'I'm nervous, Mr US President, but I have to ask about overcrowding'

2013-06-30 09:20

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He was nervous because he "did not expect to be chosen" but when 24-year-old Hein Dinkelmann got the chance to ask US President Barack Obama a question during a meeting with young people in Soweto yesterday, he had to ask the question that had been on his mind "for a long time".

How do South African teachers make a difference in the lives of children in classes of up to 90 pupils?

Dinkelmann, who told Obama he was nervous, said talking to the US leader had inspired him to take matters into his own hands.

"I will go to my school and suggest my mangers set up an assistant teachers’ programme. We are the future; all of us are the future. We need to fight for what we want. "

Assistant teachers and technology, if used effectively, are some of the ways governments can deal with the issue of overcrowded classes, Obama had said earlier.

Obama said it was preferable for governments to budget for small classes but, “we all know not all governments can do that”.

But "if you have some sort of technology, a couple of laptops, you can leverage one teacher into multiple instructions,” said Obama.

He mentioned the possibility of piloting these methods locally with the help of the US.

Obama told the crowd that countries that do not properly invest in their young people would not succeed.

“The most important investment any over government can make, is educating the youth and providing them with the skills they need to provide,” said Obama.

Dinkelmann said he was pleased with Obama’s response and would be happy if it would affect policy.

He teaches at West Ridge High School in Krugersdorp and is completing an honours in education at the University of Johannesburg.

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