Chatham Day School Students Aim to Make A Difference in South African Students' Lives As They Themselves Are Transformed
September 2007-May 2008.- At the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, Chatham Day School (CDS), in conjunction with the Global Literacy Project, began piloting a Global Literacy Program. As an inaugural school in GLP's revamped School-To-School Partnership Program we sought to promote a thematic study of South Africa and provide reading and writing opportunities, that would be integrated with the Middle School social studies and language arts curricula.
A large part of the initial impetus of the program came out of a trip report that high school student Christina Vanech made about her experiences in South Africa. CDS head of school, Dr. Fiander, and CDS teacher Donna Greco realized that there was an opportunity to expand on CDS' commitment to make the world a better place, as well as supporting CDS' goal of students gaining an expanded world perspective, by participating in a school partnership.
The program selected a small Soweto school, Thabisile Primary School, as the partnership school. Thabisile provided a useful window into the struggle of present day South Africa to improve the condition of its people. Located in a materially very poor area, it is simultaneously very rich in cultural history and and a focus on self-transformation.
A large part of the program thus involved exposing CDS students to the history and culture of South Africa as well as the reasons why South African students place such an emphasis on education as a mechanism for reconciliation and community development. CDS students learnt about how important human rights are to the new South Africa and they got to compare the America Bill of Rights to South Africa's charter on human rights.
By the end of the first semester, the two schools were exchanging videos of each other's "Cultural Days" where they got to observe each other's dances and drama production.
During the spring semester, CDS students embarked on a needs assessment of their partnering school where they were challenged to come up with various responses about what needed to be done to improve educational access for South African students. Out of this, the students decided to help improve productivity by fundraising to purchase equipment for literacy programs at Thabisile and then to lead a book drive to create resource collections in every classroom of Thabisile.
The spring semester was enhanced by a visit from Mrs. Laura Peppetta, the Literacy consultant at Thabisile. She brought greetings from the students and faculty at Thabisile. While she visited, CDS students demonstrated how much they have learned about South Africa's history and culture. The faculty and students also presented Laura with a brand new Dell laptop which will allow Thabisile to become more productive.
On Monday, May 19, 2008 Chatham Day School and the Global Literacy Project celebrated the completion of this year-long School-to-School Partnership. Dr. Olubayi, president of GLP, presented CDS' head of school, Dr. Fiander with a plaque for the school; Mrs. Greco was recognized for her personal commitment, and each student in the fourth and sixth grades was given a Certificate of Commendation in recognition of Global Citizenship.