A team of 15 York University students that spent a month working with children in a rural South African community has published a children’s book to support the education of young learners in Tshakhuma, Limpopo.
I am me, I am free! chronicles a day in the life of a child in Tshakhuma, and aims to encourage literacy in primary school students.
The book was written by the university students, known as Team Limpopo 2015, with input from more than 220 young students from Luvhalani Junior Primary School, located in a rural Venda community. It was published in both the Tshivenda and English languages by Kalahari Press in Sibasa, Limpopo, with copies given to each of the proud contributors.
“The students from York U came to Luvhalani Junior Primary School and now they are gone. However, the legacy that they left behind is going to live forever. No one ever thought that a little school in a rural area like Tshakhuma can collaborate in the production of a book. Not just a book, but a book that promotes reading in two languages of teaching in our school,” said Donald Mudau, principal of Luvhalani Junior Primary School.
Students of Team Limpopo are enrolled in the International Field Study Tour – Children’s Culture in Context, one of many study-abroad courses offered through the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Students in the course come from York University’s children’s studies, humanities, geography, French studies, urban studies, music, and health and society programs.
Through this course, students shared their diverse skills with the South African community through collaborations and community projects.
“Understanding childhood through experiential learning provides students with the opportunity to challenge universalized notions about childhood and about childhood on the African continent,” said humanities Professor Andrea Emberly, who runs Children’s Culture in Context. “Students are able to apply the theory they learn in the classroom into transformative and meaningful life experiences that illuminate the positionality of children in the world and the agency and diversity of children around the world.”
In preparation for the journey, Team Limpopo raised more than $9,000 to fund several important projects, including:
- tiling a school hall to be used for music practices, classes and community gatherings at Tshakhuma Primary School;
- painting 12 murals at Luvhalani J.P. School; and
- decorating a computer classroom in preparation for the arrival of 20 donated laptops at Raluthaga Senior Primary School.
Team Limpopo students were welcomed to the community by the principals, families, learners, the Department of Education and the local tribal council on behalf of the Chief of the area.
York students say the study-abroad course was a life-changing class.
“The things you learn and the people you meet here you will not experience elsewhere,” said student Lakeisha Thyme. “I have learned so much in my four weeks here that I would never have been able to learn sitting inside of a classroom.”
“This has been the most amazing learning experience of my life. I’ve never met such genuinely kind-hearted people as the people of the Venda community. I will never forget my second family in Tshakhuma,” said student Sarah Paul.
Nicholas Lall, also a member of Team Limpopo 2015, said “Venda is a world unto itself. Without this course, it would not have been possible to discover it in all its glory. It will be the first loving thought when I hear the word Africa.”
On the day of their departure, Team Limpopo 2015 was given a grand farewell that included singing and dancing into the night, with community members reminding York students to make sure there is a Team Limpopo 2016.
“The impact of these collaborations cannot be understated,” said Emberly. “The Children’s Studies Program at York and the students of Team Limpopo 2015 are putting learning into action that has visible and sustainable impact.”