More than just EFL…
Many EduSA members are not only involved with their core business of teaching English as a foreign language, they are also exercising their corporate social responsibilities in a variety of authentic and meaningful ways. In all cases, there is a clear altruistic spirit of wanting to make a difference to the lives of real people and communities in and around Cape Town and beyond. This is done in a number of ways, not only by running formal volunteer programmes for overseas visitors, but also by creating ways in which existing full time students have an opportunity to see the “other side” of South Africa by being taken into and interacting with previously disadvantaged communities, which are usually exceptionally poor and with high unemployment rates.
Each school does something slightly different, and here are some examples of what is currently being done:
We regularly arrange visits for all our students to a community feeding scheme in Mitchells Plain, which was started by one of our own staff members who lives in that community. This staff member’s son was tragically killed in 2101 and, in his honour, his family decided to invest their time and energy into giving back to this impoverished community. The students visit the feeding scheme at least twice a month and they are involved with the preparation of the food, serving, and interacting with the children for whom this will be the only meal they will eat on that day.
We send students to do volunteer work at the Aids Orphanage and Hospice in Somerset West, which provides residential care for up to 40 children (from birth to 6 years). Their objective is to create self-sufficiency and competency for children and families living with HIV and AIDS, in order to reduce the incidence of AIDS-related child abandonment and neglect. Volunteers assist the hospice staff by feeding, stimulating and playing with the children.
We offer English language courses at a discounted rate to refugee students, on an on-going basis. Some of our students have expressed an interest to volunteer at local centres and we support a needy pre-school where our students offer their time and energy in assisting the teachers there with everything from games, singing, writing and preparing meals.
Our school’s corporate social responsibility programmes and activities have been successfully integrated in all our tuition programmes and our daily operations. They are concentrated mainly around our English Language Excursions, integral to our unique concept of Language Culture and Discovery. We take our students out of their normal classroom environment, to meet, engage and communicate with local people, such as musicians, artists, project coordinators of NGO’s and many more. 80% of our Language Excursions support previously disadvantaged communities and people. In this way, the development of language and cultural competence work together hand in glove.
Our school has an on-going volunteer programme with various opportunities for students to engage with local communities in a social context. We have built relationships with a soup kitchen working in the Central Business District, that distributes warm meals to homeless people while also offering these people a friendly ear, and a warm welcoming smile. We have regular visits to a local South African Children’s Home where our students interact with children that have been removed from their family by the court. Here they play games, chat and have a lot of fun. We also have monthly soccer matches in a small township, called Philippi, followed by a walk around the township with a community leader (this is also a fundraising activity and has raised thousands of rands over the last year, which goes towards maintaining a kindergarten in this township). For students that like to help the elderly, we have an elderly home 5 minutes from the school that is very happy for our students to meet their residents and swop stories from around the world.
Besides these activities, there are often ad hoc, spontaneous visits to poorer communities both in Cape Town, as well as in other parts of the country, like Jeffrey’s Bay and Port Elizabeth, which happen on a regular basis. Several EduSA members also offer a more formal volunteer programme in which foreign students travel to South Africa with the sole purpose of participating in a volunteer programme or project. These programmes offer a variety of options for students, from working with domestic or wild animals, to engaging with infants or the elderly. Depending on the student’s level of English before arrival, the programme may or may not include an English language course.
What we want to see within EduSA is that our clients not only have a fantastic time enjoying the splendours of South Africa, but that they are also exposed to and are given the opportunity to experience part of our heritage and culture that they would otherwise tragically miss out on if they were just a regular tourist or visitor. It’s also a great opportunity for EduSA schools to get involved with our poorer communities and, hopefully and with lots of hard work and dedication, begin to make a small difference in the lives of those who less fortunate than we are.