The past few weeks have been pretty crazy in my normally slow-paced African life. I was out of the village from April 11-28th, travelling here there and everywhere on Peace Corps business. It’s actually pretty unusual for an education PCV to be out of the village during the school term for so long, but lest anyone think I was slacking-it was all PC approved! 🙂
Back in February, I was invited to help facilitate one of the PC Permagarden trainings with the newest education group, SA26. The workshop was held in KwaZulu Natal, the home of the Zulu people and 100% different than my Kalahari home. Mountains, trees, long grass, rain, fog, fertile soil….what a beautiful area! The workshop was held in the Sisonke district, and about 7 PCVs and their counterparts attended. I hold this group of PCVs in high regard: almost all of them teach 15-20 hours a week, and some are so rural that they don’t have electricity at home. Woah. I had a lot of fun working with this group, and LOVED getting to see real KZN…I had been down to Durban last year, but Durban doesn’t even come close to showing the beauty of KwaZulu Natal.
Fun thing: we stayed in a haunted hotel. I was on the fourth floor (aka attic), in a room alone, in a creaky, Victorian style house. It was creepy to say the least. No, I don’t think they had 8 ghostly visitors, but it was still pretty creepy.
The two day workshop went remarkably well, and some of the participants have already started their own gardens since then. They learned some basic permaculture methods, and several have already contacted me for more information. I’d love to visit some of their gardens sometime, but I have no clue if that is in the cards! It was definitely fun to interact with some Zulu people, and hear this 100% foreign-to-me language….we didn’t even learn Zulu greetings in PST, so I was at a loss besides “Sanibonani!”
After that workshop, I spent a day in Pretoria, then headed back across North West, through half of Northern Cape, to a remote village on the SA-Botswana border. I had been planning a workshop with 3 (three!) PCVs who live in this village for awhile, and was excited to visit their unique home. This village is home to a fairly large white and coloured population (not an offensive term here!), along with a large black population (who still live off in the “location” on the dune…relic of Apartheid). However, no white children attend the school, only coloured and black kids. This school, due to the “diversity”, is dual-medium, meaning they have an Afrikaans track and an English track.
Obviously, this was not the normal village experience. This was easily the nicest rural school I had been in, and honestly could have been mistaken for an American school, albeit low-income and pretty under-resourced. There were the typical South African education problems, such as overcrowding, corporal punishment, absenteeism, few resources, and the numerous other problems found in village schools. However, the staff was pretty motivated, and wanted to have a workshop for their ABET ( Adult Based Education and Training) class, comprised of about 25 Grade 7 learners. Yes, an adult education class for Grade 7 kids….some of whom were almost my age!
I was a little leery about working with the most troublesome and struggling learners at this school, but I was pleasantly surprised. For most of the workshop, they were attentive, involved, and asking/answering questions. They were clearly excited to be out of the classroom and learning in a different way. I spoke with one of the volunteers, and he said they might try to have a gardening period every day, since they learners were actually involved in their learning during this workshop. Just goes to show that sometimes learners need to be out of class to learn!
My next leg of this journey involved another cross-country trip to see my third year site, but that is definitely worthy of its own post.