A group of Writhlington School students has made a groundbreaking visiting Rwanda in February 2013, where they have been working to set up orchid projects in the country’s schools.
The group of 3 students includes Zoe Parfitt, Zoe Barnes and Jake Smaje, spent a week in Rwanda working with students and staff at four schools.
In each school, students gave presentations and workshops about the possibilities of setting up orchid propagation laboratories for education and conservation.
Parfitt, 17, describes the trip as the most amazing week of her life, and said: “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, are all experts in orchids thanks to their involvement in Writhlington’s orchid project.
This 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, with the aim of 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.
Mr Pugh-Jones said: “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.”
The initiative is supported by the Rwandan Education Board and the students met education minister Mathias Harebamungu.
Zoe Barnes, 15, who manages Writhlington’s orchid propagation laboratory, said: “It was great to be on TV and in the newspapers but the best part was meeting lots of Rwandan schoolchildren and having the chance to share our enthusiasm for orchids with them.”
By the end of the trip, five schools and colleges had committed to joining the project, and in July, teachers and scientists from Rwanda will fly to the UK to learn techniques from Writhlington pupils.
There is an open morning at the school from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, March 9 when the public can learn all about the Rwandan expedition and see the school orchids at their best.