African School Project
Our Global Partner in Education
St Mary’s Primary and Secondary School is located in the far North West of Nigeria in a village called Papiri. There are no towns or cities in the area and the concept of tarred roads doesn’t exist; the landscape is rough and extreme. The primary school opened in May 2008 and the secondary school will admit its first group of students in September 2010. The school has been built through the combined efforts of Fr. Donall Cathain, a SMA priest from Cork, Rowan Hand from Newry and a range of sponsors in Newry and throughout Ireland.
The Kamberi People
Fr Donall has spent the last twenty years working among the Kamberi people in Niger State in North West Nigeria. The Kamberi people have been seriously disadvantaged throughout the generations. Education has been rare in the history of these people who are among the poorest of the poor on the continent of Africa.
The Kamberi people make a living by farming. They move about from place to place within the area, cutting down and burning trees and then growing crops for a number of years. They are semi-nomadic and that, of course means many of the children’s homes can be hundreds of miles from the school. Their home is a hut constructed of mud, sticks and straw. The huts are amazingly practical, providing a strong, cool place in the blistering summer heat.
Education is now a reality for the young Kamberi people and they have an extraordinary hunger for learning. Within a generation these learners who are among the poorest of the poor will become the future doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, priests, nuns and business, civic and political leaders of Nigeria. This school is a centre of educational excellence making a huge difference to the future of the Kamberi children.
The children are extraordinary, showing great happiness and cheer. It was extraordinary to observe these pupils who have come from poor and primitive lives, enjoying the opportunities of education. Within the school there is great warmth and enthusiasm for learning; the school is truly a very special place in an often unforgiving and hard country.
The principal of the school is Sr. Paulina from Our Lady the Apostle. She works tirelessly with Fr. Donall to provide the young Kamberi people with the best opportunities possible in life. Sr. Paulina is a deeply caring individual, committed to educating and caring for the young learners to the highest standards.
Due to the distance many of the children live from the school, accommodation blocks allow the pupils to live on site throughout the school year. When the children come to school they are provided with a new uniform, are educated to a high standard, have their own bed, receive three basic meals each day and are given security and love from Sr. Paulina and the staff of the school.
In September 2010 enough of the secondary school will be built to welcome its first intake of students, however much work still needs to be done. The older pupils in the primary school are so grateful of being given the opportunity to continue their education.
The pupils dress for the school day in their blue uniforms which they wear with great pride. They are polite and enthusiastic, always meeting any visitor to the school with their word of greeting “Sanu” which means welcome, accompanied by a wide smile. Home for these pupils is a compound of mud huts, scattered throughout the countryside. The huts are built of mud and straw, with straw thatching on a ridge of sticks for the roof.
St Mary’s School, Papiri is now a reality, education exists today where little existed before. The dream of an education has become a reality through the work of Fr. Donall SMA, Sr. Paulina OLA, Rowan Hand and all the supporters in Ireland. Where once the children were educated under the trees, now they have a proper well built school.
Our Global Partner School
In May 2010 Mr Fitzpatrick travelled to St. Mary’s, Papiri to develop an educational partnership between the two schools. This initial trip will be followed by visits by Fr. Donall and Sr. Paulina to St. Mary’s in Newry to meet our pupils and staff.
Over the coming years there will be many more visits between both our schools and our students will benefit from an international dimension to their learning, undertaking many projects which will focus on Africa and development issues. We as a school community will continue to help Fr. Donall and Sr. Paulina to continue the great work in the primary school and to develop the secondary school. The school faces many challenges however we in St Mary’s are delighted to be in a position to help provide the children of Nigeria with the opportunities to change their lives forever.
Central to our work will be ongoing fundraising to financially support the new school, providing much needed learning resources for the pupils. Our fundraising began in March 2010, so far we have raised £43,000 which has been spent on the building of the primary and secondary school.