The German Experience - hinterland students
Guyana Chronicle
July 20, 2003

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GEORGETOWN (GINA) -- On Thursday July 17, the seven-member team of students and teachers from the Santa Rosa Secondary School in Region One (Barima/Waini) returned to Guyana after a three-week school exchange visit to Germany.

The students and teachers spoke with GINA on Friday about their first exposure to the world and their commitment to maintain the relationship between the two schools.

Delip Bridgelall: "The experience was not very strange. It was strange in the way that I did not expect to see a lot of vegetation. The roads are well controlled and maintained. There are a lot of strange buildings and the people preserve their culture. They maintain their historical sites well. For example, we went to the famous castle 22km from Leichlingen and the famous cathedral (589 stairs) in Cologne. What I observed is that their poor people are like our richest people." About his experience of the classroom scenario, Bridgelall observed that the German students do not wear uniforms to school; that they eat in their classrooms whenever they wish and that they have a lot of spending money daily.

He learnt that the State provides financial assistance to persons who are unable to secure jobs.

Bridgelall, like the other students on the trip, wrote the CXC examinations before going on the trip. Even though he hopes to graduate shortly from the Santa Rosa Secondary School, the teenager plans to remain in his community to serve his people by providing assistance in Agriculture as he sees the need for more productivity.

He says his first option would be to further his studies in Agriculture as he continued to explore what life has to offer.

He, along with the other students, hopes to continue contributing to maintaining the school link by sharing their experience with students of the school and to render whatever support they can. Many of them are hoping to become teachers at their alma mater so that their contribution could be meaningful.

Cyntia Rodrigues, 17, from Kamwatta in Moruca, said she enjoyed the trip very much. What amazed her was the maintenance of the forest, which she says are kept properly by youth groups. "You could walk underneath the trees and they are very clean. Also, there are a lot of information on the forest trees about their species and history in general," she said.

She observed that the Germans are very friendly but they do not take things for granted. "Things that we would take for granted, they don't, "she said.

Initially, Ms. Rodrigues wants to offer her teaching services at the Santa Rosa Secondary School after which she hopes to pursue a career in professional nursing so that she can "give better service to people."

Rachel Abraham, 16, said she was "fascinated by many trees. It was like I was expecting a city of buildings and steel," she said. The architecture is very old-fashioned and very different from Guyana."

She observed that "family life is very different too. Families are very busy. They hardly have the opportunity to be at home… and some children are out very late at nights.

The food and environment was strange and different. "At first I thought I could not cope but I adapted to it." According to her, they have been assured that the partnership would go on and that perhaps there would be similar exchange visits in the future.

The teenager has a long-term goal of becoming a detective. "I know that that is unusual, but that's what I want. I want to investigate and deal with people who break the law," she said.

She advises young people especially students of her school to "take up education, study hard because education is everything. It is the road to success and without it you cannot make it in life."

She said her family was very proud of the opportunity she was given to learn about other people. "If I have another opportunity to go to another country I would be able to live up to the expectations."

Tonya Wilson, 16, of Kwebanna, and a former dormitory student at Santa Rosa, said she and her family were thankful for the opportunity to go on the trip. What enthralled her in Germany were the teaching facilities. The local students participated in Information Technology, Mathematics, English and Physical Education classes with their foreign counterparts. She observed that the classes were very demonstrative and effective with slides, video and so on.

Daniel Rodrigues: "It was a good trip. But I encountered a problem with the culture barrier. I had a hard time adapting. Now I would be able to cope with different people."

The teenager observed that the Germans are very proud of their culture and that they have full respect for punctuality.

He said that the continuation and growth of the school link depends on the students who were on the trip, who now have a better understanding of the German culture, to pass on the other students, parents and teachers.

He said there are some existing pen friendships, but this needs to be expanded. Young Rodrigues has his aim on becoming a medical doctor in a few years time.

Bernadette Dindyal - teacher

For her, the experience was not very shocking, since she lived in Venezuela for a while. The language, at first, was a bit difficult but eventually she learnt a few words and phrases. Perhaps it was because the food was different that she learnt "Isn aber hunger" - (I am hungry), among the first phrases.

She believes that languages are very important for everyone because no one knows what opportunities they may encounter.

Like some of the students, Mrs. Dindyal observed that the teaching strategies were very different and easy for the teachers because of the available facilities. "In Santa Rosa most times it is chalk and talk," she said.

Teacher Bernie, as she is called, said the visiting team taught the Germans a lot about Guyanese, particularly Amerindian culture. For instance, she said that many of the students and teachers overseas were of the view that they could not survive without electricity, telecommunication and so on. However, "we showed them how we survived under these conditions," she pointed out.

The Germans have contributed significantly, especially in terms of providing sport gears and communication and electricity supplies to the interior school. In turn, the interior school basically shares information on Guyana. "They are very excited about what they learn from us."

According to Victor Ferreira, Senior Master acting, despite the fact that the students are all final-year students, the aim is to have the team members meet and present a report as well as to share their experience with other students of the school as well as teachers and parents.

Santa Rosa Secondary School established a link with the German school - Staditsche Gemeinschaftshaupschule Am Hammer, in Leichlingen, Germany a few years ago. The partnership emerged out of a Conference for Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin held in Germany some eight years ago.

According to him, the school-link programme hopes to reach out to other hinterland schools. He said another town in Germany (Levereskusen) expressed interest in establishing a partnership with the local school. However, he suggested that the town make contact with the North West Secondary School since the existing partnership is focused solely on Santa Rosa Secondary School. "I think it would be a better idea to spread this kind of programme across Guyana," he said.

The retiring teacher said he hopes that this initiative, should the school agree to the link programme, would see the Region One Education Department supporting the two school link programme.

Mr. Ferreira is very concerned about the continuation of the programme, since he managed it since it materialized in 1995, but is retiring next year.

In another three years, the next German team is expected to come to Guyana on a similar mission.