Schools charity turns to soap and hand sanitiser 

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Co-founders of Global School Partners, Dr Jann Carroll and Simon Carroll… “While we’re usually looking at ways to improve the learning environment in schools, now we are supporting them to reopen.”

AS part of its support for remote schools in Kenya, Global School Partners has been raising money for hand-washing stations, face masks, thermometers, soap and hand sanitiser so that schools forced to close by covid can safely reopen, says CEO Simon Carroll.

“While we’re usually looking at ways to improve the learning environment in schools, now we are supporting them to reopen, with covid precautions in place,” he says.

Simon says they were aiming to send $1500 a school to start them off in terms of the PPE that’s needed, and have mostly met that goal. 

“All the schools we support have water tanks in place now, so installing hand-washing stations is relatively straightforward, but we are very aware that they’ll need more supplies soon,” he says.

While Global School Partners hasn’t been able to host its usual fundraisers because of covid, Simon says they have done a raffle that raised “a lot, not enough, but it helped”.

“Of the money we’ve been able to send so far, eight or nine schools here in Australia have done fundraising, and we make sure 100 per cent of that goes to the partner school,” he says.

“We also appeal to private donors and corporate sponsorships.”

The schools supported by Global School Partners have been closed since March, and Simon says that most students, except year 8, will have to repeat the year as they weren’t able to do school work at home.

“The families live in remote villages, without electricity or internet, so they couldn’t go online to study like we did here,” he says. 

“We initially sent photocopies of lesson plans, but then it was decided by the government that they would repeat.”

Over the past 10 years, Zimbabwe-born Simon and his wife, Dr Jann Carroll, who’s from South Africa, have supported 27 schools through creating partnerships between primary schools in Africa and Australia, connecting thousands of students from Canberra, Sydney and SA with about 17,000 students in Kenya. 

The couple started Global School Partners in 2010 after Jann, while working as a volunteer teacher in Soweto, was shocked that some children were not attending school because they didn’t have shoes.

“Three children had stopped coming to class, and when I found out why, I bought them the $20 shoes,” she says. 

“When I came back to Canberra, Simon and I talked about it and we knew we wanted to do whatever possible to improve education in Africa. We have a connection and understanding of the country, and felt so privileged to have had the education we did there.” 

The not-for-profit has provided rural schools in Kenya with 55 water tanks with gutters, 112 toilets, offering sanitation and reducing illness, 96 classrooms, 360 desks, 138 beds, mattresses and blankets for students who board, six washrooms for girls, electricity for eight schools, and almost 6000 textbooks, exercise books and reading books.

Simon says that sadly, two of the 27 schools supported by Global School Partners look likely to close, one of which has been part of the program almost since the beginning. 

“It’s a rip to the heart to potentially lose two of our schools, and there are so many in need,” he says. 

“There are thousands of schools that don’t have access to water, and there’s a very real danger that many will never reopen. 

“There might be other schools out of the area that they could access, but it’s a fear that many children won’t realistically be able to get to a school.”

Pre-covid, Global School Partners would visit and vet each school to ensure eligibility and sustainability. Simon hasn’t been able to visit Kenya since January last year, but says while he was there he lined up three more schools that are awaiting partnership, as well as building a list of 10 to 12 more eligible schools in desperate need. 

“We’re always looking for more school partners in Australia,” he says.

“We want to be able to maintain the one-to-one school partnerships, so it stays a personal, ongoing relationship that benefits both sides, rather than a transaction. 

“The schools in Kenya are going to need more PPE very soon, in order to be sustainable and safe, and stay open.” 

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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