May 10, 2010
Pen Pals from Cape Town and Massachusetts Meet by United States Diplomatic Mission To South Africa
Learners from the Siyabulela Primary School in the sprawling township of Langa, outside of Cape Town, saw and spoke with pen pals from Swampscott Middle School, near Boston, Massachusetts on May 6. The children "met" by digital video conference held at the city of Cape Town's Central Library. The conference was part of ongoing cooperation between that library and the U.S. Mission to South Africa, under the "Usinfo@Central" program.
This is the second year that consulate has facilitated this unique opportunity for dialogue between youth on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. The relationship between the two schools developed when a Swampscott teacher visited Siyabulela on a tourist visit to Cape Town and met the primary school's principal.
Participants in the DVC proudly showed off their talents and accomplishments to each other. A loud round of applause erupted in Cape Town after one of the Swampscott students played a tune on his accordion. The Siyabulela principal explained that the accordion has a meaningful role in the history of Langa, as it was commonly played by the migrant workers who lived in the worker's hostels.
The students exchanged probing questions, such as "when you look outside your window at school, what do you see?" and "Is racial discrimination a problem where you live?" When asked "What do you know about South Africa?", and in turn, "What do you know about the United States?" students on both sides reported that their knowledge had been greatly enhanced by what they had learned as pen pals.
In Cape Town, smiles lit up the room when the learners recognized their own personal American pen pal speaking, and the South African students rounded off the occasion with a rousing song.
A Siyabulela Primary School learner engages her American pen pal during a video conference at Usinfo@Central