IT Sligo has just announced its intention to expand its ‘Student Placement in Africa’ programme, due to unprecedented results in African aid.
Since 2006, the Applied Social Studies Degree course at IT Sligo has sent 30 third year students on placement to work as volunteers in the township of Kayamandi, located in Stellenbosch South Africa. Following the success of the programme, with major progression for the township and positive feedback from the students involved, the college now intends to expand the programme to the degree in Early Childhood Care and Education. In January 2011, 8 students will have the opportunity to go to South Africa for 13 weeks.
The students, placed by programme coordinator and mentor Margaret Gilmore, will work under the supervision of Elsa Pretorius, Director of Prochorus Community Development Programme, a social development organisation in South Africa, and for 13 weeks they will help provide early childhood care and education for young people ranging from toddlers to teenagers.
Kayamandi means “sweet home,” yet ironically 65% of the population live in shacks, an average family consists of eight people and often three generations are forced to share a two-bedroom shack. IT Sligo students contribute to these families by providing parent and toddler supports, giving literacy classes, teaching sports and recreation and drama classes. Through the direct involvement of IT Sligo, 30 crèches have been established providing much needed early childhood care and education for over 500 children.
“The Applied Social Science and Early Childhood Care degrees equip IT Sligo students for employment across a range of sectors” says Roisin McGlone, lecturer in Department of Humanities, “and armed with this experience in Africa, students have an advantage over their peers when going out into the workforce. They have gained not just a degree, but life experience,” she continued.
“I visit the project annually and I see the students gaining confidence. They grow in self belief when they realise their ability to survive in a challenging environment like an African township. They develop a sense of empowerment, and in their own way, empower these communities aswell.” she concluded.
Grainne Queenan, a graduate of the course and volunteer at Kayamandi said she “felt very privileged to have played her small part,” and added that when interviewed for her current position, her experience was beneficial as it clearly demonstrated her ability to work as part of a team and use the limited resources available efficiently and effectively.
Fundraising pays for flights and accommodation the students travelling out to the South Africa in January. The students choose to live in the township community with house parents and by doing so contribute directly to supporting these families’s limited incomes.