GENEROUS schoolchildren in Pontefract are helping pupils in Africa receive an education by donating more than 600 pencils to charity.
Youngsters at Orchard Head J&I school were encouraged to give the gift of writing when an Olympic torchbearer visited the school.
Pontefract-born Matthew Norton, who was nominated for his work with the Maasai Heritage Preservation Foundation, shared his torch relay experience with the students and urged them to help children in Tanzania and Kenya.
Claire Habbishaw, acting headteacher, said: “Matthew is an acquaintance of a member of staff and we asked if he would be prepared to come in and share his experience and the torch, which was met with great excitement by staff as well as children.
“All the children bought in a pencil to donate to the schools he set up and there must have been nearly 600 because some children bought more than one.
“We explained that it was for them to make a difference and they really took that on board.
Mrs Habbishaw said Mr Norton cares for around 500 children in Africa after developing schools in Tanzania and Kenya, and establishing farms at the sites to provide food for families.
As the students had been studying the Olympics and watched the torch on its route through Pontefract, the school decided to bring Mr Norton in to give it a personal touch.
Mrs Habbishaw added: “Obviously, with it being an Olympic year we’ve been doing a lot of work in school on the Games. Matthew did three assemblies and he interacted with the children very well, differentiating between the three ages.
“Charity work and the Olympics is something we try to teach but to have someone come in who’s been there and seen it and experienced it, it’s more real.
“It’s not just the teacher telling them, it’s real life.”
Mr Norton explained to pupils in nursery and key stage one about his experience carrying the torch through Halifax, and told children in key stage two about his work in Africa.
Mrs Habbishaw said: “The children understand that in that country the children can’t go to school unless they have a pencil. That came home to them.”