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Zephania School, South Africa
Since 2003, Altrincham Grammar School for Girls has been in partnership with Zephania Secondary School in South Africa. Since 2004 there have been 3 trips to the school, the last one in 2007, when 2 large groups of girls from AGGS were welcomed by our friends and colleagues in Zephania. We have also had the pleasure of hosting the headteacher, Mr Sipho Khanyile, and other representatives from the school. In July 2012 we shall be taking a group of 18 students out to Zephania School. During our stay the students will engage in joint projects and gain an appreciation of the cultural differences and of the challenges faced by Zephania’s students. The trip will not only include time spent at the school but also a tour across a large region of South Africa, visiting many hotspots for wildlife and cultural experiences, from Kruger National Park, all the way down to cape coast.
The school is about 150 km from the city of Durban in the East of South Africa in a remote and rural location. The community served by the school is made up of approximately 70% of unemployed parents, who mainly exist on subsistence farming and receive no income at all. The students face many challenges, such as being taught mainly in English which is not their mother tongue, many having to walk a fair distance to and from school each day and responsibilities in the home which may include caring for younger siblings or grandparents, and many household chores.
Over the years, AGGS has held many fundraising events for Zephania which we believe have helped the school in ways that would not have been possible without our support. This has included providing computers to set up an ICT lab and funding an ICT teacher to benefit both the students and the wider community. We have equipped a home economics room with appliances such as ovens, fridges and irons and supplied equipment for a hairdressing room after World Vision provided the funds for the building work. We have also promoted “sponsor a student” schemes, which ensure that students have school uniform, PE kit, stationery and other basic school equipment (15 students were sponsored last year).
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In October 2012, 3 members of staff from AGGS, including Mrs Ross- Wawrzynski, visited the school and met with the head teacher, Mr Shipho Khanyile, the governing body and the technical skills advisers for the region, to see how best the school’s needs could be met over the coming months and years. Several areas were prioritised, such as improvement of the school environment and the introduction of a new subject into the curriculum, Engineering and Graphic Design. Amongst other things, this means provision of new desks and chairs, technical drawing boards and other equipment for the new subject. We had the privilege of hosting 2 of Zephania’s teachers at AGGS for one week in December 2012 and since then our ex-chair of governors, Mrs Colette Foan has been out to Zephania School twice on a voluntary basis for a total of 5 weeks to offer her skills as a project manager and work with the staff to implement new teaching and learning developments. We should like to see the students and surrounding community have the same opportunities to develop skills and careers as many other South Africans have in the towns and cities. As a national Teaching School we believe we can play a significant role in the continued development of Zephania School.