Mellon Educate teaching Blitz 2017 : Ms. Byrne travels to South Africa!
This Summer our school principal Ms. Byrne travelled to Capetown, South Africa as a volunteer on the inaugural Mellon Educate Teacher Blitz. After fifteen hugely successful years of building houses and recently transitioning to building schools, the continuing mission of the Niall Mellon foundation is to educate as many children as possible in some of South Africa’s poorest townships through their new school building and education programme.
Ms. Byrne’s role was to lead a team of 12 Irish teachers in training, mentoring & supporting the staff at Happy Valley Primary school, a school to 1100 pupils based in the Blue Downs township. Here, she shares a little of her journey and life changing experience.
“As our new school year begins here in Glencullen, I reflect on an amazing two weeks I spent in August with the beautiful children of Happy Valley Primary school and their wonderful, hardworking staff. When we walked through the gates on our first day, we were immediately struck by the modern, bright building and the happy, smiling faces in front of us. But soon enough, we could see the reality hiding behind. These children come from the most impoverished backgrounds, living in shacks or basic one bedroom houses where often there is no food and a very real threat of gang violence and sexual abuse. So very different to Glencullen! The teachers work with minimal resources with classes averaging between 40-46 pupils with some serious behavioural issues. But like all teachers, they only want the best for their pupils and work extremely hard with the little resources and the large hearts they all have.
We spent our days working in classrooms and in workshops training the staff and equally learning so much from them. I was particularly reminded how lucky we are in St. Patrick’s NS to have a warm comfortable school that is well resourced with smaller class sizes. Yes we have our own set of problems in the Irish education system, but I know I am so lucky here at St. Patrick’s NS to have a skilled, talented staff, kind, supportive parents and a Board of Management who provide any resources that we need. The one thing that remains the same with both schools is our happy, playful children. The joy that the South African pupils instilled in me each day made me look forward to seeing all our wonderful pupils back in school here in Glencullen.
While two weeks was a very short period, I truly believe our team made a meaningful difference to the students and staff of Happy Valley Primary school. I cannot thank our school community enough for their generosity in supporting my fundraising and to those who gave me specific donations for the school. A special thank you to 6th class for organising a raffle and a fun day in June to raise money and to 5th class who organised a pencil appeal, of which the South African children were very grateful. I look forward to sharing my photos and stories with all our pupils and hopefully inspire some to take time as adults to help those in our world who are less well off.
Here is a little video with the students.
And will I return next year I hear you ask? Watch this space……”
To see a short video about the first Teaching Blitz click on this link
And to see some of the professional photos taken check out the Mellon educate website here