Wednesday, October 29, 2008

inside their minds...

a small selection of my students' words...both spoken and written.


"I want to know what it is like to have money...not that I will spend all of it, but I want to know what it is like to have have lots of have nice things...a nice car...a nice house..."


My First Prayer

Oh! Lovely bird,” oh lovely bird
Im Flying to no where”,
Im Flying to be there”,
But I can’t reach those Mountains
And inhale that brilliant climate
And Feel my mind by my own
But only that strong wind”,
Only that strong wind of that moving cloud
Over-powered my denstination.
I’m to weak to survive by my own
Oh! why these Earth is against me
Cause the more I goes higher my furthers
Becames wek, I can’t survive climate condistion
It becames “heavy”, oh these circumstances”,
how Can I handle these, to succeed these journey
Oh! I’m tired, “I’m tired,”
I can’t take these any “more”
I can’t handle these any “more”
Why? Can’t you take my breath
To land of peace
To the land of revealness
To the land of good hopes
To the land of no hunger
So that I can rest and pleased with peace
Please take me out of these land of ploughting and harvesting
I can’t fly any more
Even to reach the behalf of thee:
Mountain, “AMEN”

My Second prayer

Crying tears Are tired: ‘oh not’, the dams are drouned, is only vibration of voice that cannot be heard but only can be seen, Still there is no one can take out all her toilet-paper to take care of whom’s tears has been ignored.
but how can ‘it’ be?
but why it ‘supposed’ be?
but why ‘should’ it be
Like Im nothing to these earth
Like I do not belongs to human being
Like I was not borned by two people
Female and male, to come and be a hero of tommorow, be a gold in future a gold of those who loves gold
Oh! Why?
Oh!!! For what?
Oh!!!! like these?
But when it cames to ask myself
I get many answers that causes
My emotion to be eritated, oh!!!!!
Cause I don’t have loud voice?
Cause Im shot so much?
Cause Im born in a small township
Oh!! I cant get true answer that can
take me out of thse dark place that
cannot be seen or heard by an
of those who are passing.
but when I ask myself for the second time
I found one answer,
do not let the circumstances to determine my denstination.


50 tips to love a man/keep a man
Girlz feel free to give me one/two

1. Love him for him
2. Don't judge him
3. Always have a convicetion
4. Have something in comon
5. Don't be bossie to him
6. Please cheat on him
7. Don't be inocent to him
8. Know his bad side
9. Know him from A to Z
10. Know his family and friends
11. Don't sleep with him
12. Don't love sex to much
13. Kiss him only
14. enjoy his company
15. laughth at his jokes
16. always smill
17. Mic him a lot
18. Don't show him how much you love him
19. Be confident and self respective
18. Don't make him a fool
19. Be different every time you see him
20. Don't have sex on the car, kitchen, bathroom or toilet
21. Don't underestimate him
22. give him, his space
23. let him have fun with his friends
24. Drive him crazy a lot
25. Don't give him up on him
26. just be yourself
27. Have his time
28. love his pets
29. Don't fake your smile
30. Be easy to talk with
31. Don't 4get his birthday/ur anivesary day
32. Don't controil his life Plz girlz
33. Don't wait for Mr right be Mrs right
34. Never slap him
35. Don't compere hjim with someone else/with your ex
36. Don't let him see that you are desperete for him
37. Don't be too faithful


"If you want your dreams to come true, don't spend too much time sleeping. Open your eyes and realize."


My Dream Career

I would like to be a Pilot. the most I like about this career is to travel all over the world, going to other countries. because it's not easy for me to go anywhere I want because of the money but I once I get this opporturnity, I'll be able to go to those countries without paying a cent. also to experience to be on air, flying like a bird, looking down on earth. Seeing the clouds when I was young I thought the plane was not reaching the coulds, to me It was like the sky is very very far nobody can reach it. but one day I saw a plane disappear inside the clouds then come out on the other side. Since I was asking myself: "how did it happen?", until today I learned about it. but I'm waiting to be me who is doing it one day.

Oh: not forgeting to speak those different languages.


"In townships we don't really think much about things like dreams."


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

first look!

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the wonderful and talented filmmakers of CieL Productions (, have been making a documentary about our choirmaster P., and the choir's trip to England earlier this year.

Here is the trailer, a first look at what is sure to be an incredible account of life at Fezeka, in Gugulethu, and the hope, strength and talent of our kids.


*click here to visit the website that has been set up for the film and to learn more about this incredible project.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mid-morning mid-week musings

I feel sad for my students.

And not just my students but many students at my school. And since I'm pretty sure the situation that presents itself here is far from unique, by extension I feel sad for much of South Africa's black youth.

