Teachers off to America to focus on HIV/Aids

From left are, teachers Tamiryn Petersen and Trevor Mufweba, retired teacher Alura Rico, Sadtu site steward, Craig Smith, and Sadtu provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin.

St Raphael’s Roman Catholic Primary School staff are hard at work raising funds for two of their teachers who will represent the school on an exchange programme focusing on HIV/Aids in America.

The seeds for this exchange were planted nine years ago, when a delegation from the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) visited a school district in California to discuss what they and their counterpart, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) can do around HIV/Aids education.

Retired American teacher, a former member of AFT, Alura Rico, who has made Cape Town her home, is now a volunteer on this partnership project. After the South African delegation’s visit, Ms Rico visited Cape Town a few years later, when a partnership was started.

Ms Rico said: “Until I looked at the South African curriculum, I didn’t realise how much I didn’t know. The HIV curriculum here is miles away from us. Why can’t we learn from this curriculum? The curriculum in California is like a snapshot. You have a lot of knowledge here. In the Los Angeles County, HIV is on the rise among young Latino, Asian and black people.

“The idea behind the exchange was to see what we are doing as a union, and what we are educating our students about HIV and Aids. There had to be something we could do together to teach the children. At the time, we were interested in high schools and we partnered with Manenberg High. So the high school pupils were given the facts, instead of myths, and they, in turn, spread the word to other high school pupils. During that process, Sadtu and AFT partnered on this programme. Over the years, we’ve had pupil and teacher exchanges from both sides.”

After Ms Rico met St Raphael’s principal, Ingrid Leukes, as well as other principals, they started a process to partner with primary (elementary) schools in America. This was when the Artesia, Bloomfield and Carmenita (ABC) Federation of Teachers also came on board. The two St Raphael’s teachers, Trevor Mufweba and Tamiryn Petersen, will leave for America in October.

Sadtu provincial secretary, Jonavon Rustin, said it was decided to expand the partnership, after seeing the success of the Manenberg High School and Artesia High School partnership.

Mr Rustin said: “We need to get the information to our pupils early, and so it was decided to focus on Grade 6s. St Raphael’s was chosen to partner with Leal Elementary School and Vusumanzi Primary School in Khayelitsha was chosen to partner with Tezlaff Elementary. The focus is on best practices, development, and how to teach Grade 6 pupils on HIV and Aids. Our delegation will do observation, and share teaching methodology. We are very excited about this project. This will definitely not be a once-off. We want to sustain the programme and we are working hard to ensure that. Ms Rico, Sadtu and the principals, make up the committee. This partnership will exchange ideas on how the South African, as well as the American child, can have a better education, and hopefully the prevalence of HIV gets diminished.”

Mr Mufweba, like his colleague, Ms Petersen, are excited about the exchange, as it will be of “best interest to all the schools involved”, he said.

“We will take with us the lessons learnt and the success stories. We have been working hard since we learnt that we will be visiting America. This is not just for us (him and Ms Petersen), but for all the other teachers at school – as it will be ongoing. HIV and Aids is a concern for the whole world, and that is why the sharing of good practices around HIV is so important. We are going with a package and will produce a booklet which we will share with our colleagues (in America) – and they will reciprocate.”

Ms Petersen said is came as a surprise to her that the South African curriculum is more advanced than the American one, as she “was thinking we are in a third world country”.

She added: “Being afforded this opportunity caught me off-guard.

“Part of my training involved HIV/Aids – a topic I am very passionate about. Our school is also an HIV-friendly school. We believe if you know better, you will do better. We try to take the pro-active approach – prevention is better than cure. I’m very excited. I come from a disadvantaged background and education was a way out poverty for me. Going to America is a major thing for me.”

St Raphael’s will host a fund-raiser, in the form of a jazz evening, on Saturday August 27, at the Spra Hall, in Belthorn Estate, from 6pm to midnight. Tickets, at R50 each, are available at the door and from the school. Sadtu is also hosting a fundraiser in September for this trip.

If you would like to assist, contact St Raphael’s Primary School at 021 696 6718 or Mr Rustin at 083 633 5714.