Youth find common ground across the Atlantic

High school learners from two very different countries – South Africa and the US – shared their experiences of school and life during a marathon two-hour Zoom organised by Inkululeko and supported by Awarenet’s Talking Technology to Power project.

Eight learners from a technical high school in Syracuse, New York, met with 12 learners from Ntsika and Nyaluza high schools.

The atmosphere at the School of Journalism and Media Studies venue was chill and relaxed. Before the meeting started, we enjoyed the pizzas, chips and soft drinks.

In the first half of the meeting, the learners asked the students in the US questions they collected beforehand. These questions ranged from what after-school activities the US students are offered to how safe they feel in their schools regarding gun safety and the too often occurring school shootings in the US.

It was noticeable, that the learners of this group were very concerned about the safety of the students and had many questions regarding that topic. However, the US students assured them that they know of the safety concerns but still would not say they feel unsafe at school for that reason. All schools and universities have safety measures like metal detectors at entry points and on-campus security guards.

The learners were also interested in the experiences of black learners in school and the wider district. Thanks to the after-school groups where BIPoCs (black, indigenous and other people of colour) can come together and talk about their experience in school and the general diversity of the district, racism is not as big of a problem as in more suburban parts of Syracuse. It is more likely that other social issues – like bullying and a lack of social cohesion – could negatively affect one’s school experience in the US.

That topic was a smooth transition into the second phase of the meeting, in which learners now answered the questions the US students collected. A huge part of the second phase of the meeting revolved around social issues the South African learners face in their schools. Peer pressure, drug abuse and teen pregnancies seem to be the biggest issues the learners face.

The learners also explained to the US students how seriously they take their education when in school, in order not to get distracted by peer pressure and other influences. Besides that, the learners also mention the need for a possible contact person in school who you can talk to when you face bullying or maybe even face issues at home. One school already has a contact person for this purpose, but the second school does not have one yet.

This Zoom meeting was the first the learners attended, and they really enjoyed it and are very keen to attend the next one as well. Since the time went by too fast to talk about all the topics the learners would have liked to talk about, the learners were excited for the next meeting. Some topics that came up in the second phase of the meeting were how members of the LGBTQI+ community get treated in US schools and the comparison of resources in each location. Both topics can be discussed more thoroughly in the next meeting.

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