Trip turned their lives around

It was heart-warming to hear about the positive results of the African adventure undertaken by some of the most challenging Year 11s at Monmouth comprehensive school recently (page 5).

Several of the eight pupils who jetted off to Kenya had severe behavioural issues. The chance to discover what life is like for children in the Third World appears to have changed their views forever.

We don't know much about the background of these anti-social Year 11s, but some may never have ventured out of Wales before, let alone travelled on a plane to a different continent. But what they experienced in that slum in Kiberia must have been a real eye-opener.

It seems that helping to rebuild a crumbling school, in an area where shoes are a real luxury, really put things into perspective for these young people. Some observers may tut, seeing the trip as an undeserved reward for bad behaviour - an expensive attempt by do-gooders to try and reform young people who should face the heavy hand of the law.

But it was never like that. These young people helped to raise the money for the trip, genuinely excited by the opportunity to experience another life and culture. They pitched in to organise gigs and car boot sales. This was a chance they might never have had otherwise and they worked hard to make it happen.

Imagine how exciting it must have been the night before they were going off to Africa. For Kiralee Marsh, it made her appreciate the chance of an education. Back on home soil the teenager, who has been suspended in the past, has vowed to knuckle down. "I've only got a few years of school left and I want to get something out of it," she said.

Deputy head Andy Williams believes the trip has worked wonders for the pupils, believing that deep down they share the same core values as everyone else. It seems the staff at Monmouth comprehensive have came up with a winning answer to bad behaviour that doesn't seem to have cost the taxpayer a penny.

Let's hope this idea is adopted by other secondary schools in Wales plagued by similar problems - and the sooner the better.

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