THE links between Schull Community College and the Holy Names High School in Lesotho are steeped in friendship since the two schools began this exciting partnership over 11 years ago. Since then, students from Schull, along with their teachers, have been visiting the Mountain Kingdom to share ideas, teaching methods and cultural diversity.
At the end of August, a further 12 students and four teachers made the 14,550km trip from West Cork to Leribe in Lesotho.
‘Lesotho is about the size of Munster and is totally landlocked by South Africa, with its lowest point being the same distance above sea level as Carrauntoohil,’ explained Kay Quinn, one of the teachers who accompanied the students. ‘The first thing that we noticed when we reached Lesotho was the dramatic scenery.
‘The purpose of the trip was to visit the school and to teach the local students about Ireland and our culture. We taught them Irish dancing, tin whistle and Irish singing. We helped the teachers in subjects like science, art and music, and the students also took part in a debate with their peers in Holy Names. The topic was ‘”The use of technology has a negative impact on the modern world”. All sides were very passionate and well prepared.
On one of the afternoons, the Schull students performed on stage as part of the Cultural Exchange. The Basotho people displayed their native dances and even an interpretation of “shoe the donkey” which is an Irish dance.
‘We were blessed and honoured to climb the sacred Thaba Bosiu mountain and learn about King Moshoeshoe – the grandfather of the present King – and the Irish visitors who taught Moshoeshoe’s people how to build stone huts in 1839. It was great to hear of the work these Irish missionaries did. There has been a link between our two countries since that time, and now, here again, we are keeping that link going.’
The Schull students and teachers, on their arrival, had their suitcases full to the brim with school books, sports equipment, jerseys and gifts for teachers, which were generously donated by local people and businesses in West Cork.
‘We took part in different fundraising activities throughout the summer in order to pay for our trip and to keep the exchange going. We can now see the importance of the exchange after reaping the personal benefits of the trip,’ added Kay.
They also visited a HIV/AIDS clinic during their visit where they learned about the epidemic in Lesotho, where about 25% of the people there testing positive for the disease.
‘We’ve been shown realities that have given us an appreciation of what we have, and broadened our understanding of world culture.’
Every two years, Schull Community College fundraises to bring some of the Basotho students and teachers to Ireland.
‘We think our trip impacted positively on the students of Holy Names and can only hope that they want to be part of the trip to Ireland in 2018. Our connection with Lesotho didn’t end once we arrived home as we are currently in the process of organising events which would allow the exchange to continue,’ said Kay.
Alyssa Chan, who went on the trip said she was overwhelmed by the Basotho peoples’ attitude and great warmth.
‘They have so little yet have so much to give. I was humbled by the fact I got to live their life for a short time,’ she said.
Another student, Eimear Minihane, said she was very lucky to have been part of this ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience at such a young age.’
‘This trip has given me memories I can cherish, life lessons that I will practise and of course an insight into reality. The Basotho people’s love and kindness, their haunting voices and infectious rhythm along with their ability to find the wonder in the mundane things we take for granted will be in my memory forever,’ said Eimear.
All future events highlighting their trip will be posted on the Schull Community College Facebook page and both the students and teachers want to thank all those who have already contributed to this life-changing experience.