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Finding a Future in the heart of Africa 

Jessica Wheatley jetted off to South Africa for a once in a lifetime trip to teach nursery children with help from the Futures Fund.

The Primary Education student was part of a group of three that spent two weeks teaching children up to the age of four in Strand, on the outskirts of Cape Town.

She was already taking part in a placement programme at home as part of a course, with the school actively encouraging her to complete the trip to South Africa.

Once there, she found that most of the children had limited experience of speaking English and Jessica had to adapt her teaching style and come up with more creative ways to get her message across to her classes. These techniques are similar to those used to teach English as a foreign language to students, allowing her to build on skills she had initially developed while studying at Sunderland.

“The communication barrier had to be overcome by learning phrases and using alternative communication methods such as smiling and gesturing,” she explained.

“This was similar to that expected when teaching a child with English as an Additional Language in an English school and was something we had studied and discussed at length during university lectures.”

Jessica also found that the children responded well to fun activities like songs and games. These allowed her to connect with pupils despite the language barrier and she has already started to use those techniques in her teaching career back home.

She added: “We tried to incorporate fun games and songs throughout the day to keep the children motivated and engaged. This is something that I brought back to my teaching practice when I returned home, devising activities which included all children and gave them an alternative route to their learning.”

During her stay, Jessica took the chance to explore the stunning landscape of South Africa through trips and a safari. She gave her thanks to the Futures Fund for making the entire trip possible and for ensuring that she was able to fully experience the country during her time there.

She continued: “As teaching was only on the morning, the afternoon gave me the opportunity to explore South Africa – something I could not have done without the Futures Fund Scholarship. I was able to climb Table Mountain and see the spectacular views of Cape Town, an experience that I will never forget.”

“I also completed a 3-day safari during my stay, which was a once in a lifetime experience. Riding elephants and seeing lions, tigers and cheetahs in their environment was fantastic. Having the experience and being able to share these experiences with the children was something which fascinated them and they were keen to know more.”

Thanks to the insights and skills she developed during the trip, Jessica was offered a permanent place as a year five teacher at her final placement school. She found that the trip not only improved her teaching skills, but also gave her added confidence and experience that can’t be found at home.

By going to teach in South Africa, I gained more confidence. I had never dreamed of being able to have such an amazing opportunity offered to me and being brave enough to go. I definitely learnt a lot from the experience and was able to bring knowledge back with me to use in my own classroom.

Article written by Matthew Shevlin, University of Sunderland Journalism graduate.


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