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Passage from India 2010

On September 25th two teachers from Sacred Heart Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Church Park, Chennai, India arrived in Cork.  Ms. Gita Das and Ms. Fatima Gerard were in Cork as part of the Global Education Experience/Worldwise Project visiting their partner school North Presentation Secondary School, in Farranree.  In October of last year two teachers (Ellen Lyons and Ingrid O’Shea) from North Pres had visited Chennai with Sr. Jo McCarthy and Sr. Mary Rossiter and as a result of this partnership the two teachers from Church Park made the reciprocal visit this year.

The two schools are involved in a Cultural Diversity project between teachers and students and through the links they have forged as Presentation Schools the project is growing and developing each year. Ellen and Ingrid through careful planning ensured that both Gita and Fatima were made to feel very welcome for the week they spent in Cork.  A full and varied itinerary was prepared well in advance of the visit and Sr. Jennie Clifford and Sr. Jo McCarthy also pitched in to facilitate a very successful experience for Gita and Fatima on their first trip to Ireland.

For the duration of their stay Gita and Fatima stayed with Sr. Carmel in the very friendly and caring South Pres convent in Douglas Street.  They both felt very privileged to be accommodated in such an auspicious building and Sr. Carmel very kindly showed them Nano Nagle’s tomb and her relics.  They also spent an environmental awareness day in the Nano Nagle Centre in Ballygriffin surrounded by the Transition Year students from North Pres.  Even though it was raining they enjoyed the day in Nano’s birthplace and they could imagine her playing by the river Blackwater as a child.

On their first day in North Pres Secondary School Gita and Fatima were guests of honour in our school library for a whole school assembly.  Our new Principal, Mr. Paul McDonnell, welcomed our guests on behalf of the whole school community and we had a senior student, Louise O’Donnell, welcome them “as Gaeilge” too!  A Transition Year student Leah Anderson sang “The Banks of my own lovely Lee” for our guests and a Second Year student Ciara O’Brien did Irish Dancing for them.  Both Gita and Fatima introduced themselves and spoke about their school.  With the formalities over Gita and Fatima were taken on a tour of the school and visited many of the specialist rooms.  They also visited the primary school Scoil Aireiri Chriost and Sr. Ena Lehane invited them to the Convent for lunch.  In the afternoon Sr. Jennie and Sr. Jo arrived in school for a meeting on the project for the coming year and to sign the partnership agreement.

The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Cork, Michael and Catherine O’Connell, welcomed our guests in their chambers in City Hall.  The Lord Mayor presented Gita and Fatima with a book on Cork and they both signed the visitors book.

Another day was spent in Killarney National Park with the Transition Year students and their teachers Eithne Horgan and Eileen Riordan.  The students were there to do an ecology project and were delighted to meet the Indian teachers and show them the delights of Muckross House and gardens.

Gita and Fatima also spent time with the Fifth Year history students outlining the British retreat from India which is a case study on the Leaving Certificate History course.  The students realised how privileged they were to hear the history of India from Gita and Fatima and diligently wrote down all the information.  The Fifth Year geography teacher also invited our guests to speak to her class on the physical features of India and the economic geography of this vast country.

It was with great sadness that we said goodbye to Gita and Fatima at the end of the week.  We really enjoyed hosting their visit to Cork and we look forward to working with them and their students during the coming year.  In October mid-term 2011 it is hoped that three teachers and four students will visit Chennai and continue to develop the links between our schools.

[Written by Ellen and Ingrid and submitted by Sr. Margaret Coleman]