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   Inside Out - East Midlands: Monday February 28, 2005

AFRICAN JOURNEY

School children from Africa and Britain
South Africa - a world away from Lincolnshire's lifestyle

Taking a journey to Africa proves to be a life-changing experience for a group of Lincolnshire school children.

Inside Out follows the pupils as they embark on an African adventure which takes in a wealth of experiences from Shakespeare and stunning scenery to poverty and Aids.

"They're so young. We have so much and they have this - nothing - it's not fair". Pupil from Robert Pattinson School, Lincoln.

The difference in backgrounds couldn't be greater - a group of middle class Lincolnshire school children visiting their counterparts in South Africa.

Pupils at Robert Pattinson School in Lincoln have been fund raising to help young people in South Africa for the last year.

But this is the first time that the pupils have been to visit some of the schools that they have developed links with.

African adventure

Teenagers at Robert Pattinson School are excited about going to visit another culture a world away from their own.

The pupils' fund raising efforts started in September 2004, and so far they have successfully raised £10,000.

African pupils
Drama queens - bringing Shakespeare to South Africa

The idea for raising money came from the pupils after hearing about the conditions that their African colleagues have to endure.

The pupils decided to give something back to the African schools.

The money raised is being used to provide water for three schools.

Their plan is to hand over money raised to the South African students.

But they also have a second mission - to bring Shakespeare to South Africa in the form of a modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

Culture shock

"You feel guilty but you feel privileged at the same time because you feel like they honour you in a way."
Robert Pattinson School pupil.

Once the school pupils arrive in South Africa, there's a huge culture shock in store for them.

Not only are the pupils 2,000 miles away from home, they have little experience of ethnic cultures. Their own school has only two black pupils.

The English school children have been promised a great adventure in the rainbow nation - they are not to be disappointed.

School kids
An extraordinary welcome overwhelms the pupils

Their first port of call is Port Shepstone near Durban. The school here is mixed and middle class.

It's also a boarding school with a prefect system, uniforms and lots of formality.

The Lincolnshire children take part in classes in Zulu, Afrikaans and drama.

The living and study conditions are better than expected, as one British student explains:

"We expected it to be very different from this - not the nice environment they're in."

There are new friends to be made here. One character nicknamed "Skater" is drafted into their performance of Romeo and Juliet to make use of his talents.

There's a great sense of unity and bonding between the children of different cultures.

Other side of the tracks

But below the surface the pupils know that this is not the South Africa they had heard about.

Their next stopping point is Mshewshwe High School.

Aids patient
Aids is a major problem for young people in South Africa

The school is at the end of a dirt road with no running water - there are 800 children here and only four toilets.

But despite the conditions, there is an extraordinary welcome from the school and its pupils.

Once again there's a performance of Romeo and Juliet, followed by another culture swap.

Although the school has little in the way of resources, it's trying hard to make the most of what it has got.

There's also a chance to take in some of South Africa's stunning scenery which comes as a surprise to some of the children.

Village of the vulnerable

Aids in South Africa

HIV stands for 'human immunodeficiency virus'.

HIV is a retrovirus that infects cells of the human immune system, and destroys or impairs their function.

Infection with this virus results in the progressive depletion of the immune system, leading to 'immune deficiency'.

AIDS stands for 'acquired immunodeficiency syndrome'.

By the end of 2003, an estimated 5.3 million South Africans were infected with HIV. This represented the largest number of individuals living with the virus in a single country.

South Africa has a population of 44.8 million people. 21.5% of adults between 15-49 years are HIV positive.

The national HIV infection rate among pregnant women attending antenatal services in 2003 was 27.9%, rising to 37.5% in Kwazulu-Natal.

In 2003, the South African government allocated about US $1.7 billion to fight HIV/AIDS over three years.

Source: UN Aids

The school children's next visit is to Kwazulu state, which proves to be the biggest culture shock so far.

African children with Aids are a common sight - half the population in Kwazulu is affected by HIV Aids.

Many of the village's children are orphans, having lost parents to the disease, and some have the virus themselves.

For good reason they call this "the village of the vulnerable".

Once again there's no running water here - these children have little funding and little chance.

Several of the pupils are visibly shaken and upset by the conditions that they see.

It's a very different experience from what they have come from, as one student explains in tears:

"We're so well off. They don't have anything - like beds even."

It's a humbling experience for the Lincolnshire school children and pupils, as teacher Paula O'Rourke explains.

"It's not just a journey to South Africa.

"They've journeyed on inside - they've taken another journey and they've been transformed inside."

For those who've made the journey from Britain, their African adventure has been both moving and momentous.

None of these Lincolnshire children will ever be the same again - and it's made them even more determined to help make a difference in the future.

See also ...

Inside Out: East Midlands
Safari dentist

On the rest of Inside Out
Kenya Aid

On bbc.co.uk
BBC News - Country Profile - South Africa
BBC Lincoln - School play goes to South Africa

On the rest of the web
Aids
UN Aids
Medical Research Council
Aids Info South Africa
Nelson Mandela Foundation
KwaZulu Tourism

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Brett Foster
I visited South Africa along with these people and the whole experience was a complete shock to the system its made me think twice about everything I do. Even reading this report reminds me of the wonderful people I met and despite their poor living conditions they have such positive look on life and all have extraordinary personalities.

Claire
community spirit makes you feel loved and rich not what the cupboards hold or how much is in the bank. From the film we see that community spirit is high.Everyone is the same. Here we are selfish and only mix with thoses that are simular to us. the whole culture shock was too much for some and maybe we could lift somebody's spirit by saying hello or smiling.

Nick B
Watchin this made me think that i would love to do help out and help the poverty. Just now i need to know how to go about it. Real Shock made me realise the divide!



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