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African Experience

Four Stonar sixth formers experienced a completely different education on a trip to Zimbabwe recently.

The pupils were based at Peterhouse School in Marondera, Zimbabwe. Peterhouse is widely regarded as Zimbabwe's top independent boarding school and is one of the premier independent schools in Southern Africa. Like Stonar, it has its own Equestrian Centre based on campus.

"Although there was initially a huge culture shock, everyone was so friendly that we were made to feel very welcome," said Jess Elsbury. Pupils attended lessons at the school, staying in the boarding house, and took part in a range of experiences.

Riding was combined with safari. Peterhouse has a game reserve on its doorstep and pupils were able to ride into it and get close to herds of zebras. A special trip to the Imire Game Park involved a 9-hour ride leaving at 4am in the morning. Here pupils hand-fed black rhinos, rode on elephants and camped out under the stars. Although saddle-sore the next day, they were unanimous that it was an amazing experience.

Pupils also visited the Foundation Project which aims to give pre-school education to children who could otherwise not afford it. After staying with the privileged children of Peterhouse School, they saw a very different way of life here, with no electricity and where all cooking was done over fires. "We loved interacting with the children. They were quite shy at first and then we showed them our phones which broke the ice and got them all taking pictures of each other."

The girls were shocked by the exposure to endemic corruption, learning from the Zimbabwe pupils about the reality of daily bribes to officials and also hearing about first-hand experiences of the seizure of white-owned farms.

"At our age, you don't really think about government much, but it really made us realise the importance of a stable government and appreciate what we have in this country," commented Florence Deasy. "In Zimbabwe, it is hugely unpredictable and you never know what a guard could turn round and do the next day."

The girls also came up against other realities of African life; a poisonous snake in the yard, tin can road signs and green drinking water.

They concluded that it was a fantastic trip, with one girl commenting that she would go back tomorrow. "So much more than just a holiday; it gave us lots to think about. We made good friends who will hopefully visit Stonar in the future."

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