Mrs Burke recently visited our South African link school

Monday 27 February 2012

Mrs Burke is responsible for ‘Positive Contribution’ in school.  This role all about creating links with community, from a local level to an international level.  We’re setting up an international link with Shallcross Primary School, Durban, South Africa.  Here, she recounts a recent visit to the school:

After a seventeen hour flight, I arrived in Durban, tired but excited about visiting our partner school, Shallcross Primary.

The school day begins at 7.30am and, because the school is located on the outskirts of the city, I was collected by a teacher at 6.20am to make the long and hazardous drive – a child was knocked down near the school one morning.

On arrival at the school, the first thing that struck me was the number of pupils.  There were children everywhere!  I soon discovered there are around 1500 pupils at the school and the number is growing.  No one is ever turned away.  The buildings are very run down and space very limited.  Despite promises of a new school, this has not yet happened and the school has had to make do.  There is no hall for assembly or PE, no library and the teachers have given up their staffroom to accommodate more pupils.  The school takes children from Reception to Year 7 and each year group has three or four classes.  Each class has on average 45 pupils with one teacher!

Lessons are delivered with little or no differentiation because of the high number of pupils in each class.  The children arrive in Reception having had no nursery and, for most, having never seen or used a pencil, paint or books.  On arrival, they speak only their home language of Zulu and the curriculum is delivered in English.  The government has just introduced a new curriculum with emphasis on the teaching of phonics from Reception.  I was delighted to be asked to demonstrate a phonics lesson!

Despite all the problems the school faces, including unqualified teachers, large pupil numbers, lack of space, limited resources and no computers, the children and staff at the school are highly motivated with children keen to learn and the staff doing their best to provide the best education they can.  I was impressed with the children’s behaviour and the low level of disruption in the classes despite the high numbers of pupils.  All the children were respectful and polite to me and very interested in our partnership and the projects we have been doing.  They asked relevant and thoughtful questions such as:

I could have stayed in each class for a week to answer all their questions!

The children enjoyed looking at the different things I’d brought with me.  These included photos of Moortown Primary, including in the recent snow!  I also brought a collection of children’s work, including lots from the Y3 and Y4 Mini-Topic called ‘View from our Window’, which helped compare Shallcross and Moortown areas.

I have brought back many memories of my short time in Durban to share with our pupils. I am certain that through the project and the enrichment it can bring to the curriculum, the children in both schools can learn from each other and develop greater empathy and understanding of the world we live in.