While town schools in Laois now have many pupils with African roots, in some rural schools they are still a rarity.
Scoil Bhride NS in Clonaslee has just one pupil out of over 100 who is African Irish, but the school recently took an opportunity to learn and embrace the cultures of that continent, thanks to the Laois African Support Group.
Bolaji Adeyanju is Chairperson of the group, and with Sia Fayiah they visited the Clonaslee school to teach the children all about African music, dance, food and customs.
Each of the school's four classes enjoyed an African dance session in the gym, a trampoline jumping session, and an interactive talk.
“I was surprised at the level of knowledge of Africa that the children had. Things I was was going to tell them, they already know, and they were full of questions and ideas,” he said.
He was delighted with their positive reception by the school.
“It's just the fact that the children were so excited about it, and were so engaging. That was really good. The one African boy there is only young but still he knows his Africa, and by making that child realise that he is not alone, just because he is among people not as brown as him, that was really important,” said Bolaji.
Principal John O'Sullivan had immediately agreed to the suggestion of calling to the school.
“Sia and Bolaji first called to the school three weeks before, and we agreed the format. Then all the classes started doing projects about Africa, all positive information about culture, storytelling, music, food, history and geography,” he said.
“On the day, it was fantastic. The children gained huge insight. Our one African Irish pupil was thrilled. It really brought Africa to life for everyone,” the principal said.
He thanked the group for coming to their school.
“It all adds to a sense of community, to bring African people into our local community, so that they are not seen as outsiders,” he said.
The Laois African Support Group. also visited Holy Family Junior School in Portlaoise and The Rock NS, Mountmellick, ahead of Laois Africa Day last month. The visits were supported by Irish Aid, through Laois County Council.
They were held ahead of the second annual Laois Africa Day in Portlaoise over the June bank holiday weekend. The one day festival showcased African culture to the Laois community, with the focus on integration and fun.
Scroll through our photos taken by photographer Michael Scully.