UWS Early Learning Centres welcome visitor from Swaziland

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Across the oceans and set in the rugged mountains of Swaziland is a village where most families live in traditional mud-and-stick huts, with little or no electricity or running water. Within this village is the Matjana Preschool. Recently, Tessa McGavock, Director of UWS Early Learning Penrith, travelled to the mountain region, to the remote village of Kaphunga with her colleague Kate Preece. While here, she learned of the everyday challenges of the teachers, children and villagers.

Passionate about early childhood learning and wanting to make a difference to the lives of the village children, Tessa and Kate provided a number of professional development sessions during the day and returned to their mud hut quarters in the evening. Since returning home, Tessa has been providing mentoring via email. 

"I am intending to go back again next year to run more professional development workshops with the early childhood teachers in the region, just because you can actually see the difference you can make," says Tessa. "The teachers are really eager to learn and do more but with no resources it is difficult." 

This year, early learning teacher Fortunate Sihlongonyane from Matjana Preschool has come to Australia to attend an early childhood conference in Melbourne and will also be coming to UWS to learn about how UWS Early Learning (UWSEL) Centres operate and compare it to what she experiences back at home. "I will be sharing Swazi songs, rhymes and culture with the children and the teachers here," says Fortunate. "I am also attending and presenting at the Independent Education Union conference, talking about the Swazi perspectives toward mentoring and leadership in early childhood."

Some of the challenges that the Swazi preschool encounters are financial constraints, lack of training for teachers, high fees for the training available, low wages (the average salary is just $AU25 per month after graduation), and poor sanitation and building conditions.

Fortunate will be visiting Australia until 12 September, and UWSEL Centres are collecting items for her to take back to her preschool, including new children's underwear and white socks (sizes 3-6 years), kids' toothbrushes, Textas, crayons and pencils. If you would like to donate any of these items, you can take them to your closest UWS Early Learning Centre (opens in a new window).