Follow Mr McAuley's journey into Africa

20 January 2013
Mr McAuley is about to embark upon an exciting visit to schools in Ethiopia. The project called ‘Connecting Classrooms’ involves the College along with St. Louis, Ballymena travelling to Ethiopia and sharing educational experiences.  Mr McAuley will bring with him a Year 9 project, developed in departments throughout the school, the results of which will be sent to our friends in Africa. 

You can follow Mr McAuley's journey through the College's twitter account (on front page) or his blog on the comments below.

Year 9 pupil
on Jan 9, 2013, 18:05:45 said...
I hope you enjoy your trip Mr McAuley
Mr McAuley
on Jan 11, 2013, 14:32:25 said...
I am looking forward to bringing samples of our Year9 Connected Learning project on Lough Neagh to schools in Ethiopia. I am also very interested in seeing at first hand the educational provision and experience of young people in Ethiopia compared to St Benedicts College. I fly from Dublin at 5.30am tomorrow to Frankfurt to Khartoum and on to Addis Abba. I will arrive in Addis at 9.30pm on Saturday. I then have an internal Ethiopian flight the next morning at 7.40am to Gondar.
Simon Gazi
on Jan 11, 2013, 14:36:51 said...
Enjoy your journey and we look forward to hearing about your experiences on this blog and twitter.
Mr McAuley
on Jan 13, 2013, 19:31:42 said...
Arrived in Addis Ababa last night after a 17 hour flight from Dublin. Lufthansa airline is one of the best I have been on. Very well looked after for a long haul flight. Watched a good movie Trouble with the curve with Clint Eastwood. Flying at 36000 ft at a speed of 550 miles per hour. The Sahara desert was very clear from the aeroplane. Two hours later it was still there. Massive and to see the river Nile flow through it. How can a river flow through desert. Need to talk to Mrs Henry. Addis Ababa is a large city modern and busy. Early flight this morning to Gondar. Great views out of the small aeroplane. Lots of ox bow lakes clearly visible a geographers paradise. Gondar is more traditional than Addis people in traditional dress and living close to the poverty line. Visited a traditional market what an experience. Goats chickens and lots of local produce. Very interesting and a good way to get in close contact with local people. They specialise in coffee very strong wont sleep for a week. Our hosts are excellent very attentive and informative. Will visit our first school tomorrow and bring samples of your work. Dont forget to follow us on twitter.

