GRAVE fears are being held for the safety of a Leeton school teacher who has been reported missing in Africa.
Mark Ciavarella, a former teacher at Leeton's St Francis College and Leeton High School, has been living and working in Brazzaville, capital city of the Republic of the Congo in Africa for some time teaching English.
Mr Ciavarella has not had contact with friends or family since October 26, something which is out-of-character and he is said to have "disappeared without a trace".
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been alerted to his disappearance, as has the Australian and Italian embassies.
Teaching is one of Mr Ciavarella's many passions in life, as well as the creative arts, sport and many of his students remember him as having a positive impact on their lives.
It has been around six or seven years since Mr Ciavarella last taught at St Francis College before he headed over to Africa, but he is known to keep in touch with staff members, friends and family as often as he can given the limited telecommunications access.
College principal Seb Spina said Mr Ciavarella is a good friend to many current staff members and news of his disappearance is being met with shock and disbelief.
In an email to staff on Tuesday morning, Mr Spina called on staff to support each other.
"We are all praying for his safety," Mr Spina wrote.
"Our chapel is always available for staff (and students) for quiet prayer and reflection.
"Please be aware that many of our current staff are particularly affected and concerned. Please look after yourselves and one another."
Prior to heading to Africa, Mr Ciavarella was the head of the creative and performing arts department at St Francis College.
The performing arts is something most would recognise Mr Ciavarella as being a huge part of in Leeton, putting on productions of high quality both at the school and in the community for all to enjoy and be part of.
Many staff at the college have known him for decades and consider him a close friend.
"I've had limited email contact with Mark over the years while he has been in Africa ... I consider him a mate and a colleague," Mr Spina said.
"It's horrible news, but we are all hoping and praying for a positive outcome."
The Irrigator has contacted the Department of Foreign and Affairs for comment, but at the time of printing no comment had been made available.
The federal government's Smart Traveller website currently advises Australian residents to "reconsider your need to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo overall due to the volatile security situation and high risk of kidnapping".
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
- Bookmark www.irrigator.com.au
- Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters
- Follow us on Twitter
- Follow us on Instagram
- Follow us on Google News