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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 13:46 GMT
Madagascar twinning with school
The Madagascan twinning visit
Pupils met the delegation from the Madagascan embassy
The world's fourth largest island has struck a twinning agreement with a school in the Conwy town of Colwyn Bay.

Madagascar's arrangement with Ysgol Bryn Elian will see an exchange programme, and staff will also offer teacher training to their counterparts.

Stephen Matthews, head teacher of the 830 pupil secondary school said it provided a fantastic opportunity for students and staff alike.

He said there was already a queue of people hoping to go on the exchange.

We probably just thought of a desert island somewhere and didn't really know much about the landscape, or the country and the languages
Ysgol Bryn Elian pupil, Jessica Simons

The idea of a twinning scheme developed after the school embarked on a project looking at sustainability and global warming, which brought them into contact with the Madagascan embassy in London.

The formal arrangement comes to fruition with the visit of the embassy's chargé d'affaires, Dr Iary Ravaoarimanana.

It will see exchange visits developed between Ysgol Bryn Elian and the Indian Ocean island, with the first party of pupils and teachers from Wales planning to go out in the autumn.

"They are very excited, genuinely. They enjoyed preparing the work, learning more about Madagascar, and of course there's a queue of people, including the staff, who would like to go on the exchange," noted Mr Matthews.

Unique geography

"A couple of members of our staff went along there and a rapport was struck and the relationship has built up to the point where we are looking for a formal arrangement," said Mr Matthews.

Flag of Madagascar
Location: off south-eastern Africa
Population: 19.7m
Size: 226,662 sq miles (587,051 sq km)
Capital city: Antananarivo
Languages: Malagasy & French
Exports: coffee, vanilla, shellfish, cocoa

"We will be able to provide support for developing the education service in Madagascar, teacher training in effect - it's part of our expertise," added the head teacher.

"We should be able to find the opportunity to have a mutually beneficial experience for the country and the school."

The island, which is about the size of the US state of Texas, sits hundreds of miles off the coast of south-eastern Africa.

Its isolation has led to a unique geography and animal population, including the lemur, which took a star role in the 2005 animated Hollywood movie named after the island.

Pupils have also been working hard on the twinning agreement, with a presentation on Madagascar for the ambassador and a special performance from the school choir.

"We didn't really now much, we knew the film, that it was in Africa and that it was a hot country," said student Jessica Simmons, who is delivering part of the presentation.

"We probably just thought of a desert island somewhere and didn't really know much about the landscape, or the country and the languages, but we've learnt so much more and it's really benefited us in our work in school."


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