US trip boosts teaching skills

Zizipho Matiwane talks to children after returning from the US.

Two enthusiastic teachers from educare centres in Philippi are back from a three-week learning exchange trip to America.

Nombulelo Majezi, principal of Khululeka Educare Centre, and Zizipho Matiwane, a Grade R teacher at Albertina Sisulu Educare, went on a trip arranged by the Rotary District 9350.

The teachers are part of Rotary Club of Claremont’s Injongo Educare Project, which started in 2012. The initiative supports 47 educare centres in Philippi.

Tom Bergmann-Harris, president of the Rotary Club of Claremont, said the aim was to make the centres self-sustaining beacons of hope in the community, enabling children to flourish during a critical stage of their development before they reached 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,” said Mr Bergmann-Harris.

Ms Majezi and Ms Matiwane travelled with three teachers, selected by other clubs.

“I’ve already begun implementing some of the things I learnt in my own classroom,” said Ms Matiwane, who was impressed by the creative ways her American 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. Ms 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,” said Ms Majezi.

She said 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 America, part of Rotary’s Vocational Training Team (VTT), spent three weeks in South Africa, visiting Ms Majezi’s and Ms Matiwane’s schools, among others.

“On both trips, teachers have benefited 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,” said Mr Bergmann-Harris.