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Newcastle schoolchildren savour India’s rich tapestry of culture, history and cuisine

St Paul’s CofE Primary pupils revel in the opportunity to learn alongside counterparts in Rajkot school, with their Turing Scheme trip to the Gujarat city even making the local press.
St Paul’s C of E Primary School pupils in India.

A group of children from St Paul’s CofE Primary School, in Newcastle, swapped their pencils for passports when they flew to India for an educational trip funded by the Turing Scheme.

The pupils, aged 9-11 and many travelling abroad for the first time, left behind the familiar sights and sounds of the North East to experience the rich tapestry of India’s culture, history and cuisine during an eight-day adventure in the city of Rajkot.

The immersive visit saw the party spending lots of time with teachers and their counterparts at Panchshil School in Gujarat, learning about each other and Indian lifestyle and traditions, enjoying Indian food and learning and performing the traditional Garba dance for the whole school.

Participating in the school’s cultural celebrations as well as trying out traditional games and enjoying a cricket coaching session at the VIP Sports Club, the St Paul’s group’s visit was even featured in the local press.

Exploring key cultural, religious and historic sites was also part of the schedule and the children visited the Gandhi Museum, Brahma Kumara Meditation Centre, Indian puppet shows at Chaukidhani, Khirsara and Imperial Palaces and ISKCON – where they took part in Makar Sankranti, a festival to signal the end of winter.

There was also the opportunity for the St Paul’s youngsters to get to know the local wildlife at Pradhyuman Zoological Park where they were able to see and learn about a range of different animals including alligators, crocodiles, sloth bears and white tigers.  

“I am so thankful to be able to visit Asia. I was able to visit places that I would never have been able to go without the trip. I learnt lots about different cultures and I have shared these with my friends and family,” said 10-year-old pupil David.

Jenice, aged 11, said: “I am thankful for being able to visit India, it was fascinating to learn about Gandhi when we visited his museum and to experience the different temples to see how people from different religions worship.”

A life-defining experience for children

Building on their previous visits to Newcastle’s twin city of Nancy in France, this was the first time that a school in Newcastle had taken children to India after Newcastle City Council and International Newcastle supported St Paul’s bid to secure funding from the Turing Scheme.

Bryn Taylor, Deputy Head of the school, said: “I am proud of every child. They were excellent ambassadors for our school and for city of Newcastle upon Tyne.

“This has been a life-defining experience for our children. It has provided them with a range of knowledge, skills and understanding that will equip them well throughout their life.

“The children adapted well when facing new challenges, which developed independence, resilience and confidence. The exposure to the Swami Vivekananda festival really stimulated our children’s imagination and interest in the Indian culture, arts and literature.”

International Newcastle board member and diversity consultant, Veena Soni, helped establish the school partnership in Rajkot and accompanied the St Paul’s group on this special visit.

“I was so impressed with how well the children engaged with each activity. They were happy to try all of the different types of food and learn the cultural dances,” she said. “The children worked well with the students from Panchshil School and these are experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Declan Baharini, CEO of International Newcastle, added: “St Paul’s are a great example of how to develop strong international links, embedded throughout the whole school, as part of their approach to international education and developing skills for the future. This benefits all pupils and has even more impact for pupils who participate in visits.

“It was a pleasure to follow their journey in India and see how well they engaged with their partner school, local groups and organisations, immersing themselves in Indian traditions and learning so much about the history, heritage and culture.”

This article is based on one which was first published by International Newcastle. Read the original here.


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