We were delighted after many months of planning, to finally welcome our Chinese Colleagues to Northern Ireland and especially, Mullaghbawn, last week. As lead school for the “Bridges to China” Project, St. Mary’s played a pivotal role in coordinating the visit which involved 20 schools, 10 from China and 10 from Northern Ireland, drawn from across the sectors here: Controlled and Maintained, as well as Primary and Post Primary.
Minister of Education, John O’ Dowd welcomed the group to Stormont on Thursday and hosted a buffet lunch for everyone, after which the group enjoyed a tour of the Great Hall and Assembly Chamber. An added bonus was the presence of the STEM bus at Stormont which the visitors were able to view and see the importance placed on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the Northern Ireland Education system.
A visit to Culturlann, Falls Road Belfast was arranged for the evening and after a typical Irish Meal, the visitors were invited to take part in some Ceili Dancing and were taught a rhyme in Irish!
On Friday our partner school colleague spent the day in our school and they were delighted to have the opportunity to see and learn about our education system and in particular our school. On Friday evening all 20 schools were invited as guests of Newry, Mourne and Down Council to dinner in the Council Offices. Council, Vice Chairperson, Gillian Fitzpatrick oversaw events and made everyone feel most welcome. Elaine O’ Sullivan and her band of musicians provided musical entertainment which introduced our visitors to the rich culture of music in our country but especially in the South Armagh area. Newry, SRC was represented by Dessie Murphy who very kindly presented our guests with “goody” bags.
On Saturday visits were arranged for the group to: Holy Rosary Primary School, Belfast, Queen’s University and the Titanic Building. A hectic few days but invaluable to allow our Chinese Colleagues a glimpse of school life and culture in Northern Ireland as well as the opportunity to ask questions.
A special word of thanks to everyone who helped make the visit such a success, a special word of thanks to our Mandarin Teacher Miss Lai who kindly came along to assist with translation and without whom we could not have as effectively communicated!!!