School Links

St Luke's High School, Exeter and Torquay Girls Grammar School
Masithandane School in Khayelitsha

Sandra Barratt, St Luke's and Julia Neale, Torquay Girls have established contact with Miss Xoliswa Gongota, Principal of Masithandane.


Xoliswa Gongota - PrincipalI met Xoliswa Gongota at the Breakwater Lodge Educational conference on Saturday 24th October, when she attended my mathematics workshop. I was delighted to talk to her about the new OBE requirements for South Africa’s new curriculum. I was invited to visit her school and bring my colleagues to her Township area of Khayelitsha. I provisionally agreed to visit and after a couple of telephone calls she arranged for her Deputy head Mr G Mtoba to escort us to her school on Friday 30th October.

Masithandane Public Primary School was opened in 1986 and is a Xosha school with 1300 children aged 5 - 15 years and 23 teaching staff. Their school day commences at 8.00 am and finishes at 1.30 pm. The pupils wear a smart school uniform Monday to Thursday and their own clothes on Fridays. When we arrived we didn’t realise that the pupils at this school had given up wearing their own clothes and donned their uniform to impress their English guests.

Xoliswa Gongota greeted us warmly and invited Lorraine Beresford, Julia Neale and myself into her office. We presented gifts of books from St Luke’s High School, which were donated by students who took part in a walk for Africa in September. Also presented were footballs donated by Devon Purchasing which were signed by Exeter City players. The Crossings newspaper, written by young people in Devon and produced by the Express and Echo, was presented by Julia Neale.

We were all impressed with the warm welcome and enthusiasm and interest of the teachers and pupils about our country, our schools and culture.

We were asked to visit all the children in the school in their classrooms because the school did not have a hall. We were told the children and staff were all looking forward to meeting the English visitors. They had never had any English visitors before in their school and were eager to meet us.

The children were approximately 35 - 40 in each class and asked us questions like:

  • Does it rain a lot in England?
  • Who is the President of your Country?
  • Have you ever met Michael Owen?
  • Can we come to England?
  • Do you have Townships in England like Khayelitsha?

And many more questions !

All these questions were answered by us and we were impressed with the standard of written and spoken English. English is studied from the age of 7-8 upwards and Afrikaans from the age of 11+.

All the classes we visited the pupils received the Crossings newspaper and their eyes lit up as they scanned the news form young people in Devon. Many Masithandane pupils wrote articles, drew pictures and wrote letters for us to take back home to Devon to our students.

Lorraine, students and a video cameraAfter visiting all the pupils in their classrooms we were asked to teach some lessons. I taught mathematics to a class of 12-13 year olds who enjoyed the investigational style approach to resolving ‘the difference of two squares’. The mathematics teacher would like to know more about this style of working and we hope to exchange samples of children’s work in the future. An in depth look at our NC and schemes of work in Primary and High Schools would be useful to help them develop and gain perspective for their new OBE curriculum. Numeracy was of a good standard in this class which reflects the standards I have found in all lessons I have taught in South African schools.

Lorraine Beresford, dance teacher saw a demonstration of African dance. 25 pupils aged 10 - 12 years danced a traditional welcoming dance with songs. This gave an insight to their cultural performance within the arts. The boys performed a mixture of traditional African movements, soft shoe jazz together with fast footwork almost reminiscent of Irish traditional dancing. We were delighted to see this display and were impressed with the pupils interest and enthusiasm. Music, Art and dance classes our extra curricular subjects which are studied after classes during the afternoon.

After our teaching experience of Mathematics and Dance we were invited to listen to the Masithandane school choir who performed in the playground and sung lively gospel style songs without any musical accompaniment. The boys and girls sung in harmony as we all enjoyed this moving colourful performance. Parents turned up outside the gates to see their children and listen to their voices but also to have a peek at the English visitors.

After his performance we were invited to have lunch with the staff. We were asked to make speeches and present our gifts to the staff. We were then given a feast which had been made and brought in by all the staff. I showed photographs of students at St Luke’s High School which are probably now adorning the walls. We exchanged conversations about education and life in England. We were then presented with beautiful art work created by the Art teacher. A memorable moving occasion from which we will all have fond memories. We have promised to send a computer (166 Pentium), which has been donated by BT which will help the school to get e-mail connections. We will send NC information, schemes of work and exchange children’s work. We have created roots in Africa which will flourish between our schools.

  • St Luke’s High School
  • Torquay Girls Grammar School
  • Bradley Rowe First School


Sandra Barrett



We had met the Head Teacher and other members of staff at the Sharing Perspectives Conference and they were very keen for their School to be visited so that their work could be seen by our Party and acknowledged by others. It was very important to them to feel that they were making a link with UK educationalists. We were made to feel extremely welcome and the Head Teacher clearly wanted us to meet every single one of the 1,300 pupils on site! The School buildings were quite spacious but there was a lack of specalised resources but we were most impressed to see the dedication of the staff and the determination of the pupils to do well in School. We noted that Friday was usually a non-uniform day but on this occasion in recognition of our visit all the pupils were smartly turned out in their School uniforms - they were a credit to their School.

The pupils were keen to ask us questions about England, about Michael Owen and about our own families and interests. They wrote short articles and letters about themselves and their interests so that we can enable pupils in our Schools to correspond with them and establish links. We filmed all the classroom activity and took many photographs much to the delight of the girls and boys there. Later in the morning we had the opportunity to watch the pupils dancing and to listen to their wonderful School choir. It was impressive to see the achievements of both staff and pupils despite the constraints imposed on them. At the end of the morning we were treated to a splendid lunch and we presented the staff with some of the infamous footballs and a number of books. Everyone was delighted! In return we were given some pieces of art work which had been specially presented by some of the pupils. We finally left at 1.30pm - three hours later than planned - feeling sure that we would be able to sustain this link and make some useful contributions to the life of the School in future. It was a very uplifting experience and one we will remember for a long time to come.

We are hoping to be able to send a computer and text books in the near future. On arriving back in our Schools in the UK our pupils responded very enthusiastically when hearing of the opportunity to write to pupils in Khayelitsha.


Julia Neale


The Crossings Project - Devon Curriculum Services