British schools axe link to Pakistan Bin Laden town

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A British town said Wednesday it had axed a school twinning partnership with Abbottabad in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed, but said the move should not reflect badly on the school.

A planned visit by teachers from Pakistan to the northwestern English city of Blackburn was called off in mid-May, shortly after the Al-Qaeda chief was killed by US forces in Abbottabad on May 2, local authority officials said.

"The scheme, which was a British Council-funded initiative, was programmed to come to an end around this time and this has now happened," said Harry Davenport, director of education in Blackburn.

"A decision was taken in consultation with headteachers to wind down the scheme slightly earlier and we were clear that this would bear no reflection on the school," without specifying the reason.

The announcement came the day before Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari was due to visit Britain against a backdrop of increased tensions over bin Laden's audacious killing by elite US forces.

Under the three-year twinning scheme, children from eight schools in Blackburn and Abbottabad exchanged letters and emails and worked on shared projects, while their teachers received professional development training.

It was part of the British Council's Connecting Classrooms programme, which aims to link British schools with others around the world to develop greater understanding between young people.

In 2010, the scheme involved more than 3,600 schools worldwide in more than 50 countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, Tanzania and South Africa.

About 100 British schools have ties with schools in Pakistan, and Blackburn is the only one to have severed links, a British Council spokeswoman said.

© 2011 AFP

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