Agnes and Sammy show signs of hope
In December, we welcomed four pupils and a teacher from the Seed of Hope school in Nairobi, Kenya. The school is set up to provide schooling for girls who would otherwise be unable to access education. As well as secondary subjects, they learn dress-making skills and go on to design for an allied designer label and open their own outlets - a real example of education for life, you might say.
Our sixth year supports the education of four girls annually and we were delighted to meet Agnes, one of this year's graduates, who had benefited from our sponsorship and wanted to pass on her thanks and that of her colleagues to our senior pupils.
Apparently, they found Scotland cold but very friendly and they maintained a diplomatic silence on the subject of our cuisine. Then Agnes said: "Without your support, my choices would have been marriage, slavery or prostitution. Your help gives all of us and our families hope and encouragement to follow our dreams." It was a thought-provoking moment.
On the evening news the same day came the story of Sammy Gitau, from the teeming slum of Mathare in that same city of Nairobi. Orphaned young, to support his family he had made a living from drug-dealing and searching the rubbish tips around his home. Recovering from a drug overdose, he made a deal with God that, if he survived, he would work for the betterment of those around him.
Later, he found the scraps of a Manchester University prospectus in a rubbish skip and was fired with the idea of gaining a degree in development and project management. Even before gaining that degree he had helped an estimated 20,000 to education, in converted containers, giving them vocational skills. Now, as an MSc, he says he will return to develop the potential in the slums and give people hope through education.
News item and visitors on the same day may well be a coincidence, but the message that education brings hope is not. At the start of a new year, it's a timely reminder for all of us. It's my hope that you all have a good one.
Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston.