Friday 31 July

This morning (and in fact the whole day!), I experienced something quite unusual. For the first time, I wore my knee-length skirt to school and stockings. It seemed like from the minute we arrived, I had students of all ages staring at my legs! I eventually came to the presumption that it was because of my stockings, but, to this moment, I am still unsure on what is so fascinating about them! Haven’t they ever seen stockings before? Maybe they look different on a ‘white’ girl!? When I spent some time with the reception students, I even had them feeling up and down my legs with their hands and ‘picking’ at the stockings!

 It was at this time, that I was taking some beautiful photos of the beautiful reception students. They were all so cute, but nevertheless, it was so frustrating trying to take photos of them! They had no concept of the need for them to stand back from the camera and that they can’t keep waving their fingers in front of the camera if they want me to take a photo! It also tested my patience when I tried to take a photo of one or two students at a time – this hardly ever happened as all of the group of kids wouldn’t move out of the picture! Of course, none of the students could understand much English, so this made it even worse…I don’t think I was talking to a brick wall???

 And then… there is always a little ‘rat’ in the group who really pisses you off. In this case, a little boy who REALLY tested my patience, kept waving his hands in front of the camera, in between trying to snatch the camera out of my hands, sitting on the back of my neck and kissing me on the cheek (ok, I must admit I thought this last bit was cute!)

 …and then everything went downhill. All of a sudden, my camera said that there were no pictures and that there was an ‘error.’ After trying everything I could (including downloading them on to the computer), I was quite upset…actually very! I was disappointed with the fact that I had taken some AMAZING photos – and not just ‘amateur’ ones either – some of them looked like professional images; real ‘picture perfect moments!’…

…The school ran out of water today! (i.e. there was no more water in the tanks). It was the weirdest sight seeing kids place their water bottle under the tap, turn it on and see nothing come out! This also means that we cannot really use the toilet at school. I guess if we are left without water for much longer, the teachers will have to start using the drop toilets (which are for the students to use). Never to fear though – the tank at our house is still supplying us with water. In saying this, it only has a very small amount left…!

…this afternoon, Nina and I caught a bus taxi to Kosi Bay to stay at Eliza and Jesse’s placement house. From the word go, this was a real adventure! When we worked out which taxi was going where, we got in, got proposed to by an African man (whom I said ‘thank you, but no thank you to, as I was engaged.’ He then asked to see my ring…oh shit…um, I didn’t bring it as it is brand new and I didn’t want to get it dirty or lost…) and waited for about 20 minutes before heading of to our first stop, Bambanana. To begin with, the bus had 20 people in it (all adults except for one baby)! Nina and I were the last to leave the taxi. By now, it was dark. As we got off the first taxi and into the second, we were immediately bombarded by some street children who asked ‘please miss, can I have R2?). We were then our way to Kosi Bay (in a second taxi), not knowing where the hell we were, but hopeful that we were heading in the right direction!

Saturday 1 August

Firstly, I can’t believe we are now in August!

 After last night, we woke up at about 7:00. We then took some more taxi buses to Sodwana Beach, where we had organized to meet up with some teachers/hospital workers and kids from Ingwavuma. The beach was so nice – the minute we saw the water, Eliza, Jesse and myself felt like we were back home! The water was just as beautiful as the Gold Coast (almost!) but the sand was more of a brown colour. Nina, Jesse and I braved the water in our clothes as we had no bathers! It was freezing at first, but nice once we got in. I was so desperate for a ‘shower’ (the water at Jesse and Eliza’s was not working when I got up) that I did not mind the initial cool water or the fact that I didn’t have my bathers (I had spare clothes thank goodness!)…

…At about 3:00, we all left the beach to head back to Ingwavuma. Of course this was done in true African style, with about 10 of us in the back of the ute! It wasn’t the most comfortable ride but we were kept warm by a blanket which we covered ourselves with! It was really fun! We sang songs, had lots of laughs, waved to lots of people and ate lots of chips!

Sunday 2, 2008

It is 2:00 and it has been raining cats and dogs all day. I missed out on my run (but was so tired I was kind of glad it was raining!). due to the rain. For the first time since leaving Australia, I was able to snuggle up under my warm blankets and have a sleep in! What was even more, was that everyone else was relatively quite this morning! I dozed on and off until about 9:00, before getting up and having some breakfast. Nina decided to walk down to the SPAR (in the rain!), whilst I preferred to stay in my room and put all of my pictures up on my wall. I have also written some quotes and inspirational messages on coloured cardboard to stick up, as well as my ‘South African Bucket List.’ Listed on this, are things that I would like to achieve before I leave South Africa!

