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Cultural exchange from many aspects

Sheena MacGillivray, a history and modern studies teacher at Nairn Academy in Highland, spent five weeks this summer as a global teacher in South Africa. She was placed at the Welsh Senior Secondary School in Culunca, in the Qumbu district of the Eastern Cape.

She writes: "The school is part of the Phakama Project, which aims to raise the standard of education in targeted schools.

"One of my chief aims was to work with the senior management team to ensure that they saw themselves as managers rather than just administrators. I aimed to improved leadership within the school by explaining what was involved and teaching by example.

"I aimed to improve the matriculation results by showing pupils how to study.

"Raising awareness of HIV was also part of my programme.

"Living with a local family meant I gained an insight into the way of life in the Eastern Cape and I made lasting friendships.

"For a teacher of history and modern studies, it was interesting to find out about South Africa in recent times from South African books and, more importantly, from the people who experienced apartheid. I will use this knowledge with my Higher pupils.

"During my visit to the township and my discussions with teachers at Welsh SSS and my host family, the situation in the Transkei during apartheid and its aftermath were highlighted.

"All change has its plus and minus sides and this was seen very clearly in the Transkei, where after 1994 some things had improved while others worsened. Lack of employment in the Eastern Cape is the biggest concern.

"In education, the legacy of colonialism and apartheid are still present in the curriculum and the examination system.

"I became more aware that Europeans may have solutions to African problems and can offer suggestions, but the situation Africans find themselves in is very different and they must endeavour to find their own answers.

"My experiences in the Eastern Cape have certainly widened my horizons and given me an insight into living a life without the luxuries we take for granted. Without electricity and running water, I was able to adapt.

"Living with a Xhosa family and experiencing their daily life meant I learnt a lot about their customs. I now have a greater knowledge of South Africa, its people, music and literature.

"With them, I cooked some Scottish food and we exchanged recipes. I bought some books on South African food and traditions.

"I also managed to make the pupils at Welsh SSS aware of Scotland and its people. I enjoyed their music and, through my CD player, gave them the opportunity to hear some Scottish songs. I taught two members of staff a Scottish song and the three of us sang it at my farewell party.

"I found the language difficult and never did manage the click sound.

However, I did make an effort and the pupils and staff found my attempts amusing."

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