SWAMPSCOTT — In 2008, Judy McKenzie of Danvers, then a social studies teacher, arranged for Swampscott Middle School to become a sister school to one outside of Cape Town, South Africa.
Since then, students have written letters and even had a video conference with the South African school once a year, using equipment at Salem State University and at the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town, McKenzie said.
On Friday, students got to interact personally with Sheila Galo, the principal of the Siyabulela Primary School in Langa, a township outside of Cape Town, on her nine-day visit to the U.S.
McKenzie, who still oversees the sister-school program in retirement, struck upon a nonprofit called Opportunity Education Foundation and its sister-school program to link up Swampscott Middle School with Siyabulela.
Many parents whose children attend the South African school cannot afford basic school supplies, according to Opportunity Education Foundation’s website, and so Swampscott students raise money for the school by making and selling bracelets.
Seven teachers from Swampscott traveled to the school in 2012.
“It’s unbelievable, because I would never have dreamt I would come to this school,” Galo said.
A donation paid for Galo’s trip, said McKenzie, who retired in 2011.
Galo said her students get excited when it comes time to video conference with Swampscott students.
She said her trip to America will help break down misconceptions Swampscott students may have of life in South Africa.