Flying out of Newcastle on Friday morning was the start of a very long journey for the six representatives from schools in Sunderland and County Durham to Dhaka via Dubai. The flight was followed by a seven and a half hour road trip on to Chitagong in Bangladesh.
Contrasts are stark across a number of areas of life here compared to the UK. The streets are teeming with life and traffic. Congestion in English cities has nothing on the roads and driving in Bangladesh!
Friendly people are friendly people the world over and none I have met anywhere can beat the hospitality of those we have had the good fortune to meet here. Nothing is too much trouble and the welcomes exhibited by the school children when we visit schools has to be experienced to be believed. Despite our humble origins our party from the North East of England has received treatment fit for a Royal visitor.
The standard of spoken English in schools here has struck all of us as extraordinarily high and the children are very positive and happy in their studies.
We have visited two Madrasa schools and a High School for girls thus far, with at least four more to go. At each school we are leaving resources to help the children involved in the Connecting Classrooms programme to keep in touch with each other and share experiences of life in each others' countries.
It is certainly a privilege to visit such a richly generous community and to meet such friendly people.
All of the schools we have visited so far have been single sex with only two Madrasas teaching both boys and girls. Uniforms are very smart and the pupils exceptionally well mannered but classes are large with up to 80 pupils in a single class!
The welcomes we are receiving continue to be elaborate and the pupils are very keen to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of English when they ask us many questions about school and life in England.