Mr McAuley
on Jan 14, 2013, 17:16:23 said...
Just experienced another interesting day. We started off with a visit to Fasiledes Preparatory School. There are 2300 pupils at the school. Now what do think of this there are between 60 and 65 pupils in each class. It has to be seen to be believed in classrooms smaller than some of ours. I observed a science experiment where they were investigating flame tests for metals. Group work with 12 pupils per group. Work is on a chalk board in English. The teachers make you very welcome with a coffee ceremony. The coffee beans are roasted and when ready the coffee is served in tiny cups. It is traditional to have three cups. It was so strong I will not sleep for two days. They put on a display of traditional dress and music. We had a tree planting ceremony and presentation of gifts. The pupils were really interested in the camogie stick and ball. They all wanted to have a go picking the ball up by rolling onto the stick. Then as was expected there was a power cut as I was about to use the data projector to tell them all about our school and the Year 9 project on Lough Neagh. I did leave behind samples off your work. We then went to visit the most famous historical site in Ethiopia. It is a world heritage site called Fasiledes Castle from 1650. Interesting to find out more about their history. It is the only African country never to be colonised. They are very proud of this fact. The pupils are very friendly and are always very happy. They have various styles of dress particularly with regard to covering their head and face. The two most common religions are Orthodox and Muslim. There are also some Catholic. Once again I sampled their local food which has lots of spices and garlic. Tomorrow we will visit another school for 8 to 14 year olds,
Mr McAuley
on Jan 15, 2013, 18:39:58 said...
Today we visited Debra Salem Catholic Secondary School and again I found the whole experience very exciting. The school is divided into four all on the same site. They have Kindergarden 4 to 7 Primary 8 to 11 Junior Secondary 12 to 16 and Secondary 17 to 18. It all appeared to work very well and the transition up the school is smooth. Again we visited classes of 40 to 50 pupils in Junior classes. Three to a desk and in a small room packed tight on all sides. The pupils were so friendly and wanted to show us their work. There is a great emphasis in Ethiopian schools at the moment to promote Engineering Technology Science and Economics. Seventy percent of the timetable is taken up by these subjects. They feel this is what the country needs at this time. We then had a high energy cultural performance by the pupils followed by presentations by the N Ireland and Sudanese schools. I had the opportunity to tell them about your Year 9 Lough Neagh project and leave samples of your work with them. The pupils speak very good English and sadly and surprisingly they all support Man U and some Arsenal. In the afternoon I walked around the edge of Gondar beside our accommodation to interact with poor working class people. Very welcoming and you know we should appreciate how privileged we are. Today I saw women mixing concrete with old shovels carrying stones in bags on their backs and all in the baking hot sun. The girls working in the hotel are earning around 5 pounds per week. That is less than one pound per day. They commented it was better than no job. Donkey sheep and goat herders are visible on every street and also young boys will clean your shoes for you around every corner as well as trying to sell you chewing gum and tissues. They use a lot of charcoal for cooking and wood is the main building material. Keep following on twitter on our website to see some photos.
Mr McAuley
on Jan 16, 2013, 19:44:34 said...
Having a great experience very humbling. Once again the pupils and staff are so happy and friendly even though they have very few material possessions. The pupils in todays school are underprivileged with classes full to the door. Have a look at our twitter to see some photos. There are 1500 pupils split into two sittings. One set go home at 12.30 and the new ones arrive for the afternoon. The school is in need of extra rooms and they are building some at the moment. To see lots of women carrying bags of gravel on their back and buckets of cement over rough ground in really hot temperatures is not fair at all. Some men break up large stones with sledges and hammers very dangerous. They love you to say hello and shake their hand. In the afternoon we went to the market area and I got  some stares. Coffee is cheap about 30p in a small cup but very strong. Enjoyed skyping year 9 today all the way from Africa. New experience for all of us. Skyping Tweeting and Blogging. Thanks to Mr Shivers, Mrs Daly and Mr Bonnes. This evening we walked to the edge of town and what a contrast with the countryside. Families living in conditions which are very challenging. We watched a group of men women and children skin a cow. They wanted us to help and by the way I hear you have horse meat in your burgers. Rumour has it a Tesco staff member choked on a burger but is said to be in STABLE condition. Tomorrow we have a trip to Lake Tana. Google map Lake Tana to see what it looks like compared to Lough Neagh. Mosquitos out last night got a few bites. They love my sweet blood but seriously I am taking my malaria tablets after my yellow fever hepatitis and typhoid vaccinations. The Sudenese teachers who are with us on our visit are also very friendly but they have a strange eating habit. They eat meat at every meal and put at least three spoonfuls of sugar in their tea and coffee. Keep tweeting.
Mr McAuley
on Jan 17, 2013, 21:45:36 said...
A complete change of scenery today. We went to Lake Tana with our hosts through rural Ethiopia. Time has stood still in rural Ethiopia. The road quickly changes from tarmac to dirt track with dust flying everywhere. They are very straight with lots of people walking carrying anything from water to bags of food and seed on their head. The people are herders and arable farmers. The fields look brown and burnt up but still you see herds of goat sheep and cattle with huge humps on their necks and some with large horns. Children as young as 4 and 5 spend the day looking after them usually standing beneath a tree for shelter from the very hot sun directly overhead eating chickpeas. The soil looks fertile for crops but there was no mechanisation at all just manual labour. Seed is brought to the local village for weighing and selling a sight to behold look at some pictures on our school twitter. Lake Tana looks like Lough Neagh only about twice as big and obviously warmer. Lake Tana if you google map supplies Sudan with 70 percent of its water via the Blue Nile. We took a boat trip to one of the islands where there is a small group of Orthodox monks living in very basic conditions. Interestingly they would not let women on the island to see the church they do not even eat sheep because they are female.. Massive cacti grow along the side of the road and stones are everywhere. The birds are really beautiful lovely colours and long tails.
