Glenstal students making power a priority of their work in east Africa

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

SIX pupils from Glenstal have been continuing the good work of their schoolmates in east Africa helping to empower locals through education and IT.

SIX pupils from Glenstal have been continuing the good work of their schoolmates in east Africa helping to empower locals through education and IT.

They spent three weeks in a part of Tanzania that is so remote that locals have seen very few white people until Fr John O’Callaghan and the six boys arrived in July.

This was the fourth Glenstal trip to Tanzania but their first to Mvimwa Abbey School. They previously went to Hanga Abbey School to teach children computer skills on PCs donated by Kamara. They found that the school could only use them intermittently because they couldn’t afford diesel for the generator.

They fundraised for a satellite dish as well doing more teaching in the second year and managed to raise and source €26,000 to install solar panels in the third year. Now the whole school and residence has electricity for at least the next 30 years.

Their work there is done so this year it was on to newer barren pastures.

Fr O’Callaghan was joined by Josh Kenny, Kildimo; Tim Starr, NCR; Rob Shanahan, Abbeyfeale; Conor Nolan; James Igoe and Shane O’Reilly.

In the morning the boys taught computer skills and in the afternoon, English. They didn’t teach History but it is repeating itself as they have managed to raise €18,000 out of the €26,000 needed to install solar panels.

Sixth year Josh Kenny said he felt the culture shock immediately on arrival at the school.

“I suddenly felt very out of my comfort zone and everything looked alien, more like a different planet then a different country!” said Josh.

But they knuckled down to their task and helped improve the locals’ computer and English skills. Money was raised from various services from bag packing to St Joseph’s Secondary School in Abbeyfeale doubling the €2,000 profits from their mini-company. Some of the money was used on the diesel to run the generator to power the computers.

“They only have enough money for two hours a day so that allows the children to have light on to study for an hour and a half in the evening, and half an hour to have a cup of tea and get in to bed,” said Fr O’Callaghan.

Again he has pinpointed power as the priority and has met with a Cork company, who will install the panels for free if they can raise €26,000.

Fr O’Callaghan says they will raise the €8,000 shortfall and they have other projects in mind. It is hoped to do more for an orphanage they visited; build a perimeter fence around the school to stop hyenas encroaching; buy more chairs as many pupils sit on the ground and help them reach their goal of one book per three students.