PUPILS and staff from Queensferry High School travelled to Africa recently to meet up with fellow pupils from an exchange school in Kenya.
A party of 12 pupils and three teachers spent 10 days at the Kiamuriuki Mixed Day Secondary in Magumoni.
The partnership between the two schools was established in 2007 through the City of Edinburgh Council’s partnership with Meru South.
A year later, an S1 English class at Queensferry began exchanging letters, sharing information about themselves and their lifestyle with the pupils in Kenya. Since then, teachers at both school have been involved in exchange visits.
This year, however, a decision was made to include three S4 pupils, part of the initial letter exchange group, in a visit.
Deciding on who to take, however, was a problem. Though funding was only available for three pupils, 12 expressed an interest in going so they spent the months beforehand fundraising to supplement the trip while parents paid the rest.
The pupils also took part in teambuilding exercises with the help of soldiers at Redford Barracks, who had recently returned from Kenya.
The party eventually set off on February 9 and spent 10 amazing and eye-opening days at the Kenyan school working alongside local pupils.
They took part in a sports day and collaborated in an inter-cultural event reciting “To A Mouse”, singing “Flower of Scotland” and teaching Scottish country dancing.
The Kenyan pupils performed a play and traditional dance while, Duncan, a former pupil, presented the group with a magnificent mural.
Aside from the school, the pupils got the opportunity to visit the Ol Pejeta Game Reserve, a tea factory and coffee gathering depot, and were treated to a performance by the Chuka drummers.
With the Kiamuriuki school set as in a rural area, there were very few white people around which made the Queensferry pupils a major attraction everywhere they went.
Queensferry teacher Maureen Cordner said of the visit: “The pupils had a great experience and I think they quickly realised how much they take for granted compared to the Kenyan children.”
She added: “The Queensferry pupils were surprised to see their Kenyan peers cleaning around the school after lessons and to hear students getting into trouble for washing late in the morning at 5am as they are supposed to be in class for study at that time.
“We were in school for 7.30pm on assembly days which was a shock to the Scottish students as we had to be up washed and breakfasted by 7am.”
At the end of their stay, the Queensferry pupils were so taken aback by the kindness they had received during their short stay that they put put together their left-over money to sponsor an orphaned girl at the school, named Anastasia.
Since their return, the pupils have conveyed to fellow pupils their amazing experiences at school assembly.
Siobhann Gunn said: “What surprised me a lot was how welcoming almost everybody was.
‘‘It made me appreciate what I have a lot more...I am definitely more thankful for the things I have than before I went. It was an amazing experience.”
Jessica Peebles added: “Though many of the Kenyans have nothing, they were always so happy. I am so much more grateful now.
‘‘They are the kindest people I have ever met. It is something I will remember forever.”
While Charise McIntosh said: “I learned that I should be more grateful for education.
‘‘I was surprised that I made lots of friends and got genuinely attached to them in such a short time.”