I am not even sure where to begin quantifying how deep this sadness runs.

Time and time again I am reminded of how disadvantaged these young people are, even aside from the obvious difficulties many of them face due to their socio-economic locations - hunger, neglect and the constant threat of violence leading the charge.

No, this particular sadness is more directly correlated to the realm in which I work - the education sphere - where every day I am shocked and disheartened at the utter disregard many of my colleagues have for the scholastic advancement of their students.

Teacher absenteeism is rife, with teachers missing days...weeks...even sometimes months at a time on a regular basis. And while in the contexts to which I am accustomed an absent teacher is expected to leave work for their students, in this environment - while technically a requirement - very seldom is this the case.

In addition to this problem however, there are many teachers who will be present at school but for whatever reason do not attend classes. The frequency of this occurrence is such that students are often left without a teacher for a number of their lessons in a given day. I have lost count of how many times my students have told me that I am the only teacher who has attended one of their lessons that day.

Further still there is the issue of teachers who will come to school, attend classes, but because they have not completed a certain task (i.e. tabulating end-of-term marks for the term that has just ended or marking tests), they spend the in-class time working on the task at hand and give their students worksheets (without having taught the background necessary to complete said worksheets), or sometimes nothing at all to do.

Yesterday I was in my classroom during a spare period and two Grade 10 students I had never met before came to my door to ask if they could sit and do some work in my classroom. As always I asked where they were supposed to be. I was answered with the expected reply of ‘in a class where the teacher was not attending’ and allowed them in. After a while I wandered over to see what they were working on. I asked what it was and they told me a project on Development. Development of what? I asked. Of anything, they said. They had been told that they had to interview people to ask them about development (Social? Political? Historical? Environmental?), but that they had not had enough time to complete the task and so they were taking notes from material research they had found on the Internet. I asked them if it was that they had not had enough time or if they had left it to the last minute. No, they told me, they really had not had enough time. When was it assigned? I asked. Friday, they told me. When was it due? Today, came their reply. Yesterday was Wednesday. This was a term research assignment worth a significant percent of their mark that clearly the teacher had forgotten to give them and so they are left to try and get it done in far less time then they should have been allocated. The most disturbing part is that the teacher would most likely mark the test in keeping to the prescribed evaluation standards (which assume they have been given adequate time and had access to the relevant resources necessary to complete the task), which will mean that most of them will fail.

I have seen teachers administer and mark tests that are far above the level of comprehension possessed by their students, with no regard for the fact that the language used is inaccessible. These are the same teachers who in no way see their students’ subsequent failures as a reflection of their teaching or who don’t recognize evaluation standards that are set unfairly high. Today a student who I don't teach asked me for help with an assignment. He is in Grade 12 and this was the final project for the year. It had been assigned 3 months ago and has 6 different phases. I sat down with him and read through the instructions. Although my knowledge of the assignment's subject area is basic, I was able to understand what was being asked of the students as the language used was regular English versus discipline-related jargon. This is not to say that the level of English was easy, far from it in fact. I asked him if he understood what was being asked of him, if it had been explained to him properly. 'No Miss', came his shy reply. I then noticed that the page for the 5th phase was separate from the stapled package of sheets explaining each of the other 6. When I asked him why that page wasn't attached he told me that the teacher had forgotten to give it to them. He then went on to explain how the teacher had come into class the day before and angrily demanded to know why none of them had completed the 5th phase. When they told him that they had not received the instructions on that part of the assigment the teacher went and photocopied the missing sheet, gave it to them, and set a due date of tomorrow. 2 days. They should have had 2 weeks.

Perhaps the most disheartening fact about all of this is that the vast majority of the kids aren’t even aware of the far-reaching consequences of the injustices that are being committed against them. Whereas in a privileged Western context where we are raised to know our rights as youth and as students and even as young men and women are fully aware of what we deserve, as previously mentioned, a similar culture of entitlement is glaringly absent here. When teachers don’t come to class, students kick back, chat to their friends, sleep. A stream of students milling about the schoolyard during class time is constant, a result of all the above-mentioned reasons. I see these kids sitting around…chatting…chasing each other…holding hands…flirting…laughing…and can’t help but feel saddened at how oblivious they are to what they are being denied. At how they will suffer because of this disregard.

Their learned acceptance of injustice enrages me. I encourage students to complain. To get their families to take up issue with the administration and to report those teachers who don’t come to class to the Principal. While this could be construed as a lack of loyalty to my colleagues, my primary concern is for the impact of their neglect on the kids who are here to learn and whom they are being paid to educate.

...and now the sadness has been replaced by anger.

