Meet the brilliant, awesome and inspiring South African teacher behind that wonderful video of the Vietnamese school children singing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika: Rodwell Steinbridge Chigome from Cape Town. (Watch video at bottom of page.)
Rodwell is in his final week of a five-year stint teaching in Vietnam, hence the singing of the South African anthem which went viral last week.
“It was just meant to be a gimmick,” says Rodwell, “but, wow, the support and admiration for the video has been second to none.”
He may have taught his class the South African anthem, but they and their country have taught him so much more.
“[Saffa] products are starting to find their way onto many shelves here – most importantly our wine and Ceres juices. And peeps are starting to sell biltong here too!”
In fact Rodwell has spent the past few years presenting his own TV show, Vietnam Discovery, for the host broadcaster VTV 4 (watch videos below) and has delighted in exploring Vietnam.
“I’ve had many wonderful opportunities in Vietnam where I was first and foremost a teacher, worked part-time for the Vietnamese Sports Science Institute as well as presenting Vietnam Discovery,” he says.
Rodwell is leaving Vietnam to pursue a career in Abu Dhabi where he’ll be involved with teaching and mentoring the Emirati teachers to increase the standard of English acquisition in the Gulf.
The 29-year-old studied Sport Science at Stellenbosch University, and has since acquired various teaching certifications and most recently completed his post grad via the University of Queensland, doing an International Diploma in Language Teaching Management.
He stay in touch with South Africa via social media, phone calls and of course – like many expats – regular visits home once every year or two.
“I’ll be home in July for a month before I head out to the desert,” says Rodwell. “When I first arrived five years ago, there was a scattering of South Africans. Now there’s a plethora of them all over Vietnam, mainly based in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
“In Hanoi, the expat community is very intimate so you have constant contact with fellow Saffas. We also have celebrations via the embassy for all the big holidays.
“It’s great to see the number increasing and that South Africans have become sought after now not only in Vietnam but the rest of Asia too.
“Shops are also slowly coming to terms with the influx of Saffas and hence, our products are starting to find their way onto many shelves here – most importantly our wine and Ceres juices. And peeps are starting to sell biltong here too!” he says.
And the children of Vietnam, he says, are not only learning South Africa’s anthem… but also very importantly about the plight of South Africa’s rhino. All Grade 5 students were given a copy of “I’m a Little Rhino” to raise awareness.
“The youth in Vietnam are actually the biggest advocates for anti-rhino poaching campaigns in Vietnam,” says Rodwell.
“youth in Vietnam are actually the biggest advocates for anti-rhino poaching campaigns in Vietnam”
“Recently we had a Half Marathon in the city centre and the Embassy here organized a Rhino run. There’s massive awareness for anti-rhino poaching out here.”
One thing’s for sure. Rodwell Chigome has been one of those special teachers and unofficial ambassadors for South Africa. His class is going to miss him when he’s gone.
“I’m going to miss them so much more…” he says.
Watch Video: Goosebumps as Vietnamese school children sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
Watch Video: Vietnam Discovery, 2015:
Watch Video: Vietnam Discovery, 2014: