Advancing Teaching and Learning at Diepsloot township in Johannesburg

VMware trekkers and LEAP management staff

Goal: Develop an IT cirriculum for school kids in South America

Partner: LEAP is an NGO school that offers high-quality education for Grade 8 to 12 students in townships throughout South Africa. They have a strong focus on Math, Science, and English, and the school is built on the values that learners have to develop a strong moral compass and emotional foundation in order to prosper as well-rounded human beings. Aside from academic studies, LEAP is also a school that encourages open communication. The Founder and Executive Director of LEAP, described it as “developing human capacity” and developing the “heart, mind, and hand”.

Project: For the very first day, VMware led a strong in-country workshop that quickly set the tone of diving deep fast. The trekkers participated in warm-up exercises where laughter filled the lodge. They were each given a famous person and shared what we thought their character strengths were and how their strengths would help us on this trek. They also partnered up to share our character strengths with one another to understand how each of us added to the group. Lastly, Kamau, shared his story about his previous trek in Vietnam, which one of the trekkers, Ben Sier said with a chuckle, “I’ve known you at work for a few years. If the previous trek did that to you, what would this trek do to me?”

Warm-up exercises filled with laughter and movement

On the second day, the group dove into getting feedback from the teachers and staff on the lesson plans we developed and realized we had underestimated their level. When they saw the programming code on the whiteboard, Eric Betts, who was responsible for developing the curriculum for IT teachers, said, “I’ll need to re-do my entire lesson plan”. Eric stayed up late for several nights browsing through their textbooks and developed a lesson plan that were tailored to the IT teachers. The IT teachers became his fan-boys.

On Sat Jul 18, it was Mandela Day, and everyone was encouraged to do 67 minutes of service – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service. Paul reminded the school that every day should be a Mandela day. The trekkers helped cut kilograms after kilograms of potatoes, carrots, and other ingredients to make soup and chakalaka (my favorite South African dish). They then brought the soup and bread to two areas in the heart of Diepsloot township. Most houses were made out of corrugated metal and didn’t have running water, electricity, or toilets. The kids were delighted about the cups of hot soup and slices of bread we handed out, but there wasn’t enough, a moving and humbling experience for each of the trekkers.

Cooking intensely for the soup kitchen

Serving soup on Mandela Day in Diesploot Township

For the second week, the VMware group started teaching 31 teachers how to integrate technology into their classrooms, which will benefit 250 learners in total at two LEAP schools for Diepsloot and Alexandria townships, near Johannesburg, South Africa. They taught them how to collaborate using Google Drive, how to shift from a teacher-centric to a student-centric classroom through project-based learning, how to use Moodle, an online learning platform to share resources, and how to use different software to enhance teaching and learning, such as Khan Academy, KA Lite, Mindset, British Council English, and Newsela. One of the trekkers, Mohit Kataria, was ecstatic when he taught project-based learning combined with literature from Roald Dahl, which was a short story he found on their English textbook.

Training 31 teachers on how to integrate technology into their classrooms

The week came together when the teachers were broken into groups of four and came up with different lesson plans that used technology and was integrated into Moodle. One group’s topic was “who am I”, and they shared resources to help learners learn about their strengths through Google documents. Another group found a map of teenage pregnancy in South Africa and shared it as a resource on Moodle to address the topic, “Safe sex or teenage pregnancy? You choose”. We also observed the teachers using Google documents, Mindset, and KA Lite in the classroom, and it was a gift to see the learners’ eyes light up when they realized you could do real-time collaboration through Google documents, or to see them huddled around a computer, fully concentrating on the KA Lite videos. The teachers told us they plan to continue engaging their learners through collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and the use of technology after we leave.

Learners at LEAP engaged with KA Lite (Khan Academy offline version)

As the closing ceremony, we surprised the school by performing Gumboot dancing, which we learned from their Gumboot dancing club. The school choir also dragged us out to sing and dance with them.

Gumboot dancing club performing and who were our dance teachers

LEAP Science and Maths School is a beacon of hope that has the vision to change attitudes and provide hope within townships. Team4Tech and VMware Foundation had the gift to work closely with them and partner to advance their teaching and learning to the bright-minded and confident kids at Diepsloot township in Johannesburg, and they hope to continue our partnership further. This experience was truly life-changing because of the genuine human experience, the power of connecting with people, and the determination and hope LEAP holds.