Two enthusiastic teachers from Educare Centres in Philippi, Cape Town recently returned from a three week learning exchange trip to the United States of America (USA), full of new inspiration. Nombulelo Majezi, Principal of Khululeka Educare Centre and Grade R teacher at Albertina Sisulu Educare, Zizipho Matiwane (pictured above with her class) went on the trip, arranged by the Rotary District 9350.

Both teachers are part of Rotary Club of Claremont’s Injongo Educare Project, which started in 2012 and has already spent R12 million to date. This is an initiative to provide holistic and comprehensive support to 47 educare centres in Philippi. Tom Bergmann-Harris, President of the Rotary Club of Claremont explains that the main intention behind the project is that centres become self-sustaining beacons of hope in the community, enabling children to flourish during a critical stage of their development before they reach primary school. “Teacher training opportunities, like the exchange trip, are provided in addition to on-site mentoring support, educational resources, and physical upgrades to buildings,” says Bergmann-Harris.

Majezi and Matiwane travelled with three teachers, selected by other clubs in Rotary District 9350 (Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch and the Rotary Club of Breede River Winelands) to visit 11 pre-primary schools in the state of Connecticut, USA. “I’ve already begun implementing some of the things I learnt in my own classroom,” says Matiwane who was impressed by the creative ways her America counterparts taught youngsters about the life cycle of a frog and chicken. For the 26 year-old teacher, the trip was her first time on a plane and she thoroughly enjoyed stopping over in Johannesburg, Frankfurt and Chicago before finally arriving in Connecticut.

The teachers intend to share their learning experiences with their colleagues at other educare centres in Philippi. Majezi is keen to implement new techniques to teach children about patterns, comparisons, colours, shapes and counting. “I also saw the value in teaching children to make their own playdough; this is a learning experience for them to combine flour with baby oil,” she said, explaining the recipe.

On the exchange trip both teachers saw the valuable role that an involved parent can play in the development of the children they teach. “We’d really like to see parents here take a keen interest in their child’s development by reading stories to them at home, for example,” says Majezi. She raised concerns that many parents were still young themselves and did not know how to help their children reach critical developmental stages.

Earlier in the year five teachers from schools in the States, part of Rotary’s Vocational Training Team (VTT) spent three weeks in South Africa, visiting Majezi and Matiwane’s schools, amongst others. “On both trips, teachers have benefitted enormously from sharing best practice experience regarding curriculum, learning methods and classroom structure. The teaching exchange programme is the start of what we hope to be a long international partnership between our Rotary District and theirs,” concludes Bergmann-Harris.

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CAPTION: Nombulelo Majezi, Principal of Khululeka Educare Centre [Photo credits: Ian Robertson]