NINE senior pupils of Lanark Grammar found themselves unexpectedly becoming teachers during an expedition to Zambia.
The students had expected to be carrying out plaster work on a school being rebuilt, but suddenly found they had their own classes of youngsers.
“I had asked if they could be involved in helping teach in the classroom,” said geography teacher Niall Chand who led the Outlook expedition.
“But the staff thought they were fully-qualified teachers and they were asked to teach by themselves – and they did it.
“That was the most impressive thing for me.
“I think that is fantastic.“
The nine pupils had to raise £3500 each to take part in the expedition, which included five days of work in the village of Kalonje.
They were sleeping in tents, washing using water which the villagers brought in from a well, cycling with water balanced in buckets on their heads - the pupils did offer to fetch it but the villagers insisted on doing that – and doing their own cookery over a campfire and surviving without electricity.
That was followed by a five-day trek, and then a visit to Botswana and the Victoria Falls.
Lauren Cockburn (17), Mhairi McClafferty (17), Keir Hamilton (17), Andrew Murray (16), Graeme Hall (16) and Ross Johnstone (16) are now back at the Grammar for sixth year, while Ross Smith (18), Kay Cuthbertson (18) and Hannah Coates (17) have gone on to university.
But all have vivid memories of their expedition and their glimpse of a very different type of life.
The Kalonje school has around 300 children, and many of them walk miles to get there each morning.
“We had to teach them through the language barrier,” said Lauren.
“Teaching by ourselves was quite overwhelming,” said Mhairi.
As well as English and maths, they taught the children ceilidh dancing, and learned some native dances in return.
They were all amazed at the villagers’ way of life.
“It made me realise I don’t need as much as I think I need, because they can get by on so little,” said Mhairi.
The Zambians’ food was very simple, based on a maize meal and vegetables.
“They did not have much themselves,” said Lauren. “They were living in their small huts, eating simple food, but they still wanted to share it with us, and let us try everything.
“They made us feel welcome.”
And there was one special treat:
“They killed one of their goats and served it to us for Mhairi’s birthday.”
And she added: “It was just a great life experience.”