Leading the Learners with a Vision for Tommorow
Most schools have a vision and mission to help guide their systematic approach to education. While visiting this non-modernized school, I was surprised that Emfundweni had their Vision Statement posted on the wall to greet every person entering their building. The words in the statement were short, vivid, inspiring, and concise. It stated, "We the teachers, parents, pupils of Emfundweni Primary school commit ourselves to the task of producing a society who will be in a disciplined environment of learning, sport and culture with the support of a dedicated and committed staff, governance council and parents." I believe Emfundweni is on their way by entertaining the idea of accepting international visitors to assist them in their goals.
I am elated that I was able to contribute to the school's vision by providing soccer sports equipment donated by my students from America. When the boxes were delivered to the school, the learners faces gleamed as they opened the boxes to find shin guards, cleats, and soccer balls. While the learners tried on equipment, I was moved by their smiles and I know that the experience will leave a permanent imprint on my heart. To follow, the learners practiced daily to prepare for their school game. The learners were eager to learn basic team concepts to help facilitate the game. I saw naturally talented learners playing an organized game, opposed to their daily playing of just kicking the ball around. I am assured that their team playing will continue when I leave their school because the learners are passionate about the game of soccer. I hope that I was able to motivate students to work together, to build spirit, and to effectively transfer those skills over to their classrooms. I anticipate returning to Emfundweni to see a moderate soccer field on the school grounds in effort to that would help complete one of their missions.
Learners and Dreamers
As an introduction to my lesson, today at Emfundweni the learners expressed they were dreamers through class tally by numbering different professions of what they hoped to become after finishing school. The learners were encouraged to tell what profession they would choose. Some of them expressed they wanted to be lawyers, doctors, dancers, musicians, athletes, engineers, and policemen. The purpose of the lesson was to see how many students would express their dreams and to lead them into a deeper discussion of how youth's dreams were affected by the policies of Apartheid. I lead the learners in a Q & R by asking the following questions:
What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime? What steps will you take to ensure the success of your dreams and how will you achieve them. The lesson was followed by a writing prompt after the reading of quotes and poems about people who were inspired to dream the impossible. The learners were able to act out and present to the class their reflections. I was able to compare the learners to American students because they too dream of becoming a very important person who contributes to society. However, it is more likely for American students to see adults in their communities who have achieved their goals. I was wondering why none of the learners wanted to be teachers. Maybe they see that their teachers work in their communities, so they don't consider them as successful as others in different professions; however, if they were to become a doctor would be more valued.
Outside the Walls of the Safe Haven and into the Community
Emfundweni is the primary school located in the community of Zwide. It is a neighborhood with poor-quality housing, environmental issues, health related issues, few resources, unsafe conditions for many of our children, and not to mention economic despair. On the other hand, it is where most Xhosa people feel at home. Among this community stands a monument of hope; Ubuntu community center. The cement structure stands strong as a pillar over looking homes, local businesses, schools, and markets. As our driver parked in front of the building, I became a bit puzzled as to why a building with such aesthetic grace would be sitting in an area that seemed doomed in appearance. I quickly realized that this place was seen as a relief from the after effect of Apartheid. The buildings architect itself was stunningly designed and very clean unlike the outside of the building where debris and mounds of dirt existed. I wanted to meet the amazing man behind this monument and I wondered why he would place a building of such caliber in this impoverish neighborhood. Mr. Banks, the co-founder, a soft spoken man with a heart of goal told us that he didn't want to sit around watching his people suffer. Instead of giving them a hand out, he thought more importantly they should be given a hand up. He told the group the story of how he meet the founder Jacob, a white man who appeared as a foreigner, in a local pub. Jacob, was a risk taker even before found Ubuntu. No white man would trust a black neighbor at night alone. However, Jacob did and he met a man with a common dream and through conversation, the dream came to fruition. Ubuntu now offers primary and children's healthcare to people in the community. Also, the facility houses training units for adult and employment and a child-development center. I must say I was in awe when I viewed the children's program there because the playground was centered in the middle of a garden, where the children could interact with plant life. It is said through research when children are surrounded around nature that they grow up to be more nurturing and express compassion about life. Not only is there a garden among the children, there is a roof top garden that feeds many in the community. So, the resources from within is also going out into the communities, which helps build trust.
