African visit is a boost for pupils

A SOUTH African teacher has visited the Spen Valley.

Vuyiswa Sixaso arrived in the UK last Monday. It was the first time she had ever flown.

She said: "It was a big journey to make on my own for the first time, but very exciting. My colleagues were worried about me coming all this way on my own, but it's been fun."

The 38-year-old teacher visited Hartshead J&I School as part of a project which joins the Spen school with Ntulikazi School near Alice in South Africa.

It was a return visit as in May Hartshead teacher Craig Roberts visited South Africa to learn about their culture and lifestyle.

The trips are funded by The Global Gateway Department for Overseas Development and supported by the Tyume Valley Association - an educational project in South Africa.

The school has also been donated to by Rohm and Haas in Heckmondwike as the company has a factory in South Africa.

Vuyiswa said: "There's a lot of things that are different from home. The environment, the houses, the schools. Everything is different. The weather is very different too, to me that's cool, but people here don't seem to like it!"

During her visit Vuyiswa has observed classes at Hartshead, visited other local schools, met the Mayor of Kirklees and went seeing in London.

Hartshead headteacher Jim Lewis said: "There's a huge difference between the two schools on all sorts of levels.

"There's not a lot there (Ntulikazi). It's quite a poor area and a lot of the children don't have parents at home because they're working away or have died from HIV."

At Vuyiswa's school children have to share small, broken benches and the school has no running water.

To Vuyiswa having a photocopier in school is a luxury.

But the facilities available to the school are improving and a resource centre with computers the children can use is 10 kilometres away.

Although it is not ideal Vuyiswa is grateful that the students get chance to learn IT skills.

The differences between the school also include the responsibilities of the pupils.

At Ntulikazi School the children open and lock the school and they do all of the building's cleaning.

All pupils travel to school by foot and teachers rely on taxis as few people have their own transport.

"It seems here that everybody has cars. I've been told about 70 per cent of people do and some families even have more than one," said Vuyiswa.

The sharp contrast in lifestyles may have surprised Vuyiswa, but she has enjoyed her visit.

"Everybody has been so welcoming. I'd love to come back here. I love it," she said.

Hartshead School is involved with a lot of overseas work. Last week headteacher Jim Lewis attended a ceremony in London where BBC journalist George Alagiah presented him with a full level International Schools Award.