On 16th August, 2017, Prof Lauren Resnick (age 80) and Prof Paul Resnick, mother and son, both professors in the United States of America, had the privilege of visiting the Ramongwana Primary School. They were visiting South Africa with the Village Harmony group, learning South African traditional songs and dances and singing with choirs in Limpopo Province and the Western Cape.
At the school, the vice-principal allowed them to visit classrooms. They visited a grade 2, 7 and R classrooms. All three classes sang for them, which was a wonderful treat. They also had a chance to see the grade 2 students doing Sepedi and English lessons and the grade 7 students studying mathematics. The grade 7 learners had many questions for them about America. They pointed out that different countries often borrow good ideas and practices from each other and then asked learners what they in America should borrow from South Africans. The class sent two of their learners to the front of the class, where one of them started to bang out a rhythm on the desk and another did an impromptu dance to that rhythm to the amazement and happiness of the visitors.
“The children were right. Learners in South Africa are generally are better at singing, dancing, and rhythm than those in the United States and it is both a source of great joy and a resource that can be used for education. Our Village Harmony tour is our attempt to learn a little bit of it “, said Prof Paul Resnick.
Prof Lauren, who has visited many schools in many countries was very impressed with the level of engagement of both learners and teachers with the lessons and with each other. She described the level of engagement as "spectacular" and said it was very unusual among the many schools she has visited.
When the two Professors spoke with the Vice Principal and Principal, Lesiba Ngobe, at the end of the day, Prof Lauren asked repeatedly what the secret was to how they got the learners and teachers so engaged with learning. Alas, they did not have any special secrets that she could take home and offer to other schools. It seems that it requires many things, from selection of good teachers to parental involvement in school governance and to leadership at many levels that empowers and supports the teachers.
Prof Lauren thinks it would be exciting for the school to try out some of the discussion-based curricula that she and many others have been experimenting over the past decade. This curriculum depends on the kind of engagement by teachers and learners that she observed already happening at Ramongwana Primary School. Some of the ideas about this curriculum are described in a paper that will be circulated by UNESCO. Anyone who is interested is invited to contact Lauren by email,
for access to the papers.