November 26, 2011
Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone. Richard and I are gathered in Polokwane (the capital of the province we live in) with about 40 other PCVs celebrating Thanksgiving together this weekend. There will be more food than we can eat, in true American Thanksgiving fashion. Luckily the 2 weeks of days of 100°+ heat we had after my last blog was one of those weather fronts that jump a season ahead. The rains are finally starting to fall about once a week and many days this past week have been cloudy and cooler – highs in the high eighties.
It’s hard to believe it is November and it is really strange to see Christmas decorations in all the stores when it is 100°+ outside. It is also weird that the school year is almost over instead of ½ way through at this time of year. Things have been a little crazy at school lately. Grades 4-7 have stopped having classes and started taking exams about a month before the end of school. I’m not sure what they will do for the last two weeks of school. The lower grades are still having classes but are also taking end of the year tests. I have been able to keep working with them and all the 1st – 3rd graders will have a complete set of alphabet cards to take home by the end of the year. I hope the teachers are learning something from the lessons I am doing with their classes.
Remember the teacher we didn’t get to hire? The classes the teacher who left was teaching ended up not getting any teacher for ½ the year (except the few weeks I taught Gr 7 Science). The District decided that they had to take the 4th term test anyway. I was asked to help Gr 7 for three days before they took the test. They were just going to give the students the questions and answers but I said I wouldn’t do that. I’d go over the material on the test but put it in some context. Three students actually passed the test!
When we were in training one of our “how to survive as a Peace Corps Volunteer” sessions had a graph of highs and lows during your two year, two month time as a PCT (trainee) and PVC (volunteer). It had a low point at the one year mark of being at your site. We’ve been at site 9 months now and I can understand the low point better. By then you realize you are not going to change things that much. The educational system is really less than 30 years old and they still have a lot to learn about learning. During Apartheid the schools for black Africans got 10% of the funding for 90% of the people. The attitude toward education is very different too. Many of the teachers didn’t really want to be teachers but during apartheid teaching was one job that a black with some education could get. They often do not have the passion for teaching that American teachers have (at least at the beginning of their teaching careers). This is especially true in the small villages we are in. Once students are in 4th Grade they are expected to learn all subjects in English but they don’t really have enough English before they get to 4th Grade. By the time they get to Grade 7 many have given up on school. That is one reason why I’ve chosen to work with the younger classes.
The water issues mentioned in the last blog entry are still with us. We bought a wheelbarrow to haul the water with. At the moment the problem is even worse because the pump for the borehole that sends water to our end of the village is broken so we have to get water from even further away. 2 weeks ago, our host family mother arranged for a family member to bring a pick-up truck full of water jugs and we’ve been washing clothes and bodies with rain water so Richard has only had to go to the other side of the village with the wheelbarrow once to get our drinking water.
It’s hard to believe we are more than 1/3 of the way through our time here in South Africa – 10 out of 26 months!
I do miss hearing from folks back home and I do get email. Richard can get a signal at his school and down loads my mail three or four times a week. What are you up to? If you email me, I promise I’ll email you back!