family’ of schools,[6] and this group was developing a project linking high and primary schools in its membership with the aim of supporting educational and pastoral improvements during the ‘transition’ years (Years 5 – 8) when academic achievement has often been found to falter.[7] I was invited to attend meetings in relation to this scheme and it was agreed that LUCAS would widen the project remit in its second year to include Year 6 primary school children. The intention would be that work they made in Year 6 at primary school could be carried through to early Year 7 work in high schools from the same ‘family’, which as feeder schools they would be likely to be attending.[8]

Year Two

As a result of the project development our second year of work involved nine schools. Leeds Girls’ High School did not respond to a repeat invitation, but Lawnswood was now fully on board with an agreed link teacher. We decided we could cope with working in 6 primary schools; and all of these were drawn from the North West Leeds ‘family’ of schools.

The project would run essentially as before in high schools, but for our primary school clients we offered a 1-3 day programme of events, to be delivered by a team of African students. The idea was to stimulate interest in Africa across a range of activities. Each session would run for 4 hours of the school day, and the sessions would take place after the children’s SAT exams when they would be relatively free from normal curriculum pressures. All schools opted for the three day maximum offering.

As before we advertised for students interested in taking part in the project. Two returned to us from the first year; Oluseyi and Adesoji. Oluseyi would return to work at Intake High School, this time running special day-long story-telling, art, textile and drumming workshops for 100 children selected by the school, either because they were part of the performing arts stream, or as a reward for good behaviour. Adesoji would work with a new Nigerian partner, Akande Akinmade at both City of Leeds and Lawnswood in support of the global citizenship elements of the PHSE course. Our 20 hours per school rule, meant that students at Lawnswood would have only 2 hours each as there is a 10 form entry, while at City of Leeds the 4 year 7 groups could have 5 hours of teaching each.

Our training programme drew on, and developed from, the work in year one. Parker had left the University and was replaced as a trainer by Becky Moore. The main challenge for the trainers was to develop with the students schemes of work for the primary school three day packages of events.

Evaluation of Project Results

The remainder of this paper will focus on the evaluation of the project and what was learnt through that process. It draws heavily on the on the Evaluation Report produced by our independent evaluator, Bob Hirst, [9] with additional material produced by me from meetings with pupils in primary and high schools.

In his ‘Overall summary of findings’, Hirst states that:
This project has benefited the African students, been received positively
by the school teachers and has had an impact on the pupils involved, and
all has been achieved extremely efficiently and economically. These are
major achievements
and will always outbalance the more minor
weaknesses. (p5, 2006)

Such findings were naturally very pleasing to LUCAS, but here I will focus on what we were able to identify as particularly useful to participating groups, and the weaknesses that can be learnt from.

High Schools


Hirst went into participating high schools at the end of the first year of the project to interview teachers. His discussion in all schools – primary and secondary – focussed around 7 possible learning outcomes.

1. Pupils understand that Africa is a continent and that the student is from one country in that continent.
2. Pupils understand that countries in Africa can be extremely different in terms of climate, types of people, religion, political and social structures, culture, economic circumstances and so on.
3. Pupils know something about the student’s country.
4. Pupils know something about the student – his/her work, background, experience, opinions, hopes, etc.
5. Pupils have a positive attitude towards countries in Africa.
6. Pupils have some understanding of global issues that affect the student’s country and that affect the UK.
7. (At least some) pupils are interested in taking positive action in relation to the global issues they have explored. (Hirst, 2006, p27)

All teachers agreed that aims 1-5 were addressed, though one school was less sure that 6 and 7 had been dealt with. One school was keen to add that the aspirations of black and ethnic minority pupils had been raised. All were keen to continue with the project, though all felt that it would have been better if more of the school had witnessed some of the work and if teachers had carried out more preparation and follow-up. (Hirst, 2006. p28)

Primary Schools

Primary school staff were interviewed at the end of year two of the project. These teachers generally had a more intimate knowledge of exactly what happened in the project as they were, unlike high school teachers, present throughout. Their responses were therefore more detailed than for high schools.

Teachers generally felt that points 1 and 2 had been well achieved. For points 3 and 4 some said they had been well achieved but more said this had only been accomplished ‘to some extent’. Teachers were often unsure how much more of a positive attitude children had to Africa (point 5). For 6 and 7, scores were between ‘to some extent’ (3 schools), ‘not at all’ (1 school) and ‘not sure’ (1 school), Hirst explains that: ‘The lower level of achievement in these outcomes, as judged by the teachers, was accounted for in part by the student sessions not addressing them and in part by some teachers feeling these are a bit stretching for many Year 6 pupils.’ (Hirst, 2006, p7)

Interestingly the question of benefit to ethnic minority pupils was again raised. In four of the six schools involved there were African students in classes and teachers made a point of discussing how good the event was for these children.

