South African Schools Programme


Face Africa has been facilitating positive partnerships between schools in the UK and schools and communities around Southern Africa for more than 8 years.  Our international programme offers transformational experiences for young people and educators alike, by creating a range of travel based interactions that build long-term relationships and foster mutual understanding.

The concept of these partnerships is to facilitate regular ‘Impact Visits’ between students and African communities.  These revolve around interactions with peers, and usually an “impact project” aimed at supporting ongoing development in the host community (and integrated with long-term development aims). Students learn to engage positively with others and have an opportunity to contribute constructively to the outcomes and objectives.  Our schools programme has received critical acclaim in the United Kingdom for its unique footprint, and is known for its positive legacy to both host communities and to students in their home environments.


We currently facilitate approximately a dozen partnerships, or ‘Impact Visits’, to various destinations every other year.  Most of the UK schools we work with are state run (as opposed to private), and many are located in economically challenged parts of the country.  Pupils and staff that elect to participate in the ‘Impact Visits’ take responsibility to work collectively together for around 12 to 18 months ahead of the trip in order to raise enough funds to finance their expedition as well as to support the proposed project work in the host community.

The transformation in the participants after an educational exposure like this is clearly noticeable, even within a short time frame.  Curriculum themes such as Global Citizenship, Community Cohesion and Social Enterprise are addressed and processed as part of the experience.  Many students find the experience to be a pivotal moment in their lives, and find that it subsequently affects their life choices in terms of higher education and in some cases even career choice.

Our longest standing partnership was established in 2003 and exists between a school in Yorkshire and a school in Lesotho.  Impact Visits have taken place bi-annually, and the beneficial effects of the partnership and project work achieved here are clear to see.  During trips our groups have often been invited to visit King Letsie III at the palace in Maseru to have their work acknowledged.  Students that participated in such partnerships as teenagers in the past, are now returning independently as adults to further cement the relationship.

Adapting the programme into Local Schools

We are about to launch a new programme in 2012, aimed at working specifically with local South African schools.  Following our observations, and taking with us the experience of managing school groups in cross-cultural situations, our plan is to develop a number of product offerings that will bring a structured, fun and educational slant to ‘learning outside the classroom’ in South Africa.

The essence of this programme will be to focus on the continent of Africa, to encourage South Africans to embrace their own environment and come face to face with the challenges and the achievements of both South Africa and surrounding countries.  The trips will be created to inspire the youth of tomorrow to undertake journeys of discovery with fellow Africans. The emphasis is on encouraging nation building, to break down the barriers of fear and ignorance, and to show the natural ease with which young people can bridge communities and cultures.

Visions for the programme

We plan on offering three main categories of product: –

Weekend courses, residential and camp based to destinations within 2-3 hours driving distance of Cape Town (initially).  These will have a variety of themes, but an example would be a conservation focus through a participatory camp in an indigenous forest, learning about its importance, engaging in alien plant clearing (& understanding why) and the planting and conserving of indigenous species.  Another would be a heritage related focus on the Khoi-San, discovering the cultural history and learning bush skills with an authentic San guide (hunting and gathering, connection to the environment and natural resources, etc).

1-2 week trips to other parts of South Africa & Lesotho.  Here we can build in the option for some partnership work with a school or community from another part of South Africa.  The trip themes will include adventure (hiking, biking, etc), environmental awareness courses (learning about bush skills, tracking wildlife and conservation), as well as volunteer impact Projects, such as community service programmes.

Cross border: Expeditions beyond the boundaries of South Africa.  True discovery adventures to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania or Uganda.  The key focus here is to break down some of the stereotypes associated with Africa – both politically and as tourism destinations.  Experiences that will leave a legacy well beyond the return travel date.  There will be opportunities for community engagement partnerships in other African countries, volunteer projects, as well as educational themes – such as vocational choices, personal reflection and development.

What next?

We would like to meet with educators, principals, school marketers, parents, or students – anyone in fact who has read this far and is interested in what we do.  Our aim is to use this programme as a platform to address education related issues and to combine positive knowledge development with practical ‘outside of the classroom’ journeys of discovery.  In order to do this, we need to understand in finer detail what those issues are, and how we can best design the programmes.

What elements of the curriculum are schools / teachers struggling to teach in the classroom that might be better learned in a different environment?

What opportunities for this kind of travel do the students already have and what are important factors when choosing such adventures or experiences?

What challenges do schools face when organising such trips and how can we help them meet these challenges?

If you are interested in the programme, and are willing to give some of your time / expertise to discuss the above with me, I would be very pleased to hear from you.

Join us on the Journey to give our young people a tangible understanding of and a real pride in Africa – and to learn what it is to be truly African!

Many thanks

Tim Ellis
Face Africa

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