Study Tour to South Africa 2010

Study Tour to South Africa 2010

Romeoville teacher Steve Stefanski with students in SowetoAn Unforgettable Experience

Children singing at a Community Center in Soweto, a lesson on economic development, and a university class using Council for Economic Education (CEE) materials – all were part of the experiences of 24 teachers, including two from Illinois, who took part in the 2010 Study Tour to South Africa in late July and early August. 

Representing Illinois in this program were Juanita Thurman from Lincoln Park High School in Chicago, and Steven Stefanski from Romeoville High School.  Joanne Dempsey, Econ Illinois President, was one of the Faculty Leaders for the Study Tour.

Sponsored through funding from the U.S. Department of Education, CEE creates a unique cultural exchange by exposing U.S. teachers to the results of economic education efforts in developing democracies; and providing an opportunity for teachers and learners (students) in the partner country to learn from U.S. teachers.

Visits to schools included observation of an economics lesson in the classroom, discussion between the U.S. teachers and the learners, and teacher-to-teacher discussions of the common challenges and issues facing educators today. This program highlights the importance of bringing a global perspective into the classroom, which participating U.S. teachers are required to do when they return.

Thurman noted that in the school visited where the teacher had been CEE trained, the lesson taught used engaged learning activities and more effectively conveyed the concepts.  She found visits to a University of Johannesburg economics tutoring session for students to be very enlightening.  These sessions used CEE lessons and engaged learning to reinforce the lectures students attend for their regular class sessions.  Thurman also noted that many of the frustrations and bureaucratic barriers faced by teachers in South Africa are the same as those faced in many U.S. districts.

Stefanski described his emotions as we toured Kliptown in Soweto, an area of incredible poverty:  “The people living here have very limited resources, yet they were very welcoming and cheerful.  Seeing houses made up of items that I would throw away in America was very shocking.  I saw dozens of children running around with old and dirty clothes… Eventually we stopped into the youth community center, where the children performed for us. They sang about all the things that God has given and taught them.  At this point, I looked down at the little boy who had held my hand most of the morning, and he just smiled and laughed at me.  This experience in Soweto will be something I will never forget and will talk and teach about for the rest of my life.”        

While one South African educator commented that our visit to his school “left a footprint that will never be erased,” the U.S. teachers agree that this experience has left memories that will never be erased from their minds.  Stefanski noted that this tour “…changed my life and outlook on the world.”