School Exchange Phoenix – Heinsberg
It all started in 2009, when the principal of Kreisgymnasium Heinsberg, a high school in the most western part of Germany some 40 kilometres away from Aachen, visited Phoenix High in Manenberg to support the project colOURful busSHELTERs, which just took place at Phoenix at that time.
Out of this first encounter a stable school partnership emerged and six vice-versa exchanges took place! Four groups of learners from Heinsberg visited Cape Town and the school in Manenberg to work together with the South African learners in the following joint projects:
Help the Wetland (2009) – Garden of the Phoenix (2010) – Colourful Container (2012) – Benches and Tables (2014)
In June 2011 the first visit of 7 learners and two teachers from Manenberg to Germany took place. Besides a dense programme with a lot of touristic highlights (e.g. a visit of the European Parliament in Brussels, Anne-Frank-House in Amsterdam, Cathedral in Cologne) the learners created a mural at Kreisgymnasium Heinsberg together with their German partners which shows the connectivity between the two schools.
After their return the Phoenix exchange students created a similar mural at their own school to showcase their experiences in Europe and the bond with Kreisgymnasium Heinsberg.
During the second visit of four learners and a teacher in 2013 the exchange students planted a huge flower bed on the central schoolyard of Kreisgymnasium Heinsberg.
The vice-versa exchanges afforded the learners from South Africa and Germany many intense experiences related to the living conditions in the other country and the situation at their partner school. During their intercultural exchange they discovered impulses and aspirations for their future life.
The South African learners saw that their commitment within the partnership had been rewarded, “that you can make the impossible possible”, as the principle Shafiek Abrahams said at the farewell party in Heinsberg 2011. The appreciation the Germans showed to the Manenberg learners took them far on their way through the tertiary education. Some of them are currently studying at College or University.
For most of the German learners this exchange program offered them their first opportunity to get an inside view into an African country and a glimpse of what life in poverty and with constant violence resembles. But they also saw that there are different cultural approaches which are all successful. There is not only the German way to solve problems! How these experiences will influence their way of life in the lap of luxury in Germany remains to be seen.
After a very successful exchange in Cape Town in 2014 (project: Benches and Tables) the two schools are looking forward to the third visit of Manenberg learners to Germany in June 2015.