Each year, on the 21st of May UNESCO celebrates the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. The main aim of the annual global celebration is to actively promote cultural diversity through dialogue and information sharing. The thought behind this is that the promotion of cross-cultural dialogue takes us a long way towards a more peaceful co-existence worldwide.
Dialogue and information sharing is now easier than ever in a fast-paced digital world, with information just a click away. The Love Trust’s Nokuphila School in Thembisa has found a unique way to promote cross-cultural dialogue through their pen-pal programme.
The lost art form – Pen-pals are seen as a somewhat lost art form dating back to the early 20th century, but prior to the swift uptake of technology in the digital era, writing letters was the primary mode of communication. Not only was it an effective way to keep in touch with loved ones, but pen-pals are traditionally a way to converse with someone you may have never met, who lives in a different part of the world than you.
While some may view the art form as obsolete, the learners at the Love Trust’s Nokuphila School are in an entirely different frame of mind, having discovered just how fun the school’s pen-pal programme is. The pen-pal programme is a Love Trust initiative, which started in 2021 and is run between the Nokuphila School and the Lycée Camille Sée School, located in Paris, France.
Pen-pals promote a love for language – The schools’ Head of Department for Foundation Phase, Thobekile Moyo, is passionate about languages and the written word, having completed her Honours in Linguistics two years ago. She advocates strongly for the programmes’ multiple benefits, adding that the process of letter-writing gives the students time to practice their writing skills, and spurs their creative juices.
There is no mandate on what they should write and they have total freedom over how they choose to converse. Moyo states that the programme has enhanced their work in other creative subjects, and it’s heartening to see the great care they take with their letter-writing, decorating their letters with hearts and flowers.
Although the partnering school is primarily a French school, they have managed to find common ground with their pals. Many of their European friends are from international backgrounds, and do not speak French or English as their first language.
This has led to many hours of fun for the learners on both sides of the globe, with a primary conversation starter being teaching their friend how to greet in their native tongue.
Smart boards bring their pen-pals into the 21st century – Since its inception, the pen-pal lessons have been well-received and the initiative is still running with the original 31 Grade 6 learners, who started writing letters when the programme piloted in their Grade 4 year.
The school has been able to introduce a technological teaching aspect to their journey, through termly Zoom calls with their pen-pals, making use of their classroom smart boards. Being able to practice greeting their friends and chatting ‘in person’, has been a fantastic way to promote cross-cultural dialogue, as the learning process is fun for them all.
Empathy is the most invaluable lesson – The Nokuphila School has learners from different South-African backgrounds and cultures, and the pen-pal programme has simply enhanced the school’s promotion of cross-culture dialogue. Cultural diversity is crucial in developing empathy, respect and tolerance amongst the youth.
Discovering common ground with their pen-pals and finding new ways to express themselves has at times put the learners outside of their comfort zones. However, it has ultimately helped them grow socially and emotionally, as the programme has widened their horizons.
Moyo has commented that the best lesson for the learners is that, although they may speak a different language, or use a different type of transport, they are ultimately all the same—simply human. While they may start a conversation based on their differences, the learners have discovered just how much they have in common through exploring their friendships with their pen-pals.
The real teaching here is perhaps not in creative writing or English, but in finding tolerance and empathy. Learning how to embrace diversity and all the beauty it brings to the world is an invaluable lesson. Moyo summed it up perfectly, “We are all one at the end of the day.”
The Love Trust – purpose
- Founded in 2009, we are a South African charitable not for profit organisation (NPO) with a vision to nurture future generations of servant leaders.
- Providing vulnerable children with quality Christian education and social care that includes academic excellence, spiritual strength, and moral integrity.
- Creating a resilient organisation together with our partners to benefit the communities we serve.