By Nika Madyoon
Head of Middle School Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau and middle school science teacher Florence Pi visited five schools in Africa this summer. Cazeau went to Africa to see different schools and how they compare to their American counterparts. Pi hoped to learn from teachers in different environments and “broaden [her] understanding of educational systems,” she said.
“Africa is a place that will awe you and humble you and make you think,” Pi said.
Their trip included visits to two low-income schools, a state school and two independent schools.
Cazeau and Pi’s first stop was at Hocet Secondary School in Tanzania, an institution for African orphans started by Sydney Schaef, who previously worked with Teach for America. Hocet takes on very low-income Africans and “prepares them to enter a very capitalistic world,” Cazeau said. Harry Goldfisher ’12, who has been involved with Hocet for over two years, met with Cazeau and Pi during their visit. Cazeau recalls how the students excitedly chanted Goldfisher’s name upon his arrival.
“This was an example of me being inspired by a student,” Cazeau said.
Goldfisher, who spent last year helping arrange and set up the computer lab at Hocet, spent five weeks teaching English and computer skills this year. He has learned a great deal about the value of education, he said.
Cazeau and Pi visited the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, an institution that takes young Africans aged 16 or older and preparing young Africans for college in Great Britain and Canada. The expectation at the Academy is that students will return to Africa and become leaders once their education is complete.
Cazeau was pleasantly surprised with what she saw at their third stop, the Girls High School of Praetoria, a state school. Pi attended the school while living in South Africa for two years. While not a private institution, the school reminded Cazeau of a private school.
Cazeau and Pi concluded the trip with a visit to Capetown, where they visited two independent schools that, along with Harvard-Westlake, are members of the G20 Schools, a worldwide association of secondary schools. Bishops Diocesan College, an institution exclusively for boys, and its sister school, St. Cyprian’s College, had the same level of parent participation and computer advancement that one would see here, Cazeau said.
“It was almost as if I was visiting Harvard-Westlake in a foreign country,” she said. “They were us.”
Cazeau said the two had time for some touring while abroad. They stopped in Zambia to visit Victoria Falls and went on a safari through Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Pi is planning a four week trip through five African countries for the summer of 2013. The trip, which will be open to 15 sophomores and juniors, will involve a road trip and camping through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Tanzania, and students will learn both about science and history throughout the continent.
Feeling somewhat out of place in the outdoors gave Cazeau a new outlook as an educator. She gained a better understanding of how some students may feel when they do not immediately “fit into” the Harvard-Westlake community and how she can help them overcome that.
“It made me a better teacher,” Cazeau said.