British teachers exchange skills in Africa

8th September 2006 at 01:00
Teachers from the UK gave up their summer holiday to help improve the lot of thousands of children in some of Africa's poorest schools.

Twenty-six teachers worked in schools in South Africa and 11 in Uganda.

They spent five weeks away on the Global Teachers Programme, run by the international charity Link Community Development. They lived with families whose homes often had no electricity or running water.

The charity works to improve education in Africa by focusing on school management, leadership, governance, resources and teaching.

Christopher Welander, of Hills Road sixth-form college, in Cambridge, went to Nkodusweni school in South Africa's Eastern Cape. He lodged with a family in a forested valley with sea views, surrounded by subsistence farmers who lived in traditional Xhosa roundhouses.

Mr Welander said: "I came across a remarkable bunch of teachers. It is extraordinary what they achieve given the sort of problems they face.

Classes are huge by UK standards - buildings poor, teaching materials limited and lessons are conducted in English, despite everyone speaking Xhosa at home. Some of the teachers have not been paid for months.

"Education in South Africa is undergoing great changes at the moment.

Schools are encouraged to manage themselves and a new national curriculum is being introduced.

"But the teachers were educated under the apartheid system and feel ill-equipped to deal with what is expected of them now.

"I especially enjoyed helping them see how they could make their lessons more interactive and inclusive."

Teachers on the programme will use their experiences to help raise their own pupils' awareness of international development issues.

Previous participants have formed long-lasting links which have enabled pupils in the two countries to communicate directly with one another other.

Link Community Development, which also runs programmes in Ghana and Malawi, is supported by the Department for International Development and HSBC Global Education Trust.

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