PUPILS and teachers have raised thousands of pounds to fund a trip to South Africa to help a deprived rural school.

A group from from Wellfield Community School in Wingate, near Peterlee, County Durham, are preparing to travel to Mpondweni-Schietsdrift Primary School, near Winterton, in Kwazulu-Natal, on February 10.

Teacher and project member Debbie Hughes said: “There are nearly 200 children in the South African school, which relies solely on donations and has no state funding.

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“We have self-financed the whole trip and at a huge cost of £41,600, which seemed a daunting task.

“But the group have held several fundraising events to help reduce the costs, including a summer fair, cake sales and the recycling of clothes for cash.”

She added: “The trip will give pupils – past and present - the opportunity to see what education is like in another country and how the influence of the education they are going to provide can make a real impact.

“The group will be spending 12 days there, taking classes, participating in project-based work and learning about the culture.

“They will also be able to establish lifelong bonds, not only with the pupils, but with the school in general, because we are hoping to make this an ongoing excursion.”

Pupils first made contact with the South African school after deputy head teacher Fran Swinburn's daughter Sarah Swinburn worked for a spell there as a volunteer.

Year 11 pupils raised £2,000 which was sent to help the school upgrade its facilities.

Mrs Hughes said: “We would like to thank local businesses and the community for their help in making this trip a reality.

“Tag Teamwear of Middlesbrough have donated uniforms for the trip while Workwear Express of Durham have given us bespoke caps.”

Pupils Emma Dixon, Sophie Irle, Ben Drewitt, Jai Grant, Brooke Lawson, Jordanna Simpson, Emily Hutchinson, Georgia Edwards, Georgia Smithson will be joined by past pupils Rebecca Dixon Kieran Lenehan, Nathan Raine and Bradley Saiger. Leading the group are deputy headteacher Mrs Swinburn and teachers Charles Skilbeck and Mrs Hughes.

For more details about how to donate to the project visit www.wellfieldschool.net .