1. As of April 27, 2016, there is work being done on the new container building but it is not completed. It is very close though. I have no idea why it isn’t complete.
2. As of April 27, 2016, the paint job has not been completed and no one has been coming to work on it.
3. The motivation letter we wrote about the need for an administration clerk did no good. All such positions are frozen and no hiring is being done throughout the district.
4. A woman from the Ed Dept came to tell our principal that they want to electrify the school! Of course, no time frame was given but since that was going to be done by us with the MassMart grant, we now need to find another use for the money. There are plans to build an admin building; perhaps it can be used there. I just hope the grant doesn’t fade away because of lack of use!
I went to another funeral on April 17. The boy who died, Lindelani, was in grade 7 last year at our school. He was 17 and had been sick a lot with kidney problems his whole life, missing a lot of school and spending a lot of time in the hospital. He seemed to be getting the treatment he needed and seemed to be doing better. But he didn’t make it. The family is very large and poor and no one is working. They survive only on government grants. Teachers collected some “condolences” money (R400) and the family was grateful because then they could feed people who came to the funeral. I went there at 5:15 am with Mam Ndlovu and we stayed for about two hours. There was singing, praying, a calm sermon, chanting, a procession out to the yard for the burial, more singing, chanting, praying. I was happy to see and greet a few learners from last year’s grade 7.
I helped to prepare a small group of learners (4) to compete in a district-wide reading competition. There were six books, two in isiZulu, four in English (24-59 pages). Obviously someone else (Mam Khabela) prepped them for isiZulu. They did “Storytelling” which is summary. Each school was allotted 15 minutes to cover all six books, about 2.5 minutes per book. There were 26 schools participating. We arrived “on time” at 8:30 a.m. However, things didn’t get started on time and it took a very long time for the judges to listen to all the schools. The children waited all day long in an outside tent. It was about 100 degrees that day, April 21. The teams were brought into the air-conditioned room at the Jozini Education Centre where the judges and teachers were sitting all day. From watching other schools, I realized right away that I did not prepare them properly. They did not win any of the top five slots. They were shy, too quiet, forgot their speech, sounded too rote, and had no gestures. The winning school, Emanyiseni, put on a brilliant performance, with gestures, change of tone, hand movements, and a clear, loud, complete summary. Food was served, finally, at 4:30, kids last, and we got home just before dark.
Since term 1, I have been working with 29 struggling Grade 1 and 2 learners on a special phonics program called SOUNS. It is funded by Rotary Clubs and each Kit of large sturdy plastic alphabet letters costs about $250. I have been teaching the sounds of each letter in isiZulu, along with very simple directions in isiZulu. IsiZulu is a phonetic language so it works well. I also have them spell some English words with the same vowel sounds as in isiZulu. The grade 2 learners are given time to make their own words too. I have been hearing that some of the struggling learners are now catching on and being more engaged in class. I have also been able to identify a few who need A LOT of extra help. I work with these 7 small groups on the floor of our tiny library area. The kids love to come see me but most have the attention span of a flea and do not always behave well. I get stern and send them back to their class and they don’t like that much. The hardest part for my ancient body is getting up off the floor after our 10-15 minute session!
The SA Army folks were so impressed with our school after their “health” visit, that they wanted to know what else they could do to help. They were advised that water is a big problem in our area. They set a date and time to return and did exactly as they planned! With a donation from a trucking company, UNITRANS, they brought and distributed empty 25 liter water buckets (R43) to every child and teacher at our school. They also brought water in a truck and filled our JoJo containers. They gave a speech about water usage, took photos, and left. Well-planned and well-executed! It can be done in South Africa!
Through the amazing work of Amy Berman who began The Mother Bear Project, I distributed hand-made teddy bears to all of the learners in Grade R, grade 1 and Grade 2. This is a Minnesota-based nonprofit and the bears are made and donated by very crafty and artistic knitters and crocheters. Postage to South Africa for our four large boxes was over $100 per box and the boxes all made it here in record time. I only had to pay the SA post office fee of R39 per box. What a deal!!!!! I also had to take a photo of every child with their bear and email it to Amy. She will make sure the bear maker gets the photo. The children, especially the Grade R group of 71, looked miserable in their photos. One explanation may be that they don’t have toys and are quite unused to being given gifts. They may be afraid it will be taken away from them. They don’t smile easily but I saw them loving and treasuring their gift.
I have been busy at school this term. That is a good thing because I am counting the weeks until I can get on that airplane and come home. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I am lonely here.
I do have a good friend in Mam Zulu. She didn’t go to her home in Nongoma last weekend. Because she was in Jozini, she invited me to come stay with her and the kids. I went to her house Saturday afternoon, shopped at Shoprite, made dinner for them, ate with them, slept in their house, and enjoyed being part of a family.