Boer War remembrance

Colyton High School students

When you mention the Boer War, most people wouldn't know what you were talking about, but that isn't the case at Colyton High School.

The Year 10 history students have worked with St Marys RSL since the beginning of this year on its Boer War Memorial as part of the NSW Premier's Student Volunteering Awards program.

Colyton volunteering coordinator and history teacher Stevenie Harman said the program grew out of already strong links between the school and the RSL.

It really has been amazing to see the boys grow during their volunteering activities.

 - History teacher Stevenie Harman

"For the Anzac service the boys had the honour of carrying the RSL banner in the march, setting up the service, distributing the leaflets, lighting the candles and handing out the tributes to be laid by community members," said Ms Harman.

"After this experience, the boys were keen to continue their involvement with the RSL.

"We were invited to participate in a ceremony for the Boer War memorial so we started studying the Boer War (1899-1902)."

She said during class students compared the strategies used during the Boer War with those in the Vietnam War and looked for similarities to link it back to the unit of work being studied for the School Certificate.

Like Vietnam, they saw it as a forgotten war, Ms Harman said. It is the only major war not to be commemorated on Anzac Parade.

 "It really has been amazing to see the boys grow during their volunteering activities," Ms Harman said.

"They have spoken at the RSL, have had radio and media interviews, their leadership skills have been developed and their attendance has been out of sight.

"Each boy encouraged others to work to their strengths so that together we could make a difference.

"Many of the activities have been in their own time, and the RSL members were extremely appreciative of the boys' contributions and the dignified way in which they conducted themselves throughout the whole unit of work."

Volunteer James Minella said talking to the veterans gave him and his classmates a better understanding of war than what they learned from a textbook.

"It's a great experience for any student. You get a personal feeling of what it was to be in their footsteps," he said.

Photo by James Minella.

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