 After this, I made myself a sandwich, before devouring some yummy rye-vita crackers that I found at the Bambanana petrol station yesterday! I am still hungry though! I can’t believe how hungry I see to get up here! (Especially when I have done nothing but sit on my bed the whole day!) Maybe it is the high altitude?

 For the rest of the day, I plan to devise lesson plans for this weeks classes (including our very own classes!), organise next weekends trip to Durban (I can’t wait!!!) and hopefully, get an early nights sleep!

 Note: My beautiful Mum text me this morning to say that the Hope Island Rotary Club would like to donate $200 towards Nansindlela School! I am so grateful for this and so thankful that they are all still thinking of me! Thank you to everyone from the Hope Island Rotary Club!

…It is now mid afternoon and I think I’m going to go co-co if I have to sit in my room for any longer!

Monday 3 August 2009

After yesterdays constant rainfall, I am pleased to say that the school water tanks now have water in them! This is obviously great for the kids, but also fantastic for the teachers as the toilet is now flushing!

 This morning I went and help out in the grade 1 classroom. Still wanting to try and help the little girl who is REALLY struggling, I asked Mama (the teacher) if she would mind if I came to the classroom 2-3 a week and do one-on-one work with the one or two students who are really struggling. She said this would be great, which I am very pleased about! As frustrating as I think it will be (I got REALLY frustrated today!), I know it will be rewarding to go home from my placement at Nansindlela and know that I have helped improve the academic level of this girl.

 After morning tea I went and sat in on Walter’s grade 7 social science class. Like all of the classes I have been to (in order to sit and observe), I found this class so loud and so rude and so frustrating! And the worse thing is, Walter just kept talking over the top of them, with only a small handful of children listening to what he was saying! I guess, in a way, this is at times the only way to teach a class here in Ingwavuma. I have been sending so much time and effort on trying to get the class to be well behaved and absolutely silent, that before I know it, the class is over! In saying this, Walter told me that he felt that was a good class and that he disciplined them ‘well’ (um…I beg to differ, but then again, he said they used to be worse!)

 Since yesterday, I have been feeling really overwhelmed, and at times, quite emotional. At the moment, I feel like everything is just too hard! So many things need to be changed, improved and altered; things about the students, teachers and overall organization and planning of the school, school rooms and other resources. I have absolutely no idea where to start. Worse of all, the teachers just don’t seem to have the motivation to change their ways; they can’t be bothered, and so this is essentially reflected in the student attitudes towards school.

The library, for instance, is not even what I would call a library. There are books upon books scattered ALL over the floor, in no particular order or category. This means that when a students needs to find a book on a particular topic, they must search high and low across the whole library floor. I would love to help get the library into some form of organised system, but, at the moment, in my overwhelmed and emotional state, I am finding it really hard to be motivated. It is honestly such a mess; I wouldn’t know where on earth to start!

 Then there is the issue with the students, particularly those in Senior school, who are so obnoxious and so rude! Every class is a battle – it is so draining and just too easy to give up. Firstly, you must fight to get them to take a seat. Then you must get their attention to tell them what is set for work. For the rest of the class time, it is a matter of getting each and every student to actually take their books out of their bags. Then you must try and get them to open them. And finally, when they do (if they ever do), a lot of them will spend the next 10 minutes telling you that they don’t have a pen or that they are running out of paper and that they therefore don’t want to write anything. If I’m lucky enough to get some students who do have their books open, it is generally not because they are doing the work that has been set, but because they are copying last night’s homework from another person’s exercise book or reading a magazine that I have hidden in between their book. When you tell them to put it away, they deny, deny, deny that they have done anything wrong, until you confiscate the book or prove them wrong in some way or another.

Up until this afternoon, I have been managing the students in each class. In the last period, however, I had grade 12 maths…gee did they test my buttons. There were two boys who were SO rude and SO disrespectful, to the point where I was at melting point. Firstly, one of the boys kept playing the keyboard, even though I told him time and time again to turn it off and go and do his work. He then gave me back-chat after back-chat after backchat before I finally asked him to give me his name so I could write it down for detention. Of course, this was easier said then done. He refused to give me his name and no other student in the class was obviously prepared to help me out. I then went and got another teacher from the classroom next door to get his name. When we arrived back at the classroom, the student had done a runner and didn’t return until the teacher ad left. I then had to put up with both the boys arguing with me and saying that they didn’t care that I had given them detention and that I could give them a whole year’s detention if I wanted to. They said because I had given them detention, there was no point in behaving. By this stage, after asking one of the boys to leave the classroom for the rest of the lesson (by now, the rest of the class was well and truly disturbed); I went and got Bongi, the principal. Bongi asked all those who misbehaved to stand up and leave the room with her. The first student stood up pretty much straight away, but the second intently stared at me, as if to say ‘there is no way you’re getting away with this.’ When he finally got up, he walked past me and said ‘are you happy now?’

