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Killina Presentation Secondary School Goes Global/International

In June 2015, three teachers and ten students from Killina Presentation Secondary School, along with one member of the Global Education Experience (GEE), will make the long journey from the midlands of Rahan, Co. Offaly to the small town of Kaoma in the Western Province of Zambia in southern Africa. Over the course of two and a half weeks, the group will immerse themselves in the culture and customs of life in a developing country. There, they will visit local towns and villages, schools and orphanages, farms and businesses, while observing the tireless work being done by the Presentation Sisters in very challenging conditions. The aim of the programme is to develop an appreciation for all that we have, and to experience firsthand the inequalities that exist in the world. The group will then share their experiences with the school and community upon returning home.

This is the maiden voyage for the school, having just recently created links with Kaoma and surrounding areas of Zambia through the encouragement of principal John Cotter, who initially proposed the programme to the staff. In his previous school, John led students to another town in Zambia on a number of occasions, and is fully backing this project. There will be a number of fund raising events in the coming months to cover the costs of the programme.

As this is quite an undertaking, four teachers from Killina, along with two members of the Global Education Experience (GEE), took a whirlwind ten-day fact finding excursion to Zambia and to the places they will visit with students next summer. The following is a condensed version of events.

Day 1

On touching down on the tarmac of Lusaka airport at 11pm on the June 7th 2014, we were warmly greeted by Sr. Angela and Sr. Lynette and driven to the home of the Presentation Sisters on Lusiwasi Road. There, on the outskirts of the capital city in a cosy and well-kept accommodation, some very welcome and unexpected tea and toast was served up for weary but excited minds.

Day 2

Day two in Zambia began with another unexpected surprise: a fry! Once the accommodation grounds were thoroughly investigated and the food devoured, we made the trip to the station for the 1pm bus to Kaoma. This was an introduction to ‘Zambia time’, where everything is done at one of two speeds: slow or stop! Eventually, after two and a half hours waiting in the glorious sunshine of the bustling bus station, we took our seats for the maiden cross-country voyage through Kafue National Park to the western province and the town of Kaoma. The sighting of two lions and some wild dogs helped raise our curiosity into a different world and life. Another very warm welcome was afforded us at Kaoma bus station, where Sr. Mary and Sr. Inez collected, transported and fed us amidst good conversation and information. After settling in to our new home, we took the time to set up our mosquito nets before heading off to get some well-needed rest.

Day 3

Day three saw us take a trip to the nearby village of Kabanga where the locals quite literally made a song and dance of our arrival. There was a welcoming procession that included song, dance and formal speeches. We explored the village in their company and were treated to the local foods and dishes, including sweet potato, groundnuts, oranges, bananas, kasava (a root vegetable), as well as nshima (ground maize, known locally as melee melee) and relish (made of crushed tomatoes & onions). The warmth of the people that greeted us throughout our time there was truly a humbling experience. After receiving gifts to take with us, we bid farewell and visited local farms. There we witnessed the challenges the farmers face to simply survive, never mind make a living.

Day 4

Day four began with a trip to the local schools and a chance to compare just how different things are from home. At first glance, not very, it seemed. The buildings were in good condition and brightly coloured, and there were whiteboards in classrooms and ample outdoor space. However, when the number of students (1,200+) and teachers (approx. 35) are taken into consideration as well as the lack of access to resources such as textbooks, things become a little more complicated. What was most striking though, was just how well presented, warm and welcoming the staff and students were, in spite of their apparent challenges. There was a decency that was infectious.
Buoyed by our experiences at the schools, we took the chance to visit the Nagle Centre. Here, some of the locals have been trained up by nuns to skillfully make garments, clothes and accessories as well as learning basic business principles. Afterward, a trip to a local project farm was a great learning experience. From rearing ducks, hens, fish and bees to harvesting seeds, nuts, beans and crops it demonstrated what can be achieved on a small plot of land with a lot of hard work, focus and planning. In this mini ecosystem, the results were incredible.

On our final day in the town, we took the opportunity to visit the local orphanage. In what was expected to be a difficult few hours, we were made to feel very welcome from the outset, a song to greet us echoing out the windows as we arrived. We were uplifted by the sense of contentment that the children there exuded. Once again, our own lives had been put in to perspective. Afterwards, we took the time to stroll around the town of Kaoma, taking in the local businesses, restaurants and shops before getting packed and ready to head back to Lusaka the following morning. Our time here, like all good things, was drawing to a close.

What this short trip to Zambia taught us is that we can never take for granted just how good we have it. The people of Zambia, and presumably those of other developing countries, are not nearly as helpless as is often assumed. They have plenty of resources, raw materials, and a wonderful spirit. They face great difficulties in very inspiring and humbling ways. While simply sending money their way can help in some situations, it is not going to solve their problems. Improving education across all areas just might, however. Also what has been learned is that in the face of adversity, humility can still prevail. This trip has been a hugely rewarding and beneficial one, an experience that will no doubt continue to grow in its affection over the coming weeks, months and years. So, until the next time…

Students and teachers from Killina Presentation Secondary School who will travel to Zambia in June.

Killina Teachers Laura Scully and Maureen Connaghan, with students of Sishikano School in Kaoma, Zambia.

Killina teachers (from left) Stella Horan, James Mulligan, Maureen Connaghan and Laura Scully with Sr Mary Moloney (back, centre) and Principal Beatrice Nosiku (front) at Sishikano School, Kaoma, in June last.