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President of Burundi pays a special visit to Friends
The President of Burundi at Friends last week

The President of Burundi at Friends last week

THE President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, visited Friends' School last week during a four day visit to the province.

He learnt about the Northern Ireland peace process and the role of church, community and civic society in reconciliation and forgiveness. He also visited the Northern Ireland Assembly, meeting First Minister Ian Paisley, had a walk about in Belfast with the Lord Mayor, met with church leaders in Armagh and was a guest at a reception hosted by the charity Fields of Life.

The President was welcomed to Friends' by the Principal,  Elizabeth Dickson, and the Head Boy and Head Girl, Chris Curry and Kerry Gilbert. Kerry greeted the President and his ministers in Burundian, before the Friends' Traditional Irish Folk Group played for those present.

A number of Friends' pupils came into school on the last day of their Easter holidays to meet the President and were joined by a group of Sixth Formers from Rathmore Grammar School, and teacher Mrs Stephanie Murphy.

Sixth Form pupils Naomi McAteer and Adam Wilson gave a presentation in French on Friends' School and Michael Wilkinson and Colin Walker then spoke about tourism. There was a joint presentation given by Sixth Formers from Friends' School and Rathmore on their recent stay at Corrymeela as part of the Schools' Community Relations Programme.

The President emphasised the role of education and health care in underpinning the rebuilding of Burundi after years of conflict. He told the young people that education was the most important factor in building a better future for everyone.

The President had the chance to talk with pupils, many of them spoke to him in French, and he chatted informally with them about his family and about his love of football.

The Friends Traditional Irish Folk Group performing for the Burundian guests The Principal of Friends Mrs Elizabeth Dickson on the left and the President on the right listen to some of the presentations by pupils
The Friends Traditional Irish Folk Group performing for the Burundian guests The Principal of Friends Mrs Elizabeth Dickson on the left and the President on the right listen to some of the presentations by pupils

Naomi McAteer said: "I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the President. Hearing his comments on our school community and having the chance to interact with him and his entourage was a memorable and eye opening experience which I feel privileged to have had.'

The President also issued an invitation to the pupils from Friends' and Rathmore to visit Burundi emphasising how much those from different nationalities could learn from each other.

Ulster Star
11/04/2008