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Helen Appleton’s Durban Diary – Sunday 28th October

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By Helen Appleton — Tudor Primary School, Sudbury, Suffolk

Author’s Notes

The following extracts come from a diary I wrote while on an International Teachers’ Professional Development (ITPD) visit to Durban, in South Africa, back in October 2007. I wrote this diary each morning, following the day on which I had experienced the events. I would usually start writing in long hand in my journal at about 5am and write for about an hour. The diary represents my honest thoughts and my initial reactions. In typing them up, I tried hard not to edit or alter them with hindsight.

The South African Education system refers to Principals, Educators and Learners (as opposed to heads, teachers and children/students) and I have tried to use those terms as far as possible.

The South Africans use the term coloured to identify mixed race. It is not seen as a derogatory term. Black usually refers to African Zulus.

We will be printing an extract from Helen Appleton’s Durban Diary each day for one week, starting on 30 April.

Helen Appleton's Durban Diary - Picture 6

Sunday 28th October


This whole visit has been a tremendous privilege and it has definitely been the life-changing experience I had predicted.

I will go home with so many amazing images and memories but most of all with excitement and hope. It has reinforced my belief in the human spirit to overcome apparently insurmountable problems. I heard time and again principals saying ‘change is happening but I doubt the effects will be in my lifetime’. But on my visit South Africa is only 13 years on from Apartheid and the government has massive debts and deplorable underfunding for education to overcome.

“There is still a huge social divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. But those that have very little have strength of hope and aspirations”

As I suspected at the start, there is still a huge social divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. But those that have very little have strength of hope and aspirations.

I sense there is still a long way to go in this country but that, with the right support, it will come right in the end and all children will have the chance to have an education system they so need. There are reforms going through to make teacher training more accessible and provide different routes into teaching. This is a really exciting opportunity and one that we might learn from in the UK.

I also learned that funding is not everything. You need passion and belief to make a difference. South Africa seems full of these resources, wonderful people working extremely hard to make a difference. I only hope I can do a little back home to support them, by telling others about what is going on here.