He got more excited about it – he’s usually quiet, but got more involved.
He played a leading role. Helped to raise his self-esteem.
We were pleased with the effect on him. We’ve had some minor difficulties with him, but [these sessions] gave him kudos.
[The sessions] brought them out a lot – really good for them. They contributed more than usual.
(Hirst, 2006, p9)

Overall the teachers felt that the work divided into two parts. When the children were active and involved they were interested and engaged. However, a common point raised was that at times the students talked too much, at times in a ‘Victorian’ or lecturing style, and that then children ‘switched off’ or generally lost interest. This point relates both to the fact that not all the students have any previous teacher training and that African education systems are generally not interactive. It certainly emphasised the need to develop even further interactive skills in the LUCAS training programme.

All teachers said the project was a good idea and that they would wish to continue to be involved with it.


All pupil interviews were carried out by me in the second year of the project, as soon as possible after teaching had taken place – usually within a week. In each case focus groups were chosen by teachers who were asked to select children from as wide a social, ethnic, academic and gendered mix as possible. Children were interviewed from 3 high schools and four primary schools, and the interviews were informal and generally lasted around 20 minutes.

High Schools

All the children knew where their visiting students came from, and nearly all seemed sure that Africa was made up of many countries.

Many expressed considerable surprise that Africans were not all helpless and poor.

I used to think everyone was poor, but now I know they can make lots of things themselves.
I thought it was all animals and poor people, but now I can tell people that they have their own culture and can do things themselves, like making cloth and houses.

Children obviously liked the more activity-based exercises.
It was good fun. I learned lots, specially about making tie-die.
It was different from our usual lessons: history and maths and English. You can learn lots without writing stuff down and that.
He taught us – what’s it called? Pidgin, it looked hard at first, but them I could understand it.

However in our most challenging school a class on West African food had made an impact, but not an obviously positive one.
They brought in food from Africa
They use some food like us – rice.
I ate some crayfish. It was stinky.
I didn’t like gari.

My impression was that ideas about Africa had been changed – and in most cases both for the better – realising that Africans are creative, not helpless and have interesting cultures – and in ways that got rid of some stereotypes – the realisation that Africa is not just full of poor people and wild animals. In the school with most in-depth exposure (full day workshops) the impression was definitely both stronger and more positive than in a school where students were only working in support of a class teacher. In the former the seventh learning objective about positive action had definitely resonated with one child.
I’d really like to go to Africa. I keep asking my Mum to take me. When she asks me why I’d like to go I say it’s because I want to see their culture. I used to think it was all animals, but now I know there’s lots of people and I’d like to go for ten days.
In the latter, many children couldn’t really see why the students were there and had no interest in developing knowledge about Africa.
They introduced themselves in the first lesson and where they come from, Nigeria. But then they just stand at the back.
I’d like to learn about different countries in Africa and societies.
I don’t want to go to Africa.
That was a waste of time.

Learning contexts were hugely different between schools, but both choice of activities and depth of interaction seemed to make a very big difference in how children reacted.

Primary Schools

Like the high schools the primary schools we worked with also catered for a wide social and ethnic range of children, with some in much more prosperous areas than others. It is also important to realise that different activities took place in different schools, with different groups of students, some much more experienced teachers than others.

As in high schools most children knew where their teachers came from, a little about their countries, and realised that Africa had many nations that were different. Similarly, like the high schools, the biggest surprise to the children seemed to be the sophistication of African societies and the simple fact that they were not full of the destitute poor and wild animals. Attitudes to Africa had definitely changed.

I thought everyone was poor, but they wear jeans and hoodies like in England.
Some of the buildings were beautiful, there are grand houses.
[The children saw videos and internet material on Africa.] I didn’t know there were computers in Africa, in the cities.
I didn’t know there were buses in Africa.

This surprise may seem superficial but it seemed important in that it brought ideas about African people closer to the children. Africa became simultaneously more interesting and approachable and less exotic.

The range of activities had generally gone down very well. These included African songs, music, dances and games, work with making clothes, looking at African food, work on African animals, learning about Fair Trade, learning some Pidgin, looking at the Nigerian film industry, internet research and watching videos. Like their teachers, children raised the issue of teaching style. When sessions were active they were much enjoyed, but in most schools children also said that sometimes the African students spent too much time talking at them. One school had no criticisms of the students and the children said that the participatory style had been a nice change from usual classes, that they all knew much more about Africa, and many wanted to go there – particularly popular seemed the idea of going on safari! Elsewhere generous praise and obvious interest was mixed with some reservations about delivery.

