Chairperson and Teacher from St Paul’s High School Visit Kirovsk on Challenge of Change Project
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew and Director of Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism, Marie Ward were delighted to be accompanied by Bridget McConville of St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook on their recent visit to Kirovsk in Russia to celebrate the 55th Anniversary of School No 7. During the visit the delegation met the Mayor of Kirovsk, the Director of Education, Sport and Culture, the Director of Administration, the Principal and teachers from School No 7.
St Paul’s High School and School No 7 have been actively working on the Challenge of Change project since 2013. During that time 17 Irish students and a teacher have visited Kirovsk, and 37 Russian Students and teachers have completed return visits to Newry, Mourne and Down.
The link between School No.7 and St. Paul’s High School has proven to be invaluable. The project gives Irish and Russian students great opportunities to experience different cultures and respect diverse traditions and customs.
A concert was held at the Palace of Culture in Kirovsk, to celebrate the 55th Anniversary. The concert recognised the outstanding educational standards of the School and the delegation were delighted to see the students and teachers perform a traditional Irish dance set; a new performance skill mastered by the Russian Students who had participated and enjoyed a Ceile on their recent visit to the district.
During the visit to Kirovsk the Council delegation also had the opportunity to meet with some of the students who had participated in the exchange programme. Each of the students spoke about how the project had been a life changing experience that had opened their eyes to a different culture and the opportunities that exist beyond their own area. The students were also delighted to have the opportunity to develop their English speaking skills and had a great appreciation of the local food in Ireland. Each of the students spoke warmly of the people they met on their visit and how they will always consider them as friends.
In addition to the concert and the meeting with students, there was a visit to the School of Art and the Stone Museum. The very best of Russian culture was experienced at the School of Art with ballet performances, song, dance, art and a chance to experience the traditional Russian Balalaika.
The Stone Museum has been established in Kirovsk to recognise their reliance on mining and the importance of geology to the area. Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew and Director, Marie Ward were delighted to visit the Museum and have brought home many ideas for proposed works in Slieve Gullion and the development of learning spaces for the geology of the Newry, Mourne and Down region.
The visit to Kirovsk concluded with the signing of a renewed Twinning Agreement between Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the Municipality of Kirovsk.
Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said, “As one of the objectives of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is to attract investment and support the creation of new jobs, developing the potential of our children and young people through projects such as this is important to energise and empower our local communities to maximise the potential of our areas. Twinning programmes like this help our young people to acquire the knowledge, skills and values needed to live and work in a globalised economy. It equips them to play a critical role in developing a peaceful, tolerant and inclusive society.”
Principal of St Paul’s High School, Jarlath Burns, has welcomed the renewal of the Twinning Agreement saying, “St Paul’s has been sharing ideas and educational experiences with School No 7 for the past four years and we value greatly the many benefits which have accrued from this relationship. We look forward to strengthening ties with our partner school and will continue to work closely with our friends in that region to ensure positive outcomes for the pupils of South Armagh and Kirovsk.”