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South Africa Update
“Setting out, our expectations were too low,” says Dr. Sandra Crosser, an Ohio Northern University professor of education and member of Partnership South Africa (PSA).
Crosser is referring to the Ohio Northern University Department of Education’s partnership with the public schools of Lephisi Village in rural South Africa.
Formed a few years ago, PSA has exceeded the goals anticipated by Crosser when she sought the help of Ohio Northern, Ada Rotary, Rotary International and local communities to bring hope to the impoverished African village. When the principals of the village high school and primary school indicated a need for technology training, teacher professional development and training in child development, Crosser and others felt called to bring their knowledge and expertise to Lephisi.
This summer, the PSA team flew to South Africa again to continue to help the villagers. Previously, the Lephisi schools’ teachers and students squeezed into a large shipping container for schooling, but now they are attending class in style. Community Playthings provided classroom furnishings for the kindergarten children, and donors provided funds for carpeting and various educational materials.
Besides brand-new classrooms, PSA donated several hundred books to start a library at the primary school. In addition, the team worked with the school administration to write a grant for books from Biblionef, an organization that provides and donates books in all 11 official South African languages to children’s organizations throughout South Africa. The library is particularly important because it is the only one within 30 miles of the village.
After a couple of days, the teachers noticed that the new library books were getting dropped on by bats, so the PSA team introduced expandable foam to the school. With the foam, they filled in the cracks that allowed the bats to enter the building. Soon, many villagers were using expandable foam in their own homes to keep away the bats. It has become a huge health upgrade for the entire village.
Recently, teachers in Lephisi have begun using computers to connect with ONU alumni. The teachers have been trained in the use of literacy and technology by the PSA team. ONU teacher education alumni are matched with the African school teachers and, through e-mail contact, they share experiences and advice.
The Offices of the Dean of Arts & Sciences Admissions kindly donated ONU clothing and gifts to the Partnership. During visits, Crosser says it is normal for her to walk around Lephisi and see several villagers wearing ONU T-shirts. The T-shirts are just another connection made between the two villages over 8,000 miles from each other.
Junior communication arts major from Columbus Grove, Ohio