Education, Business Students Spend Summer Teaching at South Africa's LEAP School

Dominican has joined forces with San Francisco-based non-profit Teach with Africa on a pilot project to send teaching teams to South Africa’s LEAP School. The LEAP School serves some of South Africa’s most economically and socially challenged students.

Credential students from Dominican’s School of Education and Green MBA students from the School of Business and Leadership will spend the summer working with South African students in grades 9-12. The six Dominican students will be joined by three students from the Berkeley-based Wright Institute and one student each from the University of California Berkeley and Rutgers University.

The LEAP School was created in 2004 to provide a comprehensive education with a particular emphasis on science and mathematics, two subjects that had been omitted from black students’ curriculum during Apartheid. Today the school has 320 students on three campuses, including one serving Cape Town’s Langa township, a community of 100,000 people where 20,000 to 30,000 people live in shanties without running water and electricity.

Students attending the LEAP school face extreme hardship and many are from families affected by AIDS-related deaths. The unique needs of these students led to new philosophies about what it takes to help them succeed, said Dr. Edward Kujawa, dean of Dominican’s School of Education.

“The LEAP School was created to provide students facing extreme hardship with a structured learning environment that will allow each young person to develop fully as a human being and to develop a positive, caring lifestyle and appropriate work ethic,” Dr. Kujawa said. “One of the school’s objectives is to establish an environment where positive role models are created and where successes are shared and celebrated, thereby breaking old models associated with disadvantage.”

The visit is supported financially by Teach with Africa. The organization was formed to respond to the dire teacher shortage and educational crisis facing South Africa by sending U.S.-trained teaching teams to South Africa. Teach with Africa has educational affiliations with teacher training institutes, mental health professionals and institutes, and MBA and service learning programs, said Amy Schoew, executive director of Teach with Africa.

“These educational institutions – of which Dominican was the first – are vital to executing on our mission to bring teaching teams to South Africa to support the educational infrastructure at the LEAP School and expand the school’s reach,” Schoew said.

The organization’s goal is reciprocal: to teach and to learn. By integrating their experiences into curricula and programs after their return to the United States, these educators will enhance opportunities for children in the Bay Area and beyond to identify themselves as "global citizens" through authentic connections, ongoing dialogue and shared learning with their peers in South Africa.

LEAP is the only privately funded MST (Maths, Science and Technology) school in South Africa. Dominican’s credential candidates will receive academic credit while working alongside LEAP teachers in academic classes including English, science, mathematics, technology and life orientation for six to eight weeks in July and August during the school’s winter session.

The Dominican team will focus on the importance of developing teacher mentors who understand the power and importance of creating and maintaining individual relationships with their students.

“The South African system focuses on a generalist approach to education. One of our goals is to enhance the teaching at LEAP by infusing differentiated instructional strategies into the classrooms that will work for these kids,” said Dr. Rande Webster, associate professor of education at Dominican and director of the special education program at the University.

“Dominican’s credential program individualizes curriculum by looking at where each child is academically,” Webster said. “In South Africa, the teachers are subject-matter prepared but we want to introduce individualism to the instruction and train teachers on how to assess and analyze kids in ways that may be new to the LEAP teachers.”

In addition, four students and recent graduates from Dominican’s Green MBA program will work at LEAP this summer. LEAP encourages students to be proactive in helping their villages through community service projects. The Green MBA students will support the LEAP students and teachers as they work on sustainable community initiatives and projects in the township, said Green MBA co-director Jane Lorand. The Green MBA students also will explore with LEAP students and teachers South Africa’s emerging urban needs for conscious management of energy, pollution, waste, air quality and food.

“The Green MBA students will be teaching, mentoring, and working with students on developing initiatives in their communities around sustainability, possibly doing some work with small entrepreneurial ventures that the LEAP students would identify in their community,” Lorand said.