independent

Monday 23 July 2018

Carnew pupils explore Malawi on charity trip

Roisin Byrne (left) and Alanna Davidson-Gahan (right) pictured at Ulongwe secondary school, Balaka district, Malawi.
Roisin Byrne (left) and Alanna Davidson-Gahan (right) pictured at Ulongwe secondary school, Balaka district, Malawi.

Deborah coleman

A south Wicklow secondary school was represented on a charity trip to Malawi organised by Irish development charity Gorta-Self Help Africa.

Roisin Byrne and Alanna Davidson-Gahan who attend Coláiste Bhríde, Carnew, along with teacher Sinead Finlay travelled to Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi and on to the Balaka district in the southern part of the sub-Saharan country.

They were part of a group of 20 teenagers from across Ireland to take part in the visit where they saw first-hand, some of the biggest challenges affecting people in rural Africa. During their trip, organised by the Development Education unit at Gorta-Self Help Africa, the group visited a local secondary school, a university, and met with farming communities, horticultural groups, women groups and villagers who are being supported by the charity to develop village-based savings and loans groups.

'The aim of the trip is to give the students and teachers a chance to see Africa at first hand, and learn more about the challenges that people face in their daily lives - whether it relates to education, gender equality, climate, trade or the issues around farming and sustainable food production,' said Dorothy Jacob, coordinator of Gorta-Self Help Africa's schools programme.

'It's about both deepening understandings and challenging preconceptions,' she added.

The trip is arranged annually for schools that take part in Gorta-Self Help Africa's programme of school workshops, and also carry out local fundraising activities that both support the costs of the trip and contribute to the work of the charity.

During the visit the Carnew students, who were encouraged to find out more about a selected topic during their journey, undertook their own research into education in Malawi.

'I was surprised to see how enthusiastic the students were about going to school and how far they travel to get to class in the morning,' said Alanna Davidson-Gahan. "One of the students told me she travels 16km to go to school every day.'

'In Malawi, primary school is free, but secondary school is not. Students don't take education for granted, especially girls,' said Roisin Byrne. 'The one thing that struck me was the enthusiasm of female students for learning. They loved school life and wanted to stay in school for as long as possible, they wouldn't let anything distract them from their studies.'

The Carnew group, supported by their families, friends and schoolmates reached out to their local communities and organised fundraising events including table quizzes, coffee mornings, concerts and more, to fund their trip.

The purpose of the trip is to inspire students to share their learning and become engaged and active citizens in their communities once they return home.

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