Trainee teachers take inspiration from South African Zakhele to raise HIV awareness in schools

Issue date: 10 June 2015

Six PGCE English students from UWE Bristol are benefitting from a unique placement opportunity (1-12 June 2015) to work with Zakhele, a South African educational music and drama group, who are currently on a five week tour of 13 primary and secondary schools in Bristol and North Somerset.

UWE Bristol is the proud sponsor of the tour as part of the University's contribution to Bristol 2015 European Green Capital.

Members of Zakhele come from the Nkomazi region of South Africa, an area which has been devastated by the HIV virus and has an estimated 15,000 orphans. The group is funded by the Portishead based charity, ZA foundation.

Back home, due to the diverse languages and dialects, the group of 14 use cultural song, dance and drama to educate across local communities– research has shown that this is having an impact on better awareness and sexual health.

During the tour, Zakhele will host drama sessions, workshops and storytelling, interacting with over 4,500 pupils. The aim is to educate, promote cultural awareness and social responsibility in young people to break down barriers and reduce prejudice about HIV/AIDS.

For the trainee teachers at the beginning of their careers, this is an exciting opportunity for them to work with an experienced group from a charitable foundation to plan and deliver personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) workshops about the challenging issue of HIV.

This is the first time that the placement programme has been available. It began with the trainee teachers observing the Za Foundation and Zahkele delivering workshops on HIV at both primary and secondary schools.

After several days of preparation this week the group lead their own session on HIV at Gordano School – their literacy focused workshop looked at the use of 'The Power of Language and Media'. The students will end the programme with a presentation back at UWE reflecting on what they have learnt and what they will take forward into their personal teaching practice.

Speaking ahead of the workshop, PGCE English student, Megan Pugsley, said, “I am really excited about being part of the Zakhele team. I think it is so important for students to learn about such serious issues within a safe and trusting environment, and in a fun way.

“I think the issue that I may face when taking the session is the emotional element of the topic. We will really have to take into consideration the students' feelings and ensure that they feel that they have taken some useful information away with them and that they have enjoyed themselves, despite learning about such a serious topic.

“In terms of my teaching practice, it will really help me in terms of taking a topic and a style of teaching that I am not familiar with, and using it to engage the students.”

Andrew Evans, AHoD ITE Secondary, Dept of Education at UWE Bristol, said, “We are delighted to be able to offer this interesting and challenging placement opportunity to our trainee secondary school teachers, who will benefit greatly from working with a group as energetic and enthusiastic as Zakhele. Za Foundation have been very supportive of the University in accommodating this innovative programme and we are grateful to them for their willingness to work in partnership. The opportunity to collaborate internationally to deliver impactful Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) workshops will stand trainees in good stead for their future careers as secondary school teachers. ”

Karen Lewis, AHoD: Professional Development, Dept of Education, said, “We're proud that UWE Bristol is sponsoring Zakhele's tour this year and as a Department to be able to offer this unique experience to our students. I first connected with the Za Foundation during their 2013 trip to the UK, when I evaluated their educational practice and their HIV Sexual Health awareness programme in North Somerset Secondary schools. I thought Zakhele would be an excellent link during their return visit this year as part of the Green Capital activities, due to the impact they have on young people. It's a great opportunity for our trainee teachers to work with them and Zakhele members have also benefitted from this reciprocal relationship.”

Anna Young, Director, Za Foundation, said, “We are delighted with the support that UWE has given the Zakhele tour this year and it has been a real pleasure to work with the PGCE students. They have enthusiastically participated in all the Zakhele workshops, both in secondary and primary schools, and they have given us a fresh perspective on our activities, which is always useful.”

There are several opportunities to enjoy the sights and sounds of Zahkele during their tour.

· Queen's Square, Bristol, Sun 14 June at Celebrating Sanctuary

· Portishead Methodist Church, Sat 20 June – 19.30 – Free concert

· 'Zakhele and Friends - A Charity Concert', Colston Hall, Sat 27 June – 19.00

Proceeds will allow Zakhele to continue its work in educating, supporting and inspiring orphans and vulnerable young people in their home community.

Visit or call the box office: 0844 887 1500

For more information on studying at UWE Bristol, visit the Department of Education website.

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