On my way to South Africa with Teachers Without Borders

Teacher and Students from Fezeka

I have mentioned to many of my friends in the last two or so weeks my exciting news! I am accepting an invitation to accompany Noble Kelly (prez of TWB Canada) and some others with Teachers Without Borders to South Africa for a few weeks this summer.

This morning, I had the great privilege of skype conferencing with two teachers and an advocate in South Africa along with Noble (who was in Vancouver). It was quite exciting to hear their passion and excitement about some changes happening in their school in Fezeka (a school that has been given support through Education Without Borders in Vancouver), in the townships of Cape Town.

They are in a most challenging situation. I want to share with you part of an email one of their advocates sent me this morning to describe the conditions there.

Teachers at Fezeka in Gugulethu township just outside Cape Town tell me that:

A- Of the 1150 students at the Senior Secondary school this year, some 70% of the students are from single parent families

B- Average unemployment in RSA townships is of the order of 44%

C- The teachers usually play the role of :
1 Social worker
2 policeman
3 nutritionist
4 nurse
5 councillor, Only then are they able to get on with their true teaching Role.

Life Skills orientation is taught instead of the older Careers counceling.
The issue is that the teachers are out of touch with the ever changing needs of commerce and industry.
Township schools are still deprived in many ways due to the legacy of apartheid.

We try and practice a policy of “Hand up not Hand out”.

Family sizes are still very large in township rural black communities with 5.5 children not being unusual among the less educated.
Of the 50 million South Africans, we have approximately 10 million illiterate people, So here one can already see the link between high unemployment and the illiteracy rates.

When school finishes at 2.00pm the children are often on the streets so that they are influenced by all the negative role models of gangsterism to the issues of violence, alcoholism, drugs and sex.

We have a large job to do over the next 5 years if we are not to let the bad influences succeed in taking over from the good!

Expectations are high and service delivery by many government departments has been shoddy to say the least. So this results in much frustration especially on the part of the township inhabitants.

My source for this information also pointed out that no provision by the government has been made for after-school activities that might spare the students from seeking out the negative lifestyle choices (gangs, drugs, etc.). He also mentioned that the incidents of rape of the young women are very high.

There are many who want Fezeka school (today the teachers I spoke with were teachers there) who are passionate to create a different future for their school.

The Fezeka school choir has already attained international recognition for its choir; now they want to provide support and professional development for their teachers so they can use the two computer labs they have onsite in the school.

Today we discussed the possibility of setting up mentoring relationships between teachers abroad and teachers in South Africa and creating partnerships between classes of students.

(If you are interested in partnering with a class in South Africa for grades 10-12, almost all subject areas, please let me know!).

I have an ambitious vision about creating a system to bring together teachers for mentoring relationships – more on that as the plan crystallizes!

Please enjoy the youtube video which shows the dedication of the teachers and students at Fezeka!

2 thoughts on “On my way to South Africa with Teachers Without Borders

  1. Hey, Sharon,

    This is tremendously exciting news, and my good thoughts and support will be with you in your travels (I checked your feed from the Blogger’s Hut at ISTE Island in Second Life, btw, where it’s the RSS “Feed o’ the Month” for March–I’m Scottmerrick Oh in there :). My own K12 school in Nashville, Tennessee has videoconferencing capability and though I work with the K-4 bunch directly, as Tech Coordinator, we have a full range of classes and teachers and programs that might interface with your school in SA, including MS and HS choruses. Let’s keep in touch. Perhaps we can begin to set something up like a weekly read-in with our little kids reading to your little kids and receiving readings in return, or a cultural exchange of art, or some collaborative document work, or an exchange of chorus/choir performances. Sky’s the limit. 2008-9’s the year.

  2. Tracy says:

    I am studying to be a teacher and found your post and accompanying video inspiring on many levels. I have a friend in the Peace Corp, teaching technology in Cape Verde. Through her own blogging, I have been able to keep in touch with her and learn about her daily life. Unfortunately, many of the facts and figures presented in your blog and video are exactly as she has told me. You do have to be more than a teacher since many of the children are lacking a home life. Her biggest issue has been the physical violence her students are prone to. In addition to teaching, she helps with an after school type program to keep the children off the streets. I admire her so much for doing this.
    While some of these conditions may be extreme, teachers anywhere can learn from them. Sometimes you are going to be more than just a facilitator of information. You might need to be a counselor, policeman, etc. I also think it is so important to remember that education is not a luxury or something that should be a burden our students. By interacting with classrooms in impoverished areas (via technology), students can learn so much from one another.
    I commend all of the teachers involved in the Teachers Without Borders, as well as the dedicated students!

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