Ruth Davidson helps break boundaries with school landmine workshop

By Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland

Ruth Davidson was on hand to help Edinburgh school pupils clear “landmines” in a bid to raise awareness about a charity’s new fundraising campaign.

The Scottish Conservative MSP met youngsters at Erskine Stewart’s Melville Junior School (ESMS Junior School) in the Scottish capital for the launch of the Halo Trust’s Breaking Boundaries initiative.

Around 200 pupils from Year Six took part in a demonstration of landmine clearances with a dummy minefield created on the school grounds, highlighting what thousands of children in Zimbabwe have to walk through to reach their classes.

The school is now linking up with Kaitona Primary in the village of Musanzikwa to highlight the issue.

Ms Davidson told the PA news agency: “I think it’s so important that they understand that children in some countries don’t have those same benefits.

“They can’t physically get to school without fearing for their life, without being maimed or killed by some of these weapons of war that may have been in the ground for ten sometimes 20/30 years and it still stops them going about their business that they physically can’t access education.

“We’re so privileged here. I think it’s fantastic ESMS want to help.

“The kids here have been fantastic. Their questions are really interesting, they want to know about it, they’re interested, they find it shocking – rightly shocking – that once soldiers have left the country they can leave behind explosives that will kill people for generations afterwards.

“And also, using the metal detectors is cool – it’s good fun and goodness me I pay tribute to the groundstaff here. The gardners at ESMS were out last night with their trowels digging it up, putting some stuff so they could find mines, they were putting fake mines down so they could actually try and find them.

“I think they’ve had a lot of fun learning and that’s the most important part.”

Ruth Davidson during the NGO Halo Trust’s Breaking Boundaries fundraising campaign launch (Jane Barlow/PA)

Last year Ms Davidson spent four days in Kabul, Afghanistan, with the Dumfriesshire-based charity as it handed back control of 95 million square metres of land to the local government.

Halo plans to clear 105,600 square metres of land in Zimbabwe over 12 months and give access to save land to more than 3,000 people to grow food and attend school.

As part of the charity’s current campaign the UK Government will double all donations up to £2 million to the Halo Trust between now and December 22.

The launch comes after Prince Harry’s recent visit to the street in the Angolan city of Huambo where his mother Princess Diana visited in 1997.

Prince Harry walks on Princess Diana Street in Huambo where his late mother was photographed in 1997 which is now a busy street with schools, shops and houses (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Speaking to PA, Andrew Moore, director of private fundraising at The Halo Trust, said: “What was once a deadly minefield is now a thriving community. We can now build on that message from Prince Harry, that call to the world to rid the world of landmines through the UK Aid Match campaign.

“We’re launching the campaign here today with Year Six, working with them on teaching them about a particular village in Zimbabwe called Musanzikwa where the head of the village school lost his leg to a landmine some years ago; where quite a lot of the children attending the local school have to walk through a minefield to get to school.

“We’re contrasting the lives of children in Musanzikwa with those in Edinburgh.

“We wouldn’t tolerate children walking through a minefield here, we shouldn’t anywhere else.

“It’s really important to give as many people as possible a broad sense of what we do.

“We have a donor that’s clearing an entire country but with a child’s pocket money you can destroy a landmine so everybody can make a difference on this issue and everybody can have an impact.

“Ruth Davidson joining us to support the campaign is just amazing.

“She’s a wonderful advocate for work.

“She recognises the need for it and I think whatever people’s politics she connects with people in a way that allows them to understand the issues.”