Around 4 o'clock we arrived back in Gondar where preparations are well on the way for the biggest celebration of the year - The Epiphany. They are celebrating the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan no wise men here except for myself. Local tribes in their traditional gear parade the centre. Lots of drums shouting and role play some with real swords and old rifles. It will build up tomorrow for the major celebration on Saturday. I have a traditional Gondar outfit maybe I will wear it. Our educational advisor, Getachu, is a super host looking after our every need with a programme organised for each day. For example yesterday a poor beggar looked in my open window when we were stopped in the centre. I turned to my friend to ask him if I should give him some money and when I turned back to hand over a few Birr I noticed my hat gone. Anyway, it was a Man U hat and within seconds when he realised this he threw it back in again. No really Getachu went out of his way to get me a new hat just a simple thing but very thoughtful. Miss Pickering from St Louis is great to be with along with, our Sudanese friends full of energy game and positive. The pupils at St Louis I am sure will all agree.
Again I went for a walk to meet the real people just outside the town in the countryside. The dead cow was gone from last night but I met 2 boys who had just skinned a sheep. They were taking it to sell in the town hoping to get 60 Birr for it which is about £2, yes I know what you are thinking. The people are very friendly and even though we may not understand each others language we can still get a sense of what we are discussing. The children rub your arm they want to touch a white person and the hairy arms.
Tomorrow, we visit a big secondary school where once again I will bring samples of your work, imagine your work on a wall in Ethiopia.
Mr McAuley
on Jan 18, 2013, 22:17:37 said...
As each day goes past you would think there is nothing left to surprise you but today I got the biggest surprise. We went to Makele16 school. There are over 3000 pupils attending this school in two shifts with only 61 teachers. The pupils are from poor homes but they have something money does not buy. Respect, friendliness and a willingness to learn. This of course starts in the home and then on to the community and finally when these qualities arrive in school the teachers have a chance to facilitate their education. There are over 80 pupils in a classroom, yes over 80. Some of the rooms are very old but they have a few new ones recently built. Check out the photos in twitter. The principal was a special person. He had a great love for the pupils and staff which was evident when he talked to and with the pupils. He loves them and they him despite the major resource issues. His pupils put on a great welcome with traditional song and dance. We had the traditional tree planting ceremony and the principal appointed a pupil to help me plant the tree and he is now responsible for looking after it. Getachew, our leader, had once again everything so well organised for our visits. The pupils loved to hear about our culture and the hurling went down well. We left behind samples of your work as well as calendars showing pictures of Ireland and St Brigids crosses made by the Learning Support Assistants in school. Preparations are well on the way for tomorrows Epiphany. Gondar city is full of people tonight. The celebrations start at 6 in the morning. The food is delicious and the hotel manager has everything well organised. Finally, I believe the weather is very cold at home but I will suffer on here in 26 degrees and full sun.
Mr McAuley
on Jan 19, 2013, 17:44:40 said...
Our final day in Gondar and again something different. Today as I have told you is the biggest celebration in the whole country not just Gondar. The Epiphany which celebrates the baptism of our Lord in the Jordan. We were invited by the priests of Debra Salem to attend mass in their school with the Bishop at 6.45am. So an early morning start but got there just in time to find just a few present. It was Irish time and did not start until 7.15am by then the small school church was full with people and the sound of singing and African drums. There were also 12 pupils of various ages being confirmed by the visiting Bishop. The continuous singing chanting drums and the smell of incense was something to experience. The ceremony lasted just over 3 hours and you think Mass is too long at home. Still not finished we all went outside the chapel where there were 2 big basins of water. More singing and prayer for 30 minutes and then the Bishop almost soaked everyone with the Holy water. Miss Pickering and I were then special guests of the Bishop for breakfast. Then it was off down to the centre of Gondar to witness the celebrations. Never saw a crowd like it in my life all dressed in traditional Gondar dress. One speciality of their appearance is their hairstyle such intricate detail. Check the photos on twitter to see them. I found it very interesting to see so many young people really enjoying the fun and no cigarettes or alcohol in sight. A very very colourful carnival type occasion based on this so important religious celebration. We then went for a special last lunch together which was super again spicy and hot food drank a gallon of water. Finally back to the hotel to exchange gifts and write the last blog before leaving early tomorrow morning for our first flight to Addis Ababa and then the long haul home late on Sunday night. We arrive in Dublin on Monday morning around mid day. It has been a special time with our Sudanese friends and our very special leader Getachu. He has made it all happen for us. Also Miss Pickering is a very special person. So finally finally I believe you still have some snow while I enjoy the  sunshine here. Its snow joke. I also hear that the show went very well last night which I am delighted to hear for Mr Hastings and all the pupils. I believe Shea enjoyed the experience on stage. Good luck to all pupils and staff involved and I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday morning. God Bless.

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