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Soneike High – Heinrich-Heine-Gesamtschule (since 2019)


Kirsten Hofmann, the deputy principal of Heinrich Heine Comprehensive School (HHG), was a member of the delegation that came to Cape Town in March 2019. She was looking for a partner school and met with teachers from Soneike High School in Kuils River and Luhlaza High School in Khayelitsha. Later that year, English teacher Birgit Komanns came to Cape Town and took a closer look at both schools. As Soneike High School wanted to visit its partner schools on the Dutch side (including Valkenburg) in summer 2020, a short visit to Aachen was arranged. However, this did not materialize due to the coronavirus pandemic. Contact was also maintained with Luhlaza High School during the coronavirus period.

Several events were held in Aachen before and during coronavirus to prepare the school for an upcoming partnership:

2019 – Gardener Xola Keswa from Khayelitsha came to the Heinrich Heine Comprehensive School for the project week and helped the gardening group build an insect hotel

2020 – Art workshop with Uta Göbel-Groß on the topics of the SDGs, printing of the results on banners, vernissage shortly before Christmas, a banner as a gift to Luhlaza High School

2021 – Year 10 online discussion with Lutz van Dijk about his book “Themba”, which had been covered in class

2022 – Another art workshop with Uta Göbel-Groß on the topics of the SDGs, following on from this

2023 – Wall design of the pedestrian underpass in Aachen-Richterich

June 2023 – Soneike High in Aachen for the first time

From 12.06. – 26.06.2023, the long-awaited first school exchange between the two schools finally took place. Eight learners and four teachers from Soneike High spent two weeks as guests at Heinrich Heine Comprehensive School.

After a warm welcome by the partnership members and the host families in the Welthaus on the day of arrival, the following three days were characterized by many choir rehearsals in the school’s band room. The young people practiced various songs with great enthusiasm for the “Kick Off The Shack” event on 16 June at Büchel and rocked the stage. There was also an evening reception in the White Hall in the town hall with the Lord Mayor, Sibylle Keupen. The last day of school was all about the HHG school garden. Here, the Germans were able to learn a lot from the South Africans, as Soneike High is a school with a focus on agricultural science.

The second week – in the middle of hot June – began with a creative project. 17 pupils from Soneike High and the HHG met in the middle of Aachen, at “The Shack”  that had just been installed in Büchelpark, to design a mural based on their ideas under the guidance of Uta Göbel-Groß and Alice Schöttler.

Three large-format tarpaulins were painted as connected panels – with the themes of animals and plants, a kind of self-portrait and free associations and wishes for the world and life. Everyone painted everywhere, so the whole thing turned out to be one big work of art. The enthusiasm of everyone was remarkable – especially considering that some had never or almost never held a paintbrush in their hands – everyone joined in. With lots of fun, sharing and chatting, singing and dancing. With the support of some adults, who also took wonderful care of the physical well-being, the 3 panels were able to develop and finally be attached to the shack. A statement on “colorful diversity”.

You can watch the documentary film about this project on our YouTube-channel:

The remaining days were dedicated to urban gardening projects. First, flower and herb hanging baskets were made from plastic bottles at “The Shack” and hung up, then our South African guests actively helped the people from the Hirschgrün urban garden with weeding. And of course they also visited the so-called Africa garden in Johanniterstraße and harvested delicious strawberries. During the visit to the ecological settlement “Alte Windkunst” in Kohlscheid and the eco-creative adventure farm “Vier Linden”, the heads of both schools signed a partnership agreement. On the last weekend, the “Karlsgarten”, the associated farm garden and the orchards were visited.

Return visit in February 2024

Eight learners and four teachers from Heinrich Heine Comprehensive School visited their partner school Soneike High School. The South Africans invited the Laurensbergers to the Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Center on the very first day, where both the South African and German youngsters learned a lot about the origins of the people – the San – in Southern Africa. The return invitation followed immediately: from Khwa ttu they went straight on to the Buffelsfontein Game Reserve for a short safari. Further tourist highlights were to follow in the coming days: Waterfront, Robben Island, Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain and several museums (Slave Lodge, SA Museum, Planetarium, MOCAA).

In the end, it was the encounters with the people that had a particularly lasting effect, the group agreed. The Germans lived in the middle of Kuils River and experienced the everyday life of the people at first hand. They were able to spend a lot of time with the exchange students who had been in Aachen the previous year. They attended classes at Soneike High School and were most surprised by the subject “Life Orientation” – there is nothing comparable in Germany. Some also tried out the school uniform and were impressed. “Maybe something for us too?” And, of course, they worked together in the large beds in the planting tunnels on the school grounds. The Soneike pupils are now keeping their partners from Laurensberg up to date online on the progress of the vegetables they have planted.

The exchange gave the German visitors food for thought. High school graduate Elif describes it personally as follows: “Here in Germany, we often think about what we don’t have or what we are jealous of. But the trip to South Africa showed me how well off we really are here. I have become much more grateful and humble. And that feels good!”