I am a primary school teacher based
at Warmsworth Primary School in Doncaster. In the summer I took part in a placement
in the townships of Knysna, South Africa as a volunteer teacher.
Many of the youngsters from the townships, live a life of hardship and are seldom,
if ever, given the opportunities in life they deserve. The township school is situated
in the Hornlee region of Knysna. The school has few if any educational resources,
the standard of education is extremely poor and many teachers are untrained. The
local children live a life of hardship; many are hungry and lack even the basic
of clothing. Despite many obstacles, the children of the townships are warmhearted,
welcoming and surprisingly happy but above all keen to learn. Touched by my experiences
and with a growing desire to make a difference, I set to work on establishing international
Children at Warmsworth Primary have since enjoyed learning about a different culture
and as a school we have worked hard to raise funds for the school. Year 6 pupils
from both schools made initial contact through a letter- writing project and it
has been my aim since to maintain and further develop these links.
My main focus has been to develop awareness of global issues and appreciation of
cultural diversity, and with the support of my school, Warmsworth Primary, I returned
to Knysna, South Africa for a period of 3 months (on unpaid leave) to reestablish
and further develop links with the school.
During my time in South Africa pupils have written letters to the UK, developed drama
ideas and participated in a school film. It is hoped that Warmsworth will also be
able to send film footage to South Africa, providing pupils with an opportunity
to compare and contrast their own school environments. By the end of my placement
we had completed 2 short films which the children had taken part in writing and
performing. Short drama sketched with a moral or message. These were wonderful and
each child was able to take one home to share. Joint work projects took place and
opportunities were available to share cultures, traditions and opinions.
My key concern was to support teaching and learning and I worked hard to create a
document outlining UK practice to share with the school. This document may go some
way in helping to implement basic systems, support changes in planning routines,
provide staff training on teaching strategies and support staff in the assessment
process. I do hope this sharing of good practice is an ongoing process and an exchange
project in the future would be a valuable extension of this work and a possible
Whilst working out in South Africa, I was involved in a range of other projects,
including a soup kitchen, a township orphanage and a youth development programme.
A small collection was held back in the UK and approx £ 270 raised. We were able
to purchase much needed resources such as nappy creams, underwear, bottles, play
mats, and many other essential items. The children at the orphanage were most pleased
with the bottles of bubbles, which we bought, with some of the spare money!
The Youth Development programme takes place at a centre for youths with social and
emotional difficulties. Many live on the streets, have been excluded from education
and have often turned to a life of crime. It is a wonderful support centre, which
aims to provide youngsters with opportunities to keep clean, have food and most
importantly have some form of education. Many of the youths are keen to return to
school and really do want to learn. The centre is their key support in doing this.
Unfortunately the centre is in the early stages of development and at present lacks
structure, funding and a clear education program.
During my time in Africa I joined a working party and worked closely with another
volunteer, Paula Stokey, to create a basic English program for volunteers to follow.
The aim was for each child to have an individual file and wherever possible one
to one tuition from volunteers. The program was intended to provide structure, continuity
and support providing all individuals with the opportunity to succeed.
By the time I left South Africa the system was up and running! The first day of the
trial was amazing. Every child was sat with a teaching file (they decorated these
to personalise them and were so proud). Volunteers were spread around the room and
following a program we had created. The children loved it. We were so overwhelmed
with the success and the hope it provided. Only a small step but it was so clear
that every child wanted to learn and we had given them a structure and the tools
to do it. I definitely shed some tears that day!
I really do hope Travellers continue to place volunteers here as so much help is
needed. It was a wonderful extension of my placement and feel I achieved so much
there in such a short time.
Whilst organising projects in the area, Jim Morel (Manager Traveller’s Worldwide,
South Africa) has unearthed an abundance of pure, raw talent in the townships of
Knysna. It has been his objective since, to develop a music and arts centre in the
town. Many of the youngsters from the townships live a life of hardship and Jim’s
aim is to provide a musical skills project, run by volunteers and music pupils from
local schools in an attempt to develop performing arts within the town. Some of
the younger children from the townships are also invited to rehearsals and regularly
participate in singing, dancing, rapping, gumboot dancing, etc. The project has
progressed in leaps and bounds since its inception, and there is a great deal of
scope for a very successful future.