Technology, education, sports and filmmaking students to volunteer in South African townships

Media Relations Team, 26 July 2022

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Teacher at front of classroom in front of blackboards and class of children in red uniforms holding hands up to answer a question.

Students from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are travelling to South Africa this summer to volunteer in township schools in KwaZulu-Natal Province.

The trip is part of Project Zulu, a UWE Bristol initiative which has been working in partnership with South African township schools since 2012.

Next month, after a two year break due to the pandemic, 34 students and 15 members of staff will take part in a variety of practical and educational projects at 11 schools, focusing on six key areas – teaching, technology, special educational needs, rugby and PE teaching, teacher professional development, and filmmaking and photography.

The projects vary in length from one to four weeks, with the first getting underway on 1 August.

Dr Ben Knight, UWE Bristol Senior Lecturer in Education and Director of Project Zulu, said: "After a challenging couple of years, we are delighted to be resuming our annual volunteering in South Africa this summer. We can't wait to see and work with our partners face-to-face again and continue to build those important connections, which are not only beneficial to our students and staff but improve educational opportunities for the local schoolchildren, too."

Project Zulu started as a one-off link with a primary school in the Madadeni Township dating back to when Dr Knight first visited there in 1996, but has now grown into a longstanding partnership agreement with 11 schools across two township communities in the wider KwaZulu Natal area, including multiple primary schools, a secondary school and a special educational needs school.

One of the students travelling to South Africa to volunteer is Dulcie Barnes-Long, 20, who is studying Primary Education. She said: "I'm most looking forward to immersing myself in a whole other culture and experience a different teaching environment to what I'm used to back in England.

"Project Zulu has given me an amazing opportunity to not only fly out to South Africa and help another community of learners but also an opportunity to benefit my professional development and career prospects when I begin applying for jobs in January."

In addition, Project Zulu offers exchange and overseas travel opportunities for South African children and staff. As part of the initiative, a choir comprising singers from one or more of the schools in the Madadeni township gets the chance to come to the UK every two years to put on shows and work with schools.

Plans are underway for the choir to travel to the UK and perform in venues across southern England, in May and June 2023. All money from the ticket sales is donated to the schools in South Africa to help with projects such as creating a new computer lab or repair work on a building.

The six projects areas

Teaching: Over a four-week period, qualified and trainee teaching staff from the UK and in South Africa share their teaching techniques and best practices helping to broaden their knowledge; this mutually benefits teachers from both countries regardless of their prior experience.

Teacher Professional development: Providing training for local educators in subject areas identified by Project Zulu partner schools, using the skills and experience of UWE Bristol academics from the Department of Education and Childhood. Our partner schools have identified reading and writing comprehension in English as a key challenge for their learners and tasked Project Zulu with designing a programme to support their teachers in the teaching of English.

Technology: During the three-week project, technology students and UWE Bristol academics use existing equipment and add locally sourced hardware to maximise the use of IT as a learning tool within their respective schools.

Special educational needs: Over four weeks, UWE Bristol Occupational Therapy and Learning Disabilities Nursing students along with their supporting academics will work in the areas of health, development and education of the children at the YWCA Special School in Madadeni. Working alongside local educators they will support screening for particular physical, cognitive and educational needs and will run workshops on relevant topics including sensory learning, epilepsy and autism.

Rugby: UWE Bristol players will visit partner schools in Madadeni and give every pupil the opportunity to take part in tag rugby, learning key sport and life skills through sport. Working alongside coaches from the local rugby team, the coaches are able to share their knowledge and passion for the game. They end their two-week experience with a tag rugby tournament involving all Project Zulu schools in the Madadeni township.

Filmmaking: During their week-long trip, a team of UWE Bristol film students will capture footage and edit short films to help Project Zulu communicate its work and convey its messages to a wider audience. Student teams are led by UWE Bristol tutors with industry backgrounds, moving between partnership schools, interviewing participants and filming the sights and sounds of the townships.

This year an engineering scoping project for 2023 has been included alongside the six focus areas. Project Zulu hopes to be taking a team of engineering students to South Africa in August 2023 to work on solutions to infrastructural challenges, including water security, at partner schools.

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