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Medway Music in South Africa

Licensed Music Teacher Debbie Sowter visited a school in
South Africa to see music being taught and to offer her own expertise.

I've always held a firm belief in sharing and spreading my love of music to others as far as reasonably possible. Over the years I feel privileged to have been able to continue doing so as a Medway Licensed Music Tutor participating in the Dynamics Wider Opportunities Programme at KS1 and KS2 throughout Medway.


During my work on this, and other programmes, I've recently had the opportunity to visit a South African Primary School. I travelled to the Province of Mpumalanga in South Africa on a self-funded, voluntary basis with two class teachers (funded by the British Council) from New Road Primary School, who are linked with the school in South Africa.


With an extra suitcase packed full of recorders, books, pens, music equipment, pencils and gifts, I reached my destination, which was the village of Agincourt.

Following a good night's rest it was off to school for a 7:30 start. Feeling a little jet-lagged after the 17 hour journey via Johannesburg and Kruger, we were treated to the most fabulous welcome by the staff and children at Khayelihe Primary School; we felt honoured with such an extravaganza of wonderful singing and dancing.


After we had observed some lessons (the classes are big with 60-80 children!) I was asked to go into the different Grades (from Nursery up to Grade 9) to listen to and teach songs. I'd already given much thought, before leaving the UK, as to what repertoire to use; although I wasn't at all sure what to expect! I decided to try some rounds, action and singing songs. The children and their tutors picked up the language and melodies very quickly indeed. Their ability to sing natural harmonies are, of course, amazing!


I presented the recorders and music tuition books to Greffiths Nxumalo, the Principal of the school, who was delighted and grateful to receive them. He asked me to give a Music Presentation to the team of Educators before we left, so they could continue to teach the children from the books. With recorders and repertoire firmly in hand (and only one hour) we began to learn and play music together. Unprepared for such brilliant gusto and recorder enthusiasm, it soon became apparent I really should have also packed a stop sign!


The school, very kindly, took us on several excursions throughout our stay, including the amazing Kruger National Park (no lions but leopards, elephants, giraffes, impalas, kudos, crocodiles, hippos, buffalo and much more!) We were also taken to see other primary schools, nurseries, high schools, local villages and townships which gave us a general overview and insight into day-to-day life, the people and their communities.


I feel privileged to have had such a fantastic opportunity and experience. Thank you to all at New Road Primary School, Khayelihe Primary School, and the British Council; to Dynamics and Medway Music Association for their contribution of recorders, music books and pencils; to Chickenshed Inclusive Theatre (who I worked and trained with as Music Director/Arts Practitioner on one of their UK Outreach Projects) for kindly allowing me to use "Celebration" song as part of my repertoire; and, finally, to all of those who kindly donated further recorders and much needed pencils and pens.


A BIG thank you to Greffiths, Mary, Nhinini and all the other Educators at Khayelihe Primary School and their family and friends for such welcoming kindness and hospitality. I shall never forget all the wonderful children with their beautiful smiles and singing.


Music certainly is, in my opinion, the "universal, uniting language with the feel good factor". Where to next I wonder.......?


Debbie Sowter

Licensed Music Teacher

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