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Frome teacher’s help for Rwandan schools

JAKE Smaje from Frome has just returned from a ground breaking visit to Rwanda in Central Africa where he has been working to set up orchid projects in Rwandan schools, with the help of fellow pupils from Writhlington School.

Jake described the trip as the most amazing week of his life. He said, “We visited four schools and in each one gave presentations and workshops to staff and pupils about the possibilities of setting up orchid propagation laboratories to develop education and conservation. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and interest of the pupils and the future for the project looks really exciting.”

The pupils, led by teacher Simon Pugh-Jones, were all experts in orchids thanks to their involvement in Writhlington School’s Orchid Project. The project combines science horticulture and student enterprise and is currently working with conservation partners in India and Laos.

Since 2011 teachers and pupils have been working to develop a new initiative in Rwanda. The target for this months’ expedition was to establish partner organisations and support networks for the development of a project based on setting up specialist laboratories in the country.

As well as visiting schools, the group explored the Nyungwe National Park, Africa’s largest mountain rainforest reserve, and they worked at the Kitabi Conservation College.

Simon Pugh-Jones, himself from Frome, explained, “Rwanda is a remarkable country with great biodiversity, especially in orchid species. Nyungwe forest is a majestic tropical forest and has the potential to act as a focus for effective science and conservation education in Rwandan schools and beyond.”

Writhlington School’s initiative is supported by the Rwandan Education Board, and during the trip students held meetings with several officials including the State minister for primary and secondary education, Mathias Harebamungu. The visit also attracted the interest of the national Rwandan media with Writhlington students appearing on Rwandan TV and in the national newspaper.