Work in Progress - Summer in London for South African teachers

The South African teachers with the Head of St James Senior Boys School at Pope’s Villa, on the Thames. 

l to r: Marco Franzoso, Gift Sathikge, Jayshree Parasuramen, David Boddy, Gregory Jones, Tshepiso Phahlane, Matheu Kieswetter

Teacher training is central to the mission of the ERT. Over the past twelve years we’ve run well-received short workshops and conferences, offering what’s been learned from the St James experience to many schools and teachers in several countries. Last summer we decided to be more ambitious.

Under the direction of Paul Moss, the Trust’s adviser on teacher-training, six South African teachers spent the second half of the 2010 summer term at St James Junior School in London. The intention was to immerse them in the St James ethos, and Paul designed a programme to achieve this: a mixture of classroom observation and teaching, conversations, study and visits. In Paul’s words, it aimed ‘to nourish them with all that was good, true and beautiful’.

In his follow-up report Paul noted: ‘within a few days they moved from being visitors to being colleagues. Depending on their experience, need and subject, they were able to find classes, events or teachers that inspired and interested them. All were taken by the ‘pause’, singing, speech and Sanskrit.’

The six represented all four South African schools that the ERT currently supports: the two St James schools, in Durban and Johannesburg, Auburn House School in Cape Town, and Masimbambane College, Johannesburg. At the end of the programme they produced an audiovisual presentation about the programme, to show to their colleagues on their return.

We should acknowledge the help Paul received in running the programme. The Headmistress and teachers at St James Junior School made the visitors very welcome, absorbing them apparently seamlessly into the daily life of the School. ERT trustee Margot Camp showed them the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum (as well as putting up two of the teachers in her home). Paul’s secretary Kim Brown achieved miracles in helping with visas and arranging accommodation. One teacher sadly had to return to South Africa early because of the death of his mother. Kim magically obtained a free air ticket from Virgin Atlantic.

We should also mention the World Cup, which closed all South African schools for six weeks. This allowed our six teachers to be absent from their schools without needing replacements.

In a thank-you card to the ERT, one of the teachers wrote: ‘you have planted a mustard seed that will sprout to the whole universe because it fell on good and fertile ground.’ Paul Moss now intends to offer an African teachers’ conference in South Africa. The six ‘graduates’ of the London course will help him to run it.