St Denys’ High School, Murree, Pakistan

Bury Church of England High school has been developing a link with a high school in Pakistan, St Denys’ High school, Murree, since 2014. In October 2014 a member of staff visited the school, which is based in the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range, to initiate the partnership and since then two further visits by school staff have taken place; one visit in October 2016 involved three teachers from Bury Church who were able to observe lessons and lead staff training, as well as gaining for themselves a number of helpful strategies for developing teaching at home. St Denys is a girls’ school which has been attacked by arsonists twice and which has worked hard through suffering to maintain a vibrant and committed learning community.

We were thrilled therefore when the first visit by members of St Denys to Bury was arranged. The school’s headteacher, Mrs Shazia Jibran, and two other teaching staff, as well as the director of Education for the Diocese of Lahore, Col.(Ret’d) Azim Ilyas, joined by nine pupils from the school, stayed with us in Bury for nine nights. The pupils, eight of whom were of the Muslim faith, stayed with Bury Church pupils for the week and the host families who were all volunteers looked after them with immense generosity, feeding them, dropping them off and picking them up at all times of day and night and entertaining them throughout the time they were here.

The St Denys’ pupils attended lessons and led presentations in assembly, including memorably a dance highlighting traditional dress and celebrations from Pakistan’s different regions. They came to our annual celebration of the school’s founding, the Commemoration Service, watched Sports Day, had a Food and Nutrition lesson in which they learned to cook apple crumble, and played badminton and table tennis in our Sports Hall. There was also a packed programme of visits, including ones to the cinema, ten pin bowling, York, the Lake District, Bury (where the mayor hosted the party), Manchester (including the Pakistan Consulate hosted by the Consul), Liverpool’s Speke Hall to watch a Shakespearean play, and Alton Towers. It was a visit that changed all of us. We learned so much and we made the world seem just a little smaller and more open. We look forward to welcoming a party from St Denys again in two or three years, to organising a return visit next year and most of all to renewing and maintaining the friendships that have been formed.