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60 Coventry and Warwickshire volunteers head out to teach Maths and English in Africa

Three of this yearThe University of Warwick’s innovative Warwick in Africa programme, which is transforming the teaching of Maths and English in some of the poorest schools in Sub Saharan Africa, is set for another record this summer with more than 30,000 young Africans benefitting from its work.

A team of more than 140 volunteers, including 60 University of Warwick students, staff and Coventry and Warwickshire school teachers, has been assembled to provide direct teaching and coaching, mentoring and training for teachers in 25 rural and urban township locations in Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania.

The volunteers compete to take part and undertake training to prepare for teaching. Places are fully funded by donations from corporate partners, trusts and foundations, alumni and friends and the volunteers who fundraise to help fund next year’s team.

Many are returning to the Warwick in Africa experience after several summers volunteering for the programme.

Sattawat Sonsin is returning for the third time. A former University of Warwick engineering undergraduate, Mr Sonsin is currently undertaking a placement at Finham Park School as part of his PGCE at Warwick.

He said: “I absolutely love Warwick in Africa - I have definitely caught the bug.

“It allows you to immerse yourself in a completely different culture and there is a great buzz in equipping the kids with the Maths and English skills which will help them to have a better life.”

Leamington-based Maths teacher and University of Warwick alumnus Louise Ackroyd is also one of more than 40 returning volunteers this summer. She is Head of Maths at North Oxfordshire Academy.

She said: “It all started in my second year when I undertook the Student Associate Scheme, a short course programme in teaching.

“It taught me a lot and much to my surprise, I actually liked teaching. That first trip to Alexandra Township in South Africa changed me forever. I have been going back ever since and can’t wait to go back for the fifth time. You get so used to only having a blackboard and chalk in Africa. It’s made me a much more resilient teacher.”

Founded in 2006, Warwick in Africa’s high-impact low-cost model, which allows it to teach a learner for just £11 a month, has enabled it to grow rapidly.

In just seven years, more than 120,000 learners and 800 teachers have benefitted and Warwick in Africa is having a dramatic effect on test results and attendance, which typically improve by 30-40 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. Growth this year will mean more than 150,000 children have benefitted in just eight years.

By working closely with another Warwick-led programme, IGGY (the International Gateway for Gifted Youth), Warwick in Africa is able to support increasing numbers of learners like Refilwe Jeyie, from Namedi School in Soweto, now studying at Stellenbosch University, to make the transition from township to some of Africa’s leading universities.

She said: “You may have not changed the world yet, but you have changed my world and I thank you all.”

Volunteers are drawn from a pool which includes top Warwick Students, faculty staff and alumni teachers as well as students from other UK and international universities such as the National University of Singapore and Venda University in South Africa, and leading businesses such as Ernst & Young and Standard Chartered South Africa.

After competing to take part they receive training which is focussed on inspiring both children and teachers with humility, energy, empathy and respect.

The effect on motivation and ambition is profound for the children and their teachers. Competitions for African teachers to join a motivational study programme at Warwick is another key element of Warwick in Africa with six teachers making the journey this October. The aim is to further develop their knowledge, skills and motivation and inspire more teachers like Phumzile Mthiyane, one of the first Warwick Study Programme participants who has helped to transform Realogile High in Alexandra Township, one of the most challenging townships in South Africa;

She said: “I hope you might have received the news about our matric performance. We are the talk of the town. The school overall got 73.6 per cent pass rate, a huge improvement. We are now number one in all high schools in Alex.”

For corporate volunteers the effect is similar as Cullum Allen from Ernst & Young Johannesburg puts it:

“Taking part in Warwick in Africa reminded me of the importance of remembering those outside one's day to day sphere of activities. We were able to take a massive chunk out of the stigmas that existed between the children, staff and communities in Alexandra. Seeing children begin to develop hope that the corporate world is accessible to them, even as township kids, is priceless. My belief is that paths of despair, crime and racism were changed last year and I am delighted to be part of the programme again in 2013.”

So what plans does Warwick in Africa have for 2014 and beyond? Warwick alumnus and founder Patrick Dunne puts it very simply:

“Maths and English are fantastic liberators from poverty and to see the twinkle in a township child’s eye when they see the possibility of a better life and have the confidence to go for it is inspiring. Warwick in Africa is incredible bangs per buck and with more support we have a realistic chance of having helped over 200,000 children by the time we are ten in 2015. ”

ENDS

To find out more and see Warwick in Africa in action you can view a short video by Lenny Henry and a BBC documentary, “Our World: Mission for Maths” which are available at www.warwick.ac.uk/go/warwickinafrica 

For media enquiries please contact University of Warwick press officer Anna Blackaby, 02476 575910 or a dot blackaby at warwick dot ac dot uk

If you would like to invest, teach or help us in other ways then please contact Rachael Swann, Manager & Development Executive, Warwick in Africa on rachael dot swann at warwick dot ac dot uk or 024 765 74417.




Contacts

For media enquiries, please contact University of Warwick press officer Anna Blackaby, 02476 575910 or a dot blackaby at warwick dot ac dot uk

If you would like to invest, teach or help us in other ways then please contact Rachael Swann, Manager & Development Executive, Warwick in Africa on rachael dot swann at warwick dot ac dot uk or 024 765 74417.