STUDENTS are running, climbing and cycling into action to help pupils in Africa combat COVID-19 and return to their classrooms.

Barnard Castle School pupils have so far raised in excess of £3,000, which will be used to buy protective masks and handwashing stations for a school for children with disabilities and another for deaf students.

COVID-19 restrictions closed both St Anthony’s School for the Deaf, Bungoma County, and Nalondo CBM Special National Secondary School for the Physically Handicapped resulting in almost 800 Kenyan children missing out on their education.

As schools in Kenya start to reopen, there is no or little budget to provide essential equipment such as masks and hand sanitation.

Masks are made locally to regulation standard and cost £1 each, while £10 would buy a large bottle of disinfectant and £15 a hand washing station.

Students at Barnard Castle School adopted the Kipsaina Education and Environment Partnership as its charity after it was founded by biology teacher Sam Forsyth, Old Barnardian Rubel Quader and Mary Charrington, the mother of former head boy Calum Matthews.

A target of £2,000 was set for the latest fundraiser which has already been smashed by students.

Mr Forsyth said: “I’ve known Kenyan community conservationist Maurice Wanjala for many years, from when I was working for the BBC Natural History Unit, and we have taken Barney students out there to help build a school and organise clean water.

“He is a friend, an internationally renowned conservationist and an inspirational local leader. He was approached by the schools because they had to close, there is limited opportunity for home learning and the children are being left to their own devices.”

The aim of the Masks4Kenya appeal is to provide every child at the two schools with two washable masks, 20 handwash stations and enough soap for at least six months. The regulation masks are being made in the area to provide local employment.

Mr Forsyth said: “The money will provide basic cover and if we raise more we can extend our help to the associated primary schools. If we raise more still we could install rainwater harvesting tanks, to replace their shallow wells and contaminated water courses, which would provide them with clean water and be a lasting legacy of the campaign.”

Year 7 to 13 students tackled the fundraising in their houses, resulting in an injection of healthy competition to maximise funds.

Longfield house was the first to hit its target after running the equivalent of John O’Groats to Land’s End. Dale house embarked on a collective cycle ride to cover the equivalent miles from school to Kenya – almost 6,500 miles. Northumberland and York houses decided to climb stairs – the equivalent height of Mount Kenya’s 17,058ft, while Durham house is embarking on a ‘keepy uppy’ challenge, with house member Archie Gent also carrying out a 350 mile cycle challenge. Other fundraising initiatives include a bingo night organised by Marwood house on March 3, a 10-day Tees house ‘ice bucket’ challenge and the school’s music department is hosting a charity concert on March 12. Bowes house is also planning a charitable event after half term.

The fundraising efforts were co-ordinated by the school’s charity committee and Rotary Interact Club.

Mr Forsyth added: “As soon as we heard of the plight of the children in Kenya everyone was very keen to help.

“While COVID has had an impact on everyone in the world, we count ourselves very fortunate that we can continue teaching and that our students are still successfully studying though our online learning at home programme.”

For further information about the Masks4Kenya campaign, visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/Masks4Kenya.