Chris and Debbie - African Angels Volunteers 2019
African Angels Independent School: Why we came, why we came back, why we will come back again.
In 2017, with retirement as teachers in the UK looming, we knew that we wanted to use some of our new-found freedom to make a positive contribution to the community in Chintsa, which we had come to know well through several previous visits. We contacted Friends of Chintsa, the local NGO, for suggestions as to where we might have most impact.
The immediate response was that our skill set was best suited to African Angels. The offer of our services was quickly accepted so, in September, we duly presented ourselves at the school.
Chris taught some Geography, Life Orientation and Technology lessons in the Intermediate Phase (Grades 4-7) and shared teaching and learning strategies with teachers who were keen to make the best use of limited resources and try different approaches as educators. By teaching these lessons, class teachers had the opportunity to spend time on other administrative tasks, as non-contact time during the school day was not part of the timetables, or they could choose to observe, as some did. Debbie worked with a recently-qualified teacher in Foundation Phase, offering support to some children in the class who had additional needs, as well as doing reading age assessments with the Grade 1s and 2s. The library was also given an overhaul, with recent donations being sorted through and incorporated and replacing old, unsuitable and tatty books on the shelves.
During our 3 weeks at African Angels, we were made to feel so welcome and our efforts so appreciated that it was an easy decision to make plans to return; the only question was when and in February 2019 we were back.
We spent another fruitful few weeks at the school. This time, as well as teaching some lessons, Chris assisted with the redrafting of some policies and circulated and analysed a Staff Welfare Questionnaire, as the leadership team are keen to ensure they are as mindful of the wellbeing of the staff as they are of the pupils. Debbie did a reading assessment with each pupil in Grades 1, 2 and 3, which will serve as a benchmark from which to measure progress during the year. She spent the rest of the time with a Grade 3 class, teaching some English and Maths and hearing the children read and helping the teacher to plan the reading scheme order for the next term.
We care passionately about this school and plans are already in hand to return next February/March. The staff are totally committed to the stated vision for each child to reach their full potential and work tirelessly to achieve this. The care of the pupils does not end when they leave African Angels but often continues through the efforts of Lou Billett and Sharon Edworthy to get bursaries and scholarships for pupils to access carefully selected high schools and some of the first Angels now attend some of the best schools in South Africa. For the current students, the school has now expanded to offer Grade 8 places.
In addition to the school, the Learning Centre in Chintsa East also provides other facilities for the whole community with free WiFi and reading books. The children can also attend the after school reading project there which helps them improve their literacy skills.
All this has been achieved through donations from businesses and many individuals in South Africa and across the world and all those contributing can be assured their money is being put to very good use every day.
Chris and Debbie Burnett
Chris in the classroom - 2017
Debbie with younger African Angels