By Rod Amner
Fikizolo Primary School rolled out an exuberantly South African welcome of marimbas, song, dance, and praise poetry to a special visitor from Toronto, Canada, on 7 June. Courtney Doldron from Toronto’s Rotary Club of North York is in Makhanda until 25 June to scope a five-year project to provide training and support to up to 50 local teachers.
Doldron is a human rights activist, former teacher, and secretary of the Basic Education and Literacy Rotary Action Group (Belrag), which supports international literacy aid projects. Belrag works with Education Beyond Borders, which operates five-year Train the Trainer programmes in several African countries, including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.
Fikizolo’s staff and learners dazzled Doldron with several polished performances before the head boy Masimbonge Tyuthu and head girl Amila Magwaxaza presented him with gifts.
Doldron is conducting a pilot project to gather data. “We are not walking in and telling South Africans what to do because we don’t know the system yet. We will consult with the teachers’ union, the Department of Education, and all the stakeholders, including the local Rotary groups,” he said.
Rotary will raise all the money to enable trainers to fly out to South Africa for four to five weeks a year. The project will start with Fikizolo’s 16 teachers but will hopefully expand to 40-50 teachers from other schools.
Fikizolo Principal Zoleka Kate said the school was “thrilled by Courtney’s arrival – everyone was in a jovial mood”.
“His intervention will greatly assist the learners through the teacher development programmes he will share with us. This is an opportunity you don’t get every day. It excites us to learn that some good people willingly go out of their way to share their best practices. It is now for us to use the opportunity given to us with a great sense of zeal,” Kate said.
Fikizolo already has a computer lab and over 30 tablets and a second project will use a technology-based reading programme, Reading Rockets, designed by a Rotarian in Toronto. Doldron said he would like to install a computer in every classroom, allowing the teachers to share technology-driven teaching with all learners.
Educators from Canada will deliver training workshops, and create relationships between schools in North America and South Africa, for mutual learning on global issues and mentoring. Doldron hopes to return to Makhanda in September to work on the project further.