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Sporting students on tour of South Africa

The Pocklington School pupils pose for a picture during the South African tour.
The Pocklington School pupils pose for a picture during the South African tour.

Pocklington School pupils gained an insight into the joys and challenges of growing up in South Africa during a hugely successful sports tour of the country over the summer.

The 71 Fourth Year to Lower Sixth pupils saw at first hand the poverty which besets many people in rural areas and townships. They enjoyed playing local children at rugby and hockey, and marvelled at the many and varied sights South Africa has to offer.

Hockey action in South Africa.

Hockey action in South Africa.

The trip began with a visit to the Goedgedacht Trust, which promotes community development in rural areas by working to help children break out of poverty.

Pupils made firm friends with local children over the two day stay, learning how the Trust helps to educate them and develop their understanding of the world, so they are better equipped to secure jobs and careers.

Rugby and hockey matches against high schools in Durbanville were followed by a surf lesson with Roxy Davis, an eight times South African Surfing Champion. The next day, the group travelled to a Cheetah Outreach sanctuary before rugby and hockey games with local high schools.

Three nights in Cape Town included a visit to Robben Island, where future President Nelson Mandela languished for 18 years before the fall of apartheid. The tour guides, many of whom are ex-inmates and prison guards, gave a unique insight into life inside the former prison as well as its inmates. This was followed by a helicopter trip to view Table Mountain and Cape Town from the air.

Students enjoyed their wildlife encounters.

Students enjoyed their wildlife encounters.

At Langa Township, the biggest and one of the oldest townships in Cape Town, pupils and staff chatted to many interesting people, including lunch host, Sheila. She served many words of wisdom with the stunning local food, and one message in particular chimed with the values we hold dear at Pocklington School: “Respect yourselves, respect your teachers and respect your country.”

The trip was also marked by some memorable wildlife encounters, not least during the Shark Cage diving trip which allowed close encounters with chillingly huge and dead-eyed great white sharks, as well as stingrays. Pupils also hung out with endangered African penguins at Boulders Beach and fed elephants at the Knysna Sanctuary. Teacher in charge of rugby Richard Wareham had a close shave during a safari in the Kariega Game Reserve when the jeep he was travelling in became stuck in mud.

He had just volunteered to jump out and push when a wildebeest ran past – to be met by a lioness who sprang out of the bush and sunk her teeth in for the kill.

Rugby and hockey matches against local schools were fought fiercely but in good spirit by both sides. Pupils enjoyed the opportunity of pitching themselves against some very skilled players – and the chance to chat with them afterwards while enjoying their hospitality.

Following the tour, the pupils and staff reflected on their trip and their comments included:

Izzy said: “It was a true life-changing experience, from the moment we landed.”

Esme added: “I’ve never had so much fun or tried so many new things that usually I would never do – like shark cage diving, or simply trying Ostrich meat.”

Henry said: “The trip was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before; it was incredible to play rugby against some extremely skilled opposition and have some great games of rugby.”

Lucy Hornby, Physical Education teacherin charge of hockey and netball, said: “The trip gave pupils an insight into a completely different culture, its heritage and history, and helped to promote the compassion and kindness we prize.”