Partners fund a trip from the township

23rd June 2006 at 01:00

Boephathutse school, situated in Soshanguve, a sprawling tin-shack township north of Pretoria, is four teachers down this week because they are visiting their partner school in Cambridgeshire.

The teachers have gone to Linton Village college to compare how they teach technology, maths, science, social sciences and languages. Their trip was funded by their link partners.

Last year, visiting Linton Village teachers discovered how the African school uses a student council to increase the sense of ownership of the school.

Sarah Seroka, the principal, said: "We are still behind them on taking an outcomes-based approach. But they are learning from us how to be open and allow learners to take part in the day-to-day running of the school."

For example, when the school raises funds, teachers ask students for their ideas on what activities to carry out and how. Class representatives also take part in the accounting and banking of all money raised at the events.

Last week, they staged a tourism day at which pupils were assessed on their demonstrations of how to run a bed-and-breakfast or a coffee shop with an eye on potential opportunities when the World Cup is staged in South Africa in 2010. Pupils paid 5 Rand (40 pence) a day to take part.

Ms Seroka said that while the partners are equal, there is an imbalance of resources, with most parents jobless and unable to afford the 300 Rand-a-year school fees.

Linton Village has raised funds to help Boephathutse fulfil its development plan, paying for a science lab, a technology centre, a computer lab and an outside shelter for assemblies - because there is no hall - books, and Pounds 1,000 towards a feeding programme, as well as the visits to share expertise. The feeding programme is supplying needy pupils - some of them orphans who have lost parents to HIVAids - with school lunches and meal packs for weekends, including porridge, soya meal, bread and jam.

The connection was set up by Link Community Development, whose fee is used to build capacity in the district education department and to train school leaders and help schools to create a development plan. Link also trains schools in fundraising methods that involve the local community - to help them become self-reliant and avoid a sense of aid dependency.

Ms Seroka said the key to a successful partnerships is a long-term commitment from both sides.

"You cannot just drop it," she said. "If you sustain your relationships, you are all going to benefit."

Gauteng province, where Boephathutse is situated, has a policy of trying to link every school because it sees the potential for sharing expertise and enriching learning.

Godfrey Mothibe, head of partnerships and international relations, said:

"UK is a leading country, followed by France, the US, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway as well as African countries."

Brendan O'Malley

pound;25,000 of prizes for linkingThe deadline for entries for this year's TESHSBC Make the Link awards is July 21. There are separate prizes for primary, secondary and special schools and sixth-formFE Colleges. Enter online or download a postal entry form from Make_the_Linkawards

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