Exploring Peace Through Education
Greetings one and all. We are settled into the Backpacker's Ritz our final hostel and accommodation for our trip. We in the northern suburb of Johannesburg called Hyde Park. Sounds a little British and snotty to me (and it's shows).
Today was our first full day as we explored Joburg. We started our day by visiting Midrand High School. It is a government or public school located in between Johannesburg and Pretoria or now as it is called Tswane (pronounced Sewanee). Although public as we in the US generally know it the students have to pay R6000 for a year of tuition. That is roughly $1000. This by comparison to the all girls private school DSG (BTT Alma Mater) we visited in Grahamstown is very cheap. The tuition for DSG was about R30,000. At Midrand high school we were guided by Rohan Quince, a life-long friend of both Peter and Barbara. He is a teacher of English grades 8,9,10,11.
We came into the school and all got to sit in on their third period: Register. It reminded me of my high school's tutorial, or home room as other's might call it. I chatted with three grade 11s who were all extremely bright. Especially this delightful girl named Thasli who told me that she had been chosen along with 30 other students form 11 grade HOnors English who got the chance to go to South America this June (their winter) for 20 days. She told me about her time on the public speaking team and her interest in law. The school on the whole really impressed me considering we had told ahead of time that it wasn't very nice. They have a beautiful soccer field, rugby field, basketball and tennis courts. My favorite was the volleyball court which had been built as a swimming pool but promptly filled with sand and grass was planted because of the lack of interest in the swim programme. The students at the school resembled that of middle class students. The students were about 80% black and small white and Indian population. They talked about going to the mall, many had never been to the neighboring townships and most expected the funds and grade to go to university following their matriculation. It was an interesting perspective that I did not expect we would speak considering SA is often discussed as the epitome of a dual economy (a small middle class, if any).
The next school we visited, Ekiniswne High School, was also a grade 8-12 high school that was built just within a black township. Its capacity was 1200 students and had about 1850 students enrolled. We met with the Principal as the afternoon was beginning to get warm and we discussed issues ranging from their curriculum, economic barriers and our group's mission here in SA. Following that hour of question and answer, from each side, we broke off with all of the department heads (in our area of interest). I went with five other Lutes and Sabatha Masilela the head of the Life Orientation (LO) curriculum. We were given the opportunity to follow this incredible woman who acts as the school nurse, psychologist, social worker and of course a teacher. Moreover, we got to learn about this incredible approach to education.
The idea of LO is to have a consistent educational opportunity from grade 1 through matric that gives students the chance to learn about 1)physical awareness- sports opportunity, PE and healthy eating habits; 2)citizenship- which included constitutional rights and community organization; 3)Career planning and vocation.
I intend to learn more about this great programme and will fill you all in when I get home and draft legislation to get this in our schools.
What I was blown away with was the struggle they face when teaching sexual education. The problem Sabatha said was the lack of privacy in the township small shacks gives a forum for kids to see sex as a normal occurance all the time. The fact that in most of the native cultures it is taboo to discuss sex many students have become sexually active by grade 5. It is further complicated by the fact that so few know their rights and as Sabatha mentioned many of the students have been raped by the time they reach her in grade 8!
I could write a book on her. Her incredible love of children and motivation through Christ. I am however limited by technology and on the internet clock. I am sure I will discuss her powerful discussion again. She was amazing and the tears in my eyes displayed the impact she made upon us all.
I love you all!