Mr. Phil Mapfumo Visits from South Africa to Get a Taste of Riverdale Life
The Zagat Global Fellows program brings educators from schools worldwide to Riverdale to cultivate strong relationships between schools. This year, Phil Mapfumo, the deputy principal at Sumbandila, a school in South Africa, visited Riverdale to foster the connection between his school and Riverdale.
During his time here, Mr. Mapfumo learned about the different classes offered and the array of programs available to students and faculty at Riverdale. For Mapfumo, “the support that’s given to the students for them to enjoy their learning here” stood out the most. He noticed this among the different committee meetings and lessons he attended. Mapfumo also noted the “social structures at Riverdale that bring about tolerance and acceptance.” He said, “I haven't seen a student who appears to be isolated or feels like they aren’t part of the school.”
Mr. Mapfumo explored various classes, including Geometry, Algebra I, and Constructing America, an interdisciplinary English and history class required for all juniors. Upon entering this class, Mr. Mapfumo was “overwhelmed with the intensity of the issues the class discussed and the openness and instructiveness with which the students gave responses. There was an exchange of views without making any person feel uncomfortable. It’s part of public discourse that students have to engage in to move their country forward.”
Mr. Mapfumo is responsible for student affairs, discipline, general administration, teacher training, and the coordination of the academic program at his school in Sumbandila. Additionally, he is a math teacher for eighth to twelfth graders. While meeting with Tim Zagat ’57, they discussed ways in which they could further the connection between the two schools and make the partnership even more meaningful. Based on what Mr. Mapfumo has seen here at Riverdale, he plans to bring back new ideas to his school, mainly opening up more professional development workshops for teachers and educational workshops for students. In Sumbandila, “we are creating a learning environment that is exciting, happy, joyful, motivating; we’re creating a space where students feel safe and want to belong. A space that they want to be part of,” said Mr. Mapfumo.
As part of Zagat Global Fellows program, Riverdale also takes trips to Sumbandila, so the two schools can learn from each other. Ms. Antoinette Quarshie, Coordinator of Community Engagement and Assistant Director of Global Studies, has run a faculty trip to Sumbandila for the past three years. On this trip, faculty members “come together across a shared purpose in a different setting that enables us as faculty members to get to know each other differently and to create community within community.” The trip has created a special bond between these teachers that stay with them long after the trip. On the trip, the teachers are also able to learn about how the Sumbandila school functions. According to Ms. Quarshie, Sumbandila is a “program that takes very ambitious students from very vulnerable backgrounds of extreme poverty and gives them the academic skills that they need be successful in life. It creates a career trajectory that they wouldn't otherwise have been on.” Ms. Quarshie was excited about Mr. Mapfumo coming to Riverdale so that the relationship between the two schools could come full circle. Over her three summers in Sumbandila, Ms. Quarshie has noticed that both schools are filled with students who are “passionate and eager for learning. I think here at Riverdale I work with the best of the best of the best and to walk into a space where you see young people who have drive, who are focused, and who are passionate is a beautiful thing. I see the same thing in South Africa.”
In addition to the faculty trip, Riverdale also holds a student trip to South Africa and Numidia. Ms. Miriam Piña, Riverdale’s head of Global Studies, explained that the faculty trip is “to connect teachers with the school in South Africa and to give them a different perspective of what teaching can be.” She also said that by taking our teachers to Sumbandila, we are implementing new changes and ideas into Riverdale.
The Zagat Global Fellows program enabled Mr. Mapfumo to come to Riverdale to learn about the different opportunities the school provides its students, and at the same time enabled Riverdale to learn from him. Riverdale is able to improve and develop by connecting and learning from different schools and educators worldwide.