Cornish A Level Geography students have been among the first to visit the tiny, landlocked African Kingdom of eSwatini, which recently changed its name from Swaziland.
The students from Callywith, Truro and Penwith Colleges visited the country as part of an annual field trip which sees them learning about African culture as well as helping an orphans’ charity and visiting local schools.
The king of Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, announced in April that his country has changed its name to the Kingdom of eSwatini to mark 50 years since independence from British rule. Meaning “place of the Swazi”, eSwatini is the Swazi language name for the tiny state landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique.
Among the first overseas students to travel to the newly named country, the students spent their first night at Badplass relaxing in the geothermal pool. The next day they set off for their first destination in Shewula, where they stayed at a mountain camp. At the camp the students cooked for themselves and prepared for their visits to the local schools.
Students from the three Colleges have supported the children and community of Shewula since 2001 by raising money for the Shewula Orphans Charity.
During the course of their time within the Shewula region the students made visits to five schools. Here they were able to experience the setting of a typical primary school and took part in activities ranging from sports and art, through to more sensory play for those children who were very young or less able.
In addition to the school visits, some of the school children visited the camp where the students were able to interact with them further. As a part of this visit, the students distributed clothes to the children and also to key members of the community, who could ensure that the wider homesteads in Shewula also benefited. These clothes had all been donated to the college by the students and friends and families.
On the final evening in Shewula the students had the opportunity to visit the local spiritual healer, known as the Sangoma. Here they were given an insight into more traditional aspects of the culture and how people still seek advice regarding a wide range of ailments and concerns. The group then enjoyed a traditional meal laid on by the Shewula staff and all ate together.
The trip came to a close with a final adventure as the students explored the Mlilwane Game Reserve by bicycle and foot, getting close to the natural wildlife as they spotted rhinos, giraffes, crocodiles and hippos. This was followed by a trip through the woodland canopy via a series of zip-wire rides.
Student George Maunder, who is studying A Level Geography at Callywith, said the trip was a life changing experience.
“To see children that have almost nothing but are still so happy was incredible. It was a real pleasure to be able to go out there and help them in any way possible.”
George appreciated the adventure of visiting the Mlilwane Game Reserve on the final leg of their trip.
“Staying at Mlilwane Game Reserve was incredible with zebras and a variety of animals walking round freely, right in front of our accommodation.”
The trip was an amazing opportunity to see how the students’ fundraising efforts for Shewula have supported the local community, specifically the 146 students who are supported in a variety of ways from being provided with school uniform to having their educational fees paid.
Truro and Penwith College Geography Lecturer Huw Williams who joined the students on the trip was proud of all the students’ hard work.
He said: “Over the 12 days the students experienced more than most. They have all returned keen to continue the work and the legacy that they are now a part of. They were, to the last, an exceptional group. Their efforts will not go unmissed and they have made a difference. Well done guys.”