SOWETO visit

We recently sponsored a young Warwick University student (an Epsom resident) to spend a while volunteering in South Africa.


Claudia Lussana came back to give us a lovely talk about her work there.  She brought the club a present from her teaching assignment which is pictured below. See below for her report.


In Clive Richardson's Presidential year the Youth Service Committee agreed to help Claudia Lussana, an Epsom resident, to travel to Soweto to teach English to students in a deprived area. She needed to raise money to undertake the trip and we made a donation to assist her in achieving her target total. Two students travelled from Warwick University, where she has been studying, under a scheme run by the university called Warwick in Africa. In her own words this is what she said:


Having now slotted back into my life at home, looking back on my time away in Soweto, it all seems a rather surreal experience. I must admit it was probably the most intense experience of my life that left me somewhat mentally, physically and emotionally drained upon my return home, but equally the most incredible and rewarding. I was pretty much teaching from the moment we arrived and during my six weeks taught between four and five English classes a day five days a week to grade 11s and 12s (who had their end of school matric exams coming up). Class sizes ranged from about 25-40 students, many of whom had to share chairs, desks and textbooks due to the lack of school resources.

The school in which I was placed was Namedi Secondary School in Diepkloof, Soweto and I was welcomed so warmly by both students and teachers that I found it very hard to leave. In fact, I am still missing my students now who, although were very challenging at times, really began to respond well and throw themselves into the short stories and poetry I taught them. As I watched their progress and saw how much they flourished in English during my stay, I can't even begin to explain how proud they made me feel. Despite being a bit poorly throughout the duration of my time there, it made every second (and every hospital visit) so worth it. I don't think it struck me just how much of an impact I had on these children (many of whom travel for hours to get to school in the morning and who live in some of the worst slum areas of South Africa) until the end of my stay when I was surprised with a day of songs, poetry, dance, speeches and gifts that my students had prepared for me as a surprise send off and thank you. 


Before we left, each of us was provided with some resource money from the Warwick in Africa team to spend on things we felt each of our schools could benefit with. It was only a small amount, but the other Warwick teacher who was teaching maths at Namedi and I spent the money on bins for most of the classrooms, a big white board, brooms, dustpans and brushes, and general stationary for the maths and English departments which they were extremely grateful and thankful for.


As part of Warwick in Africa's research and in order to provide them with feedback, I also asked each student to fill out an evaluation form before I left. In fact, before sending  them all back to the WiA team I scanned them so I could keep copies for myself so I shall attach them in another email to you in case you would like to flick through them. Some of their messages are very moving and will hopefully show you how much of an impact your contribution has had. I also conducted some interviews with some of my best students before leaving which I have since typed up the transcripts for and will send you along with some more photos.


Despite the daily struggles and huge poverty faced by most of the black community in Soweto, I honestly think that during my time there, I met some of the warmest and loving people I have ever come across. The experience will certainly stay with me forever and I hope one day to return.