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Chatham Day School - Thabisile GLP School-to-School Logo School-To-School Partnerships Chatham Day School & Thabisile Primary School

GLP's School-To-School Partnerships serve to create a dialogue between schools participating in our High Literacy Clusters from around the world and the USA.

Our pilot between the South Africa and the USA has had wonderful participation from Thabisile Primary School in Soweto and Chatham Day School in New Jersey.

Chatham Day School (CDS), New Jersey, USA
Thabisile Primary School, Soweto, SA

A Special Visitor From South Africa

Laura Peppetta, an educational consultant who has been working with GLP to develop programs at Thabisile Primary School in South Africa's Soweto Township visited with Chatham Day School students, faculty and staff bearing messages and well wishes from Thabisile Primary School in South Africa.

Donna Greco, CDS Community Service Director and Laura Peppetta

During the week of February 7-11, 2008, Mrs. Peppetta met with students in Donna Greco's seventh-grade Leadership class as well as with the students in fourth and sixth grade who are participating in the School-To-School Partnership program.

The visit was the first part of what may become a reciprocal exchange - with public- and private-school teachers from New Jersey (and perhaps other American locations) going to South Africa in the future.

The students at Thabisile Primary School, which teaches kindergarten to fourth grade, are overwhelmingly from lower-income families. According to unofficial statistics, no less than 1.6m inhabitants are squeezed into the 110-square-kilometer township southwest of Johannesburg (hence its name, Soweto - SOuth WEst TOwnship). Soweto is home to about a third of the population of Johannesburg, but contributes only about 4 per cent to its economic activity.

Laura and Andrew Peppetta with Christina Vanech. Christina first met the Peppettas in South Africa then then introduced them to CDS on behalf of GLP

"The rate of unemployment in our area still remains very high," Peppetta said. A 2007 report placed the unemployment rate in Soweto at 50% and noted that 90% of households had fallen behind with their electricity bills (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article2448864.ece)

The challenges facing the area impacted the school. When a group of GLP volunteers were introduced to Mrs. Peppetta in August 2007 they were also invited to visit the school. When they saw the challenges facing the school yet the enthusiasm of the students and teachers to overcome all obstacles, they immediately decided that they had to help.

"Yes, South African teachers have much to learn from what I see here in the USA," said Peppetta, "but we can also contribute ideas and strategies." At Chatham Day School, Peppetta tried to explain the differences between Thabisile and Chatham Day School to the students.

laptop for ThabisileNicky Vanech presents Culture Day video"I was asked a lot of questions about what we are eating in South Africa," she laughed. But drawing from her observations during the two-week visit she also noted many similarities between the two educational systems. Chatham Day School principal Dr. Pamela Fiander said the basic administrative concerns are the same.

"Are the children learning? Are they on grade level?" she said. "We both try to make accommodations for children who don't have the means to come to school. We have the same experiences with parents - about a third who are active in making the school successful. We have the same goals of developing our teachers."

While she visited, CDS students demonstrated how much they have learned about South Africa's history and culture. The Chatham Day School faculty and students also presented Laura with a brand new Dell laptop which will allow Thabisile to become more productive.

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Laura Peppetta (in black holding letters) with Pingry Short Hills Library Director Ann D’Innocenzo, Pingry Board of Trustees member Anne DeLaney and Pingry students who wrote letters to their Zuurbekom counterparts
Peppetta at Pingry Lower School

On February 11th, Mrs. Peppetta also had the opportunity to visit another nearby school, the Pingry Lower School. A special morning meeting was held at which their Student Council Representatives presented her with student’s pen pal letters which she will deliver to Zuurbekom Primary School, another school that GLP volunteers donated books to in 2007.

The Pingry students then saw a video created by students at the Thabisile School and listened to an inspiring presentation by Mrs. Peppetta. The remainder of the morning was spent touring the school and visiting classes.

A number of volunteers from the original group will return to South Africa with GLP this summer to continue their work at Thabisile.  Mrs. Greco, Community Service Director, and Board of Trustees member Lynne Rathgeber from Chatham Day School will also travel to South Africa in August in preparation for the second year of the School-To-School linkage with Thabisile.

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