Schull Community College caters for the educational needs of the Mizen peninsula but it's student population represents 15 different nationalities and it always has it's eye on the wider world community. Over the years students have travelled to France and Germany for water sport activities and language exchanges, to the European Parliament in Strasbourg (another trip planned for Autumn 2008!), to various parts of Europe and to America for sailing events, to Romania and Nigeria to help in orphanages, to Malawi with Self Help International, to Calcutta with the Hope Foundation and to South Africa with the Niall Mellon Fellowship Trust. Next month they're off again!
This time six transition year students will join twelve students from Northern Ireland to spend 2 weeks in Lesotho, working on various projects in 2 second level schools. The invitation to do so came from the Lesotho Ambassador Manette Ramaili, when she presided at the College prizegiving two years ago. Hearing of the successes of the schools North/South Exchange programme, she challenged those involved to extend it to a Northern/Southern Hemisphere exchange involving her country. The Irish group would first travel to Lesotho and then a group of Basotho students would return to Ireland to visit both jurisdictions.
Planning began soon afterwards with Irish Aid, Leargas and the Government of Lesotho providing professional assistance along the way. At this stage staff and students North and South have participated in a number of integration workshops, as well as language and cultural workshops on Lesotho. A preparatory visit was undertaken by key personnel in the North, and college Principal Mr. Tim O'Connor during the February midterm to identify suitable schools and to finalise project details. Meanwhile 4th year students with teachers Paul Moriarty and Nuala Gallwey concentrated on fundraising ideas and activities. These are ongoing with the next major event happening on Saturday April 5th, when the Co.Cork V.E.C. School of Music Youth Orchestra, along with college musicians, perform at 7:30 pm at the college. Watch out for other events in your locality, as individual students aim to reach their personal fundraising targets. The students travelling are Kathryn O'Driscoll, Eana Cotter, Isobel Towse, David Shanahan, Sean Duffy and Karen Sheehy. Staying in Leribe, 1 1/2 hours journey from the capital Maseru, students and teachers will work in the Catholic Kolonyama High School and Emmanuel High school (Seventh Day Adventist school). In
both schools, they will undertake IT projects and offer basic computer skills to both staff and students, as well as offering tuition and group work in the areas of Mathematics and English.
A sharing of native music, dance and stories is an area of the project that can be shared by all students and is hopefully something the Basutho students can bring to Ireland to share with a wider audience in the Autumn. The group will work in the two schools throughtout the school day which begins at 8am! Weekend trips include crossing the border to experience a market in Fitzburg, an excursion to a National Wildlife Park and Karse Dam in the Highlands.
In Western terms, relative poverty would be high in Lesotho. However, the people of Lesotho are warm, friendly and incredibly welcoming and so the combined North and South group sees the forthcoming trip as a fantastic opportunity to forge new links and to raise awareness of development education issues in Lesotho and the wider developing world.