The world is about to get a little smaller for students at Grantsville and Crellin Elementary Schools. Tracie Miller, principal at Grantsville Elementary School, and Dana McCauley, principal at Crellin Elementary School, recently participated in a ZOOM meeting with Ngesi Mphanthi, principal of Ndukumbana Primary School in a traditional tribal area outside of King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, to discuss the possibility of regular interaction between students in Garrett County and students in South Africa.
Tim Watson, counselor at Grantsville and Crellin, and Vianne Bell, Trustee at Garrett College and Board member of a local non-profit, Coalition for Effective Local Democracy (CELD), organized the ZOOM meeting for the principals. Additional participants in the meeting from South Africa included students, parents, and members of the school governing board at Ndukumbana Primary School. This was a major event in their village, to talk in person via ZOOM with people in America.
Follow up discussions between Tim Watson and Ngesi Mphanthi are taking place to organize what is hoped to be weekly interactions between the schools starting in late January 2021. Per Watson, “We feel like there will be so many advantages to this program.” Current plans are for Kelli Frantz’s 4th grade class at Grantsville, and Brittany German’s 5th grade class at Crellin, to hold weekly ZOOM meetings with students in South Africa. Barbara Baker, Superintendent of Garrett County Public Schools, is pleased with this initiative. She commented, “I want to thank Mrs. Vianne Bell, the CELD, our teachers, and our administrators for their efforts to provide this unique opportunity for our students. I am very excited about what the children will learn from their new friends in South Africa and hope to participate or observe one of their interactions.”
This direct interaction between students in Garrett County and students in South Africa is an extension of a diversity program involving Garrett College and these two elementary schools that have been ongoing for several years. Watson and Bell have been running this diversity program, which brings international students from Garrett College to make presentations, to each class in Grantsville and Crellin Elementary Schools about their countries. According to Bell, “The Diversity Program has been such a success that this was a natural progression. The children of Garrett County have enjoyed the Garrett College International Students and their discussions. The children have asked many thoughtful interesting questions. This project has been rewarding on many levels.”
CELD, a local non-profit in Garrett County, provided 10 lap top computers to Ndukumbana Primary School earlier this year. To prepare the school for the computers, CELD also provided funds to upgrade security at the school, build a safe charging station for the computers, rewire the school, help upgrade the electricity in the school, and partnered with Vodacom to install an internet tower at the school. This is the first school in their area to have access to computers. Children are flocking to Ndukumbana so they can learn how to use them, which will provide the students with unlimited opportunities to learn about their world. The students are anxious to learn as much as they can, and they are very excited about interacting directly with students in America.
Students in Garrett County are fortunate that each student has access to a computer. The growing numbers of students at Ndukumbana Primary School, however, only have 10 computers to share. They also have limited access to the Internet. To help facilitate the proposed interaction between local students and those in South Africa, CELD is raising money to increase the number of computers and enhance Internet connectivity at the Ndukumbana Primary School. To learn more about this school visit www.celd.org.
Learners at Ndukumbana Primary School with their new computers and desks.
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