Five years ago, I found IkamvaYouth by chance and had the opportunity to work with amazing people at the Western Cape’s Winter School. This year, I came back to Ikamva on purpose. I am PhD student from the US, researching democracy and citizenship education in South Africa. I knew I had to do so some preliminary research in SA, so I made sure to schedule my visit during the Winter School. This time, I came to Gauteng, but once again I was welcomed warmly and put straight to work, developing lessons, tutoring and recruiting learners for an afternoon stream, the Peacebuilders’ Club.

Before I arrived, I prepared several English fundamentals lessons and was nervous that they would be too easy, too hard or just too American. With the help of the Ikamva staff and feedback from tutors, I was able to adjust and witness some moments of real learning. No matter where you are, introducing a little controversy and debate can help to engage learners. Between family relations, the death penalty and President Obama’s meeting with President Zuma, there was plenty to talk about. Tutoring at this year’s Gauteng Winter School was a rewarding and eye opening experience. From Romeo & Juliet and human anatomy to the French Revolution and layers of the atmosphere, I was constantly trying to keep up with the brilliant learners of Ebony and Ivory Park. More than once I had to double check my facts and ask more in-depth questions to challenge the motivated learners. I had to avoid the maths’ lessons altogether because they were over my head!

I was also able to help a fantastic group of learners form a Peacebuilders’ Club. I have worked with the US Institute of Peace for several years and they have developed a great serious of activities and lessons on peacebuilding and conflict resolution for secondary school students. All I had to do was bring these activities along and the learners quickly took over and became real peacebuilders and leaders. They did skits, created art and made goals for the future of the club. I want to say a huge thank you to the Peacebuilders’ Club for being so open-minded and motivated! On my last day with Ikamva, the whole group went to Freedom Park in Pretoria. This was an incredible experience for me, both as a visitor, and as a student of history and citizenship. It was moving to see the memorial to those who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom, and it was equally moving to see the tutors and learners participate in a dialog about the struggle and what it means to them.

This demonstration of active citizenship shows how IkamvaYouth not only helps learners to achieve in school, but also to participate in their communities and nation. I have been back in the US a week now, and I can only say a big thank you to the Gauteng staff, tutors and learners for an amazing time at the 2013 Winter School!