By BULELWA PAYI
Overcrowded classrooms, a lack of resources, teaching pupils who are experiencing trauma and handling diversity – these are some of the challenges facing teachers. But a partnership between the US and South Africa aims to find effective techniques to improve the quality of education and learning.
The US Consulate in partnership with the Central Library and the American Corner hosted an event for education policy makers and teachers in the province.
It is one of several programmes to promote education and economic prosperity as part of the ties between the two countries.
Deputy public affairs officer at the American Consulate Mignon Cardentey said the countries shared historical parallels and it was important to help share best practice in education policy while finding better ways to empower pupils and offer professional development opportunities for teachers.
Boston teacher and high school principal Craig Martin said he had learnt literacy was liberating.
“It’s a calling on us as educators to ensure that our students, families and communities are literate and they have the ability to get great jobs and realise their dreams so they can in turn help build their own communities,” Martin said.
“I interacted with students at the University of Johannesburg and I found that they were passionate about social justice, about equality and being part of a greater community. They spoke about how to access high quality education.”
Teachers also spoke of how trauma as a result of violence in communities and the historical past of apartheid continued to impact learning and teaching and called on policy makers and authorities to provide counselling services and make schools safe spaces.
US Mission South Africa has invested in education and economic empowerment for South Africans through several programmes.
It has supported students and professionals to further their educational experiences through exchange programmes including the Fulbright, Humphrey, Young Africa Leaders Initiative and Community College Initiative Programme.
It also supports pupils to prepare for and apply to US colleges and universities through the Education USA programme.
Some of the ground work involves awareness building and outreach to the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape.
Through the American Corner, established at the Central Library, which runs about 150 to 200 programmes per month for around 3 000 young people, the US Mission helps locals access resources and improve the quality of their lives.
It hosts workshops including professional development workshops, computer literacy, coding and documentary filming for free to the public.
The US Mission also brings in experts in academia from the US to spend time with universities in South Africa as well as Fulbright students to conduct research on curriculum on primary, secondary and tertiary education to help influence policy
On September 30, the US Consulate in Cape Town will host the US College Fair at the College of Cape Town City Campus in Longmarket Street.
The fair is open to the public and will provide information about higher education opportunities, requirements, and resources in the US.