The program has had such a great response from the community and supporters that the former President Bill Clinton endorsed its impact on the community by recognizing it as an exemplary project of his global initiative of making a change. Since this world view shined on Ubuntu, parents, grandparents, children, and families have been empowered to feel better about themselves. Thus, the two men both have lived up to their dreams and quote, which states, "Ubuntu provides world-class health and educational support to the orphaned and vulnerable children of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, ensuring they can access higher education and employment." This attitude is definitely displayed on the grounds of Ubuntu.
The pictures speak for themselves. For more information visit: http://www.ubuntufund.org/who-we-are/mission-and-story.html
MY FIRST IMPRESSION OF EMFUNDWENI TOWNSHIP SCHOOL
I must say that the "friendly city" followed me directly into the township Zwedi, which is located about 30 minutes outside of Port Elizabeth. My first morning I was introduced to my new school Emfundweni. Again, warm faces greeted me with such intensity. I felt their need to make a first impression on me with their natural tendency to invite people into their educational lifestyle. As I walked onto the u-shaped campus, little ones were congregating in assemblies to begin their day. Grade R (Kindergarten) was singing spiritual and motivational songs, as the older students Grade 5 and up received their lecture from the Principal, Mr. Andile Manelli and Deputy Principal(Assistant Principal) Tutu. Shortly after, I was introduced to the learners as Mam Matilda and they followed with the greeting "Siya namkela nonke," meaning "welcome?" I responded with "Enkosi," which means thank you. Although I was greeted in Xhosa, the students primary language is English.
I was eager to learn more about the learners (students), so I began taking in the atmosphere by absorbing the unfamiliar smells from the kitchen and scoping the unusually designed school campus. I was quickly oriented by a fellow teacher Mrs. Vivi on the school demographics. Emfundweni has a total of 900 + learners and class sizes range from 35-40 students. Learners remain stationary in classes, while their teachers switch rooms. The curriculum consist of Math, English, Xhosa, Social Science and Natural Science. In the learners classroom the walls delivered a cold feeling because of the grey cement slightly decorated walls, stark double seated wood desk, and scratchy green chalkboard. While observing the classroom, I saw learners studying using their interactive notebooks. This surprised me because some students back home also take notes in this way. I was told that the students were preparing for their exams, which would begin soon. Students had been taking exams for several days. I wasn't quit sure about their systematic approach to exam procedures, so I didn't question yet. It seemed very different than the way students in America take exams. As I stepped outside of the open door to the courtyard, I continue to wonder where the smell was coming from towards the front entrance. I headed in the direction of the smell and ended up in the kitchen, where I met Beatrice. She is a volunteer cook from the community. I greeted the ladies and learned what they were cooking. Learners eat one meal during school. Most times it is hot porridge and beans. Learners bring their own bowl and spoon to fetch lunch. Learners take a long and short break throughout the day. During those times they eat and play non-instructional games, which consist of them being creative by using their natural environment and body parts to engage with each other. Towards the end of the day, students return to the classroom for more lessons. I hear the cow bell ring and learners adjourn to their classrooms. In conclusion, my first impression of my new school was how remarkable embraced I was by the learners with their willingness to share their disadvantages and advantages of their township school.
A Warm and Friendly Welcome
After arriving to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, I was greeted with such warm and inviting smiles from many different ethnic groups, such as Xhosa and Africaans . The city is known as the "friendly city", which is reflected by the people's personality. Everyday I wake up to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and its sandy beaches lapping the shore. The climate is very moderate, dry and windy. The splendid beauty of Port Elizabeth awaits me in the days ahead. In this laid back city I seek many questions about Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Because I was greeted with such beauty, spirit, openness and the friendliness of the city; thus, I am really curious about Port Elizabeth's history, educational system, heritage and culture. Although I am in this friendly city, I ride down hilly streets overlooking townships wondering what the differences are among them. I seek to aid my curiosity with answers from locals. I want to hear the voices in the provinces and document their meaning of "friendly city."
Washington Dulles Airport
On my way to the Airport Chapel before departure to thank God for his grace and mercy. The opportunities that are given to me must be repaid with good works.