PUPILS from a Tweeddale school made history recently after being invited to an exclusive state visit by the president and first lady of Malawi.

As a part of the Scotland/Malawi Partnership, St Ronan’s Primary in Innerleithen has a committee of 11 pupils who meet monthly to promote the school and community links between their town and Thondwe.

And it was the older members of this group who were invited to be part of the visit of the president and first lady, Peter Mutharika and Gertrude Maseko – which was held in Edinburgh City Chambers.

Teacher Shirley Bean, who is responsible for the group, said: “Due to the high security, the children couldn’t be told of the nature of the visit until they were on the minibus bound for Edinburgh.

“St. Ronan’s was one of only two primary schools in attendance and it was a great honour for us to be involved.”

The President and his entourage entered the chamber to the sound of the Malawian national anthem, before they were officially welcomed by the deputy lord provost of Edinburgh, Councillor Joan Griffiths.

There were a number of speeches by different groups sharing their partnership experiences, including charities, agriculture, health and education groups.

The government was represented by MSP Fiona Hyslop, minister for foreign affairs and culture, and both she and President Mutharika took part in a question and answer session.

Before the end of the visit, two representatives from each school were invited to join the first lady and the President for a photograph.

Freya Wilson and Joshua Inglis, the oldest boy and oldest girl from the Malawi group, represented St Ronan’s.

Miss Bean added: “Each of St Ronan’s pupils wore a cloth Malawi badge with the words, ‘Malawi The Warm Heart of Africa’ and Freya presented special versions to the first lady and the president.”

“The first lady asked Freya to pin the badge on for her and the president.

“Freya held her nerve and although she found it tricky, the president’s body guard stepped in and helped her out.”

Keith Belleville, headteacher at St Ronan’s, told us: “The Malawi partnership is very important to us here at St Ronan’s.

“It’s a great way to promote cultural differences and diversity, while giving a focus to our international charity work.

“The strength of our association with Thondwe is that it is a whole community link and I’m sure that this will continue to flourish as we share learning between our two continents.”