Wednesday, November 14, 2007


We have been rather busy in the last few weeks! Schools have been gearing up for final exams that start tomorrow. I have been teaching in a 7th grade classroom for three weeks leading up to the exam period. We were doing review of their work from the year in science and economics. My goal was to gain a bit of insight into the life of an everyday teacher in rural South African schools. It was very wonderful gesture for one of the teachers at the upper primary school to allow me into her classroom and work with her for those few weeks. Due to the installation of a new fence and some repair work on a few of the classrooms at the school, one of the grade 7 classes was displaced from it’s normal classroom and split amongst the other two grade 7 classes for two of the three weeks that I was teaching. This meant that each day when I came through the door to class, I turned to face a small room, crowded with about 75 young faces peering back at me. On my first day, I wondered what they thought of this strange American who has suddenly appeared in their class to teach. The students had seen me around the school grounds, and I spent time with many of them playing frisbee at the drop-in center after school, but most seemed unsure what I will end up doing at their school. With a short explaination in my somewhat improved, yet still inadequate Setswana (and quick blurb of clarification from the teacher I was helping) they understood why I was there and off we went. Over the course of these weeks the students seemed to enjoy having me in class. My lessons were somewhat different than what they are used to seeing, incorporating some fun review games from home (hangman was a favorite and they requested it on a few occasions). Not knowing what exactly had been done to teach them the material earlier in the year it was very much for me, and sometimes for them, like learning it all over again. My accent and swiftly spoken English occasionally took some extra questions and clarification to get the point across. I learned to speak more slowly and to incorporate as much Setswana into each lesson as I could to help the students understand and build their confidence in English. It was a give and take process many days, but as the days went by classes became smoother. Students seemed to be more comfortable asking questions of me, raising their hands, inquiring about help after class and more. Many of them now seek me out to say hello during the day (frequently just to hear my amusing attempt at Setswana in return), or they want to know if I will be playing frisbee after school, do I have my camera to take some pictures of them with their friends, are our other Peace Corps friends coming to visit etc. They are some amazing young people and I cannot wait to continue being a part of their lives.

My interaction with the teachers before school, after school and durning lunch were just as much of a learning experience for me as my time in the classroom. Being able to plan lessons and discuss activities with my counterpart teacher for these weeks was incredible. My knowledge of the workings of the school has expanded enormously and I feel that many doors are opening to possibilities for projects and other work that I can undertake in the coming year. On top of that, just spending time with the teachers in conversation makes for a pleasant day. The staff at the schools are very welcoming. We sit over lunch and talk about the day, the weather, family, the village, sports, etc. As I continue to make friends at the school and deeper connections with the community, more and more I realize the scope of what it means to live in rural South Africa.

There are some amazing things taking place yet at the same time some gaping holes in areas of life that need immediate attention. The task set before us of creating a meaningful, practical and sustainable impact on our village is rather daunting. We constantly are reminding ourselves that this change will take time. Very likely it will take more than our two short years in the village. However it is apparant that there are people, teachers and otherwise, in this community and this country who are working diligently toward the improvement of life here. They are qualified, motivated and doing great things all around. Continuing that in the future means raising the children to believe they can do the same. We see this happening at the schools and the drop-in center and find ourselves drawn to spend much of our time with the youth of the village. We realize that every day spent with the children here is a day we can put down in our books as a great day.

No comments:


The opinions expressed are our own and do not reflect those of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, the Republic of South Africa, or and other person, party, or organization mentioned on this website.