Teachers from three primary schools in Caerphilly County Borough headed to Lesotho during the half-term break as part of an educational exchange between Wales and the African nation.
Jane Baker and Selina Edmunds, who both teach at Hendre Junior School in Trecenydd, were joined by Bethan Jones and Serena Bounds from St James Primary School, as well as Glyn Williams from Tyn-y-Wern in Trethomas.
The teachers arrived in Lesotho on Friday, February 22 and returned on Sunday, March 3, spending time at three different primary schools.
Despite the fact a teaching strike was happening across the country, the three schools stayed open to welcome their Welsh visitors.
Miss Baker and Ms Edmunds spent the week teaching pupils aged five to 11 at Thabana Tso’oana Primary School in the capital city, Maseru.
They taught pupils a variety of subjects, including art, healthy living and literature, as well as Welsh language skills.
Miss Baker, who is deputy head teacher at Hendre Juniors, told Caerphilly Observer: “We are so grateful for the opportunity. We’re incredibly lucky and we learned a lot from them.
“It was a very new experience for us all. Before we went, people told us Lesotho was a lot like Wales. It’s very green and very hilly.
“We were given a very warm welcome and everyone wanted to say hello. We were overwhelmed by everyone’s welcome.”
During their visit to the school, the teachers helped pupils build a keyhole garden, which is raised above the ground and filled with nutrients to allow vegetables to grow despite the dry climate.
Miss Baker said: “It was a fantastic team effort from everyone. The pupils had collected stones from the local area to use in the garden and it was finished within a day.”
To fund the teachers’ visit to Lesotho, pupils at Hendre Juniors took part in a number of fundraising events, including a 1980s-themed disco and a ‘penny mile’, which saw pupils lay out pennies along the playground, stretching a mile in total.
The school managed to raise more than £1,400 during the two fundraising attempts.
Miss Baker said: “The link with Lesotho is now part of who we are. They celebrate St David’s Day with us and we celebrate their national day, Moshoeshoe Day, on March 11.
In June, teachers from Lesotho will visit Hendre Juniors and help pupils create their own keyhole garden.
The schools are linked with schools in Lesotho through charity Dolen Cymru.
Sharon Flint, education officer for Dolen Cymru, told Caerphilly Observer: “It’s all about improving education in developing countries and in our own country.
“The assumption is that Africans are defined by their poverty, but they’re not. They live extremely rich, happy lives with extreme difficulty. It’s important that we show that.”