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US opportunity for Joburg learners
12 February 2008

Some 16 learners will be picked from the ranks of the new Johannesburg Student Council for an exchange programme with the American city of Atlanta.

NOT every high school learner gets an opportunity to fly overseas - but 16 newly elected members of the Johannesburg Student Council will head to Atlanta, in the American state of Georgia, for an exchange programme later this year.

The City was approached in October 2007 by John Eaves, the chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Fulton County Government, in Atlanta, to propose an exchange programme between it and Fulton county.

The class of 2007: a new Johannesburg Student Council is about to be put in place
The class of 2007: a new Johannesburg Student Council is about to be put in place

“He [Eaves] first had a meeting with the provincial department of education, which then referred him to us because it knows about our students’ council and how it operates,” said Kureish Isaacs, the manager of the Office of the Speaker.

An agreement between Johannesburg and Fulton was reached and the mayoral committee approved the exchange programme, which will now take place between August and October this year. Fulton is in north-central Georgia; it was the 144th county to be created in the state, which has 159 counties in all.

“Fulton county takes its students on exchange programmes annually and it wanted to do the programme with us this year,” he said.


Johannesburg Student Council
The 16 participants will be selected from the ranks of the 2008 Johannesburg Student Council. “By the end of March we will have the new student council members, who will be drawn from different schools across the city. We are busy working with different schools at the moment and these schools are very diverse.”

Isaacs said that in the search for participating schools, the City aimed to have a mixed bag. “We would like to see a student from Orange Farm interact with a student from Crawford College; it would also be nice to see how students from different schools view issues affecting our country.”

The newly elected group will be sent on a leadership camp for three days. “This camp will help students bond with each other and it will give us an opportunity to see who the strong candidates in the group are. With that knowledge it then becomes easy to select the 16 students who will participate in the exchange programme.”

The City would also run a two-month long ambassador programme. “This is where we get to see how clued up they are about their country, political systems, the legislature and how the City generally operates,” he said.

By the time the learners fly off to the United States they will have a good understanding of their country and what it is to be a South African citizen. “They will then be able to share with international students our experiences here in South Africa as they also share their unique experiences with them,” Isaacs said.

Leadership ability

This cultural exchange initiative will give learners who display leadership ability an opportunity to prepare themselves to be leaders on an international level. The exposure and understanding of the culture, customs and habits of people from other countries will position young people to think globally, provide ethical leadership and embrace diversity, according to a report from the City’s Office of the Speaker.

Isaacs said all student council candidates were drawn from school representative council of learners structures. They must be interested in community upliftment programmes, leadership programmes and in political issues.

The report says youth exchanges provide students with unique experiences, giving them a more balanced understanding of a country. They encourage new perspectives from the students and open their minds to the world. More importantly, these connections help teenagers on both sides of the exchange programme to grow and gain maturity.

Exchange programmes offer learners unique opportunities and help them to develop and start thinking globally. They learn first-hand about other cultures and customs; create life-long friendships across cultures; gain new perspectives on their own country and the world; begin to understand how closely connected the people and countries of the world are to each other; and open young minds to the importance of understanding other languages.

The City was particularly selected to take part as it has many similarities with Fulton County Student Council. The town junior councils are development orientated and non-party political, they create a sense of civil awareness and pride, they give an opportunity to hear the voice and views of teenagers, and they are a forum for learners to contribute to the development of policies directed at the city’s children.

American visitors
Fulton students will be in Johannesburg from 1 August to 15 August. They will be taken on tours and will visit schools, local government settings, courts and tourist sites. “We planning to take them to Aids homes, Soweto museums, theatres, 2010 stadiums, universities, Gold Reef City and the Union Building,” Isaacs said.

Fulton county had undertaken to fund airfares, accommodation, food and other expenses for the Joburg learners during their stay in the States, according to Isaacs. The Office of the Speaker would budget R100 000 for land travel and food for the visiting American teens.

The Johannesburg Student Council visit is scheduled for 22 September to 4 October. According to the school calendar, schools will close on 26 September and reopen on 6 October, meaning that the participants will miss four days of school.

The department of education has agreed to arrange with the relevant schools to make special arrangements for them. “We don’t want the programme to interfere too much with their school work, so there will be extra lessons to make up for the four days lost,” Isaacs concluded.

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Last Updated on 19 February 2013