Few children in Swaziland can stay in school past grade seven. Many children even have to raise themselves because HIV/AIDS has taken both parents.
Two visitors from the impoverished African country brought their story to the college this week. They are teachers at Cabrini Ministries, an orphanage in Swaziland that serves 120 orphans.
The visit is another step in building a partnership between the college and Cabrini Ministries, following the summer visit of some college faculty and president Marie George.
Teachers Sharon Singleton and Simo Mamba have lived their entire lives in a country where 4o percent of the country in infected with HIV/AIDS, the highest percentage in the world.
“Like the saying goes, if you are not infected with AIDS, you are affected, because somebody in your family will have died of AIDS or will have AIDS,” Singleton said.
“What makes us unable to maybe progress fast,” Mamba said. “Is because all the books that were getting from the donors, they are not associated with their culture,” Mamba said.
This first stage in establishing a partnership between Cabrini College faculty and students with Cabrini Ministries has allowed Singleton and Mamba to be provided with cultural and educational experiences in the United States to implement into their education programs.
Professor Joseph Clark, assistant professor of education and member of the trip, said all components of the college’s academic departments would assist in the development of the orphanage in Swaziland.
“Coming back here we did layout what we thought were the essential components of a partnership with them,” Clark said. “We’re still in the first year of our partnership and we’ve already made some significant progress.”
Clark, along with George; Dr. Beverly Bryde, chair of the education department; Dr. Erin McLaughlin, assistant professor of business administration and Dr. George Weathersby, a member of the board of trustees, stayed in the drought-stricken region of the country for one week. They all were able to welcome Singleton and Mamba to this country for a mutually beneficial experience.
“Just bringing Sharon and Simo here…isn’t this a wonderful experience. They are very important players at Cabrini Ministries,” Clark said.
The college hopes to eventually have students visit Swaziland as an immersion trip experience.
Mamba says the idea of having American college students visit the hostel would be a great influence on the children.
“We can be very glad if we can get some students here and visit so that our children can see how important it is to get yourself into books and read,” Mamba said.
The students attending public schools are faced with the challenge of not only learning in a second language, but the over populated classrooms are lacking school supplies.
“You find that in each class a teacher may be taking 80 students per class which makes it difficult for the students to grab the basics of each subject,” Mamba said.
According to Singleton, who is responsible for the childcare component of the hostel, the children need more undivided attention to advance themselves in their education.
“When you sit with each of the kids they have a different story behind each and every one of them,” Singleton. “What we are focusing on strongly is reading and reading and reading! I don’t think we can have enough reading,” Singleton said.
The campus community welcomed Singleton and Mamba during the campus-wide reception hosted in the Mansion. Gene Castellano, vice president for marketing and communication; Ms. Shirley Dixon, assistant professor of education; President Marie George; Dr. Susan Pierson, assistant professor of education and Bryde all spoke on behalf of the college and its excitement of having the Swazi guests for the week.
The visit also included a campus-wide presentation in Widener Lecture Hall called “Educating Children in Swaziland” which allowed Singleton and Mamba to discuss their work with the orphaned children and the mission of Cabrini ministries.
Singleton and Mamba plan to return home with plans to further enhance the after-school program and ultimately the child care services.
“What I would like to say to a child is you’re not the only one that has lost somebody some of us have survived it. You may be born to be an orphan but that’s not the end. You can change things,” Singleton said.
“We can help them get the education and nobody can take the education away from them.”