 Because of this whole saga, Bongi had to leave the class she was teaching and come and get the boys. I then had to go down to the office with them and listen to one of the students explain to Bongi all of the things he had done wrong. Bongi was then going to write a letter to his parents explaining the situation. A visit to the school by his parents was also going to be organised.

 Bongi informed me that this particular boy has also been extremely disrespectful to past gap people, to the point where he was suspended from school for a week. Apparently, the other boy, when questioned by Bongi brought up the issue of race. He said to Bongi ‘surely you understand…you’re black…we can’t let these white people rule us.’ This was interesting to hear; I had no idea that some of the students had this attitude towards their teachers – towards me. Whether we like it or not, it is clear that racism is still a major concern within South African society.

After all of this, school was finished and Nina and I headed to the SPAR. Surprisingly, it the roller door entrance was closed! Apparently, the security had caught a robber who tried to steal from SPAR, before jumping through the window of the hardware store. Consequently, the SPAR was put into lockdown (with customers inside). The police arrived and the life in Ingwavuma went on as normal!

I went for a 6km run with Jan Heese (teacher) this afternoon. We ran up towards the Swaziland lookout. I am still getting used to the many hills and in particular, the high altitude! I cannot believe how hard it is to breathe when running! Whilst the run was great and really enjoyable, Jan and I were stopped in our initial minute of running by a little boy. This boy came running down the road to us, screaming his lungs out, tears streaming down his face and snot running down his nose. Jan went to put his hand on his shoulder to get him to calm down and tell us what was wrong; I have never seen someone jump and flinch like this little boy did. Just as you would if you were about to be hit, he almost shook himself out of his skin! When we finally clamed him down, we took him over to a car that had just pulled over. This man was able to speak to him in Zulu. He and his passengers laughed, before saying ‘the boy has run away from his house because his parents are beating him. Take him to the police.’ Jan and I just looked at each other. How could they laugh about something like this? Maybe this boy was just upset because his parents gave him a small smack on his bottom? But maybe this is much more serious and he really is been beaten? Jan and I started to walk towards the police station with him. He was absolutely shaking and could hardly walk. I put him on my back and gave him a piggy back to the station. When we got there, the policewomen laughed at the boy and said that she would take him home.

 There was nothing more Jan or I could do. Nothing. I felt terrible leaving this frightened little boy behind, but what choice did I have? None.

 After my run, I went over to Bongi. I have a list of ideas that I would like to start to establish within the school (e.g. extra curriculum groups, principal awards etc etc). I wanted to run these by her and seek and suggestions for or against my ideas. Bongi seemed happy with these, but once gain, brought up the issue of other teachers not being bothered to commit or help with things such as extra-curriculum groups.

 I also spoke to her about the situation with the boy this evening. She said that if anything happens like that in Ingwavuma, you should just give them a tissue, tell them its ok and leave; do not interfere; do not take them the police station. She said that when people like myself do this, they run the risk of getting in trouble with the child’s family…there is no way I am just going to leave a crying, frightened, petrified boy on the road by himself. I think if it ever happened again, I would take him back to my place until he settled down and then get him to go home…but then again, he may not want to…the family may find out about me…the boy may not even speak English (which was the case this evening). This means I can’t really help him at all.

 Let’s just hope something like this doesn’t happen everyday and that it won’t happen again.

 Until tomorrows tests (and hopefully triumphs), good night

Tuesday 4 August

This morning I took the grade elevens, who were all pleasantly well behaved (of course when I say this, I mean pleasantly well behaved in ‘African standards!’ After morning tea, Nina and I had our grade 8 computer class. As the computers do not work, I did the lesson on the world of animals. As I had time after my run before leaving for school this morning, I did up a lesson plan, which really. Most of the time the class seemed interested. There were a few, however, who did not follow the rest of the class to another classroom for the second half of the lesson (Nina and I tried to find classrooms that were free so the kids would have desks to write on – the computer lab is full of computers and rubbish and definitely not big enough for such a big class. This meant we had to change classrooms half way through their double period as another class needed the room we were initially in). I am excited to receive and mark their answers for the worksheet and tasks I have set them.  Then again, I wonder if anyone will actually bother doing their homework…?

 Today, I also received two beautiful letters from two grade four students. One of them said the following:

 “I love you so much, I know you love me. I want to say I still love you. Please can you be my part Mom. I will miss you.

 Please please please please can you.”

I am currently in my spare/free lesson. After this, Nina and I have to relief teach a grade 10 science class. We may have to come up with some games or activities for them though – the teacher has told us to get them to work on their projects and hand out the accompanying worksheets. The problem is, he didn’t give us the worksheet!?

Since last night, Ingwavuma has had no reception. This means that our mobiles don’t work at all.