Selkirk High School pupils reaped the rewards of more than two years of hard work as they welcomed a group of South African students to the town earlier this month.
The week-long visit was the culmination of a challenging fundraising effort and many hours of planning and preparations.
The school’s Journey to Change committee raised more than £3,000 through pop-up shops, sponsored events, bake sales and quiz nights to bring seven students, all aged between 15 and 17, and one leader to the town for the week long annual visit.
For this fourth visit, the students were once again hosted by Selkirk families and enjoyed a full programme of events including a games night, Rotary Club visit, film night, tour of the town and ceilidh.
The Journey to Change programme is the only one of its kind in Scotland; the purpose being to provide an chance for young people from very different cultures and backgrounds to work together and gain an understanding of the issues both groups face.
Over the years, during each visit and together, students have learned together through drama, music, discussion and debating issues such as racial and gender inequality, poverty, discrimination.
Following a week of group activities around the town, the school hosted it’s main event on Friday, March 3 where a joint conference allowed the groups to discuss education inequalities in South Africa; crime in the Brazilian Favelas; racial crime in the USA, and binge drinking in the UK.
Jenna Swan, modern studies teacher at Selkirk High School said: “This is a hugely rewarding project for our students.
“Their dedication and commitment to the committee is clear and it is wonderful to see their hard work throughout the year pay off. It allows a shared learning experience for both our South African friends and students at Selkirk High School. “Throughout the visit the Selkirk and South African students enjoyed each other’s company at various social events including a very successful ceilidh. South African students also joined lessons where they shared their experiences and took part in lessons.”
She added: “The South African students were very talented musically and keen to perform. Their positivity, confidence and enthusiasm for learning were an inspiration.”
On their return to South Africa the group now intends to organise a similar conference in their home township of Umlazi, in Durban, bringing together young people to work together and build momentum on the issues discussed in Selkirk. Closer to home the students in Selkirk will now put their newly found cultural learning into practice.
Sixth year pupil and co-chair of the Journey to Change committee Murron Marshall said: “On a personal level, this project has helped me to value different cultures and has made me want to stay proactive in raising awareness about global issues that affect so many people.
“It has also benefitted my studies as I now have a greater respect for my education and has increased my drive to do well in exams. I have loved being part of the project for the last two years and will continue to follow its progress even when I leave school.”
Robin Lowthian, an second year pupil who, along with his family, hosted a South African visitor for the week, added: “Our family had a great time hosting our student Nsika.
“It was interesting to learn about a different culture and it’s been a great experience which we’d love to do again.
“We also recommend that other families host in the future as it is a very worthwhile experience.”