On the positive side came many comments such as:
We learned about Fair Trade. How if a bar of chocolate cost a quid the farmer only gets 8p, and how all the different people get their money.
I liked the songs. We learnt a welcome song.
I learned African words. How to say ‘Hello’.

On the negative I was told:
Sometimes they talked too much, so we just sort of switched off.
They gave us homework, but we couldn’t really understand it. We’d only done half an hour in class on Pidgin. It was a bit demoralising.
When he was talking about Pidgin it was interesting, but sometimes he spoke in a monotone.

There were far more positive than negative comments, but the need for a consistently active participatory approach came through very strongly.


The evaluator only met the students once, and as a group, so the information gathered was less than for schools. The students were asked what they hoped to gain from the project and they raised five points.

• The money earned was significant for most students since many struggle financially, and the general consensus was that they payment rate was good.
• Most valued the teaching experience and better knowledge of British schools.
• Several mentioned ‘being an ambassador’ for Africa as important.
• The work was seen as good for one’s CV, and the certificate of training was valued.
• The students enjoyed working in teams and felt they had learned much from this.

More informally LUCAS staff and trainers observed considerable and growing enthusiasm from the group during the time they were involved. The desire to impart knowledge about Africa, and the enjoyment of team activities seemed to be particularly strong once students went into schools.

Students were generally very positive about the training they had received, which they saw as helpful, useful and well prepared. The main problems seem to have had two centres. Firstly, students said it would have been useful to go into schools more prior to teaching beginning. This fitted in with teacher comments about a desire to liase better with students in advance. Students said many schools cancelled planned visits. Undoubtedly there was some confusion here that needed to have been better managed. Secondly students felt they needed more paid planning time in order to be best prepared for their sessions. This had not been taken into account. Since students recognised the issue of too much talking, more planning time might well go some way to helping with the problem.

Overall students were positive, feeling that they had learned much, and that their gain was more than just monetary. There was also a strong sense of camaraderie among the group.


The main benefits of the project to LUCAS were the increase in links with the wider community, the opportunity to promote knowledge about and interest in Africa, and the opportunity to bring African students into contact with the Leeds schools community.

I had undoubtedly underestimated the amount of time involved in making the project work well, and at times the management and administration workload was barely sustainable given other commitments. But all involved in management, administration and training learned a huge amount about how to deliver such a project, and the possible value it contained.

The Future

When the project concluded we decided to apply for a larger DfID award from the Development Awareness Fund to expand the project throughout Leeds. In June 2007 we learned that this bid had been successful, and the University offered additional support, so that our new stage of the work will begin in September 2007.

The new project will run for 3 years and will be open to a wider number of Leeds schools. The expanded funding will enable us to employ a part time project coordinator which should enable a much stronger support package to be developed, and we will continue to develop training and new delivery packages, with the aim of not only reaching Leeds schools, but of developing a methodology that can be utilised by others interested in similar outreach project across the UK.

Jane Plastow is Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds.


[1]Due to the limited amount of funding available from a DfID mini-grant the project ran on approximately £10,000 per annum. This was insufficient for administrative support so LUCAS supported the project through help from our administrator, and I co-ordinated the project in my own time. Many of the difficulties in running the project efficiently arose from the lack of paid support time.
[2] The high schools involved were: City of Leeds High School 2004-6; Intake High School 2004-6; Lawnswood High School 2005-6; Leeds Girls’ High School 2004-5;
The primary schools involved, all in the 2005-6 academic year, were: Beckett Park; Burley St Matthias; Hawksworth Wood; Iveson; St Chad’s Primary School; Weetwood Primary School
[3] Global citizenship became a compulsory element of the primary school curriculum in 2000 and the high school curriculum in 2002.
[4] See The Guardian leader on March 8th, 2005 reporting on a consistent pattern of underachievement by black boys, both Caribbean and African, in the UK educational system over many years.
[5] The most recent figures I have been able to locate date back to 2001. At that time, and after a black teacher recruitment push, there were only 112 black and Asian teachers in a city where 6% of the population was reported as non-white. BBC Education. 30th June 2001.
[6] At the time of the project all Leeds Schools were organised into ‘families’, bringing together a group of primary schools that fed into particular high schools. This system has subsequently been modified.
[7] See Transition to Secondary Schools: A literature review, New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2003.
[8]In the final event it was not possible to transfer work from primary to secondary schools as it was not felt that enough feeder schools had taken part to allow the work to move forward as a transition project.
[9] Bob Hirst is A Voluntary Sector Management Consultant. His report can be accessed in full on the LUCAS website.

© Copyright Leeds 2017