I feel infuriated for my students.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Madame Deputy President, I presume?

On the final day of last term we had an assembly to celebrate Baleka Mbete, (South Africa’s new Deputy President)’s birthday. While this may sound strange, it happened to be something that was planned long before she was inaugurated as Deputy President and held her previous position as the Speaker of the National Assembly. Gugulethu and by extension Fezeka fell under her then-jurisdiction, and she has had a long-standing relationship with the school. Recently, and while she still held the Speaker position, a decision was made to donate some computers to Fezeka. Initially the pledge was to donate 12 computers, which was then upped to 20. When the day came however, there were 12 new computers that lay waiting in the gleaming and freshly-painted lab, waiting to be christened by Ms. Mbete.

The assembly that we had to accompany this visit was wonderful. Fully catered by the office of the Deputy President, we had about 500 students in attendance, and close to 50 officials from various positions within the Government. Speeches were made by the politicians and the Deputy President, as well as by our principal and English HOD. And then the students took over. The drama club performed, as did the choir, a ballet group of which one of our students is a part, and a couple students recited poetry they had read.

The day was capped off with lunch for everyone and the Deputy President ceremoniously cutting the ribbon that had been tied across the doorway of the computer lab, which was met with flashes and applause from the members of the media et al. who were also in attendance to capture the moment.

It was during the assembly that I came to find out that Fezeka holds a unique honor of being one of very few, and perhaps one of the only township schools in the Western Cape who has been visited by both the Deputy President and the President of the Republic of South Africa (Thabo Mbeki visited during his time at the helm). It was lovely to see the students swell with pride as this fact was brought to their attention, as it was (as always) to see their smiles and hear their cheers and laughter when they watched their colleagues perform.

It was only after the assembly however, after the cameras and bodyguards had left and school had reopened and we were back in full swing that I came to find out that despite taking the time to re-tile the floor of the lab, paint the walls, fix the broken desks, and install these shiny new flat screen PCs, they had not ensured that each of the computers was online, or bothered to install Microsoft Office on any of the new machines. Roughly half of the new computers cannot access the Internet, and none of them have Microsoft Word. Or Excel. Or PowerPoint. On high school computers at a school where we are trying to encourage digital literacy. After spending a tidy sum on the whole overhaul, they didn't think it important to invest another R1500 (roughly $200CDN), the cost of that a basic Microsoft Office 2003 package.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Like lambs to the slaughter...

For the past month and a bit, once a week I have been running an after-school basic digital literacy class. It is doubtful that the irony of me, an example of computer-ineptness at its finest, actually teaching anything to do with those plastic boxes is lost on anyone, least of all myself, but here we are. So far it has been going really well. The size of the group varies from week to week, sometimes upwards of thirty, others closer to three. Although I am fully aware that teachers – like parents – are not supposed to have favorites, I may have a few of my own. The computer class is composed of students from a variety of classes and grades, including each of mine.

Three young men from my Grade 11 class are the most consistent attendees of the computer class, all very eager and keen to learn as much as possible in the computer class, just as they are in English class as well. In the lesson where we set up email addresses they could not stop smiling. These three may be my favorites.

Last week was the last week of school before break, and as the norm, a notoriously low-attendanced time of the year. The turnout for the class was meager, more specifically, my three little stars were there alone. As the computer lab we usually have used was being renovated in preparation its big unveiling later in the week (more on that to follow), and students were writing an exam in the other, I opted to use an empty classroom and to change the lesson plan somewhat.

Earlier in the week, one of these three students had asked me for help with his CV. So we sat down and talked curriculum vitae. As none of them have ever had a job before, there was not much to list in that department. When we came to volunteer work, they were equally at a loss. I asked they what did when they weren’t at school. Other than watch TV, they said they played sports, and participated in their youth groups. I asked if any of them coached sports, and what sort of youth groups they were part of. One of them did indeed coach a sports team and all three were involved in youth groups related to their churches.

The conversation then snowballed into a particularly interesting discussion on religion. All three young men are Christian, though each belongs to a different denomination, none of which I had heard of before. Not wanting to pry, I asked very surface-level questions about their beliefs, and let them tell me what they wanted to. They asked me about my beliefs, and what church I belonged to. I told them that while I have been baptized as a Roman Catholic, growing up and today my church attendance has been generally limited to the big holidays (much to my devoutly religious Grandmother’s chagrin).

Then they asked me about religion in Canada, and the role it plays in people’s lives. As previously mentioned, religion has a large role of the day to day lives of the communities in which my students and colleagues live, with Christianity being the overwhelmingly dominant faith.

I talked about the religious diversity of Canada and in particular Toronto, and how we have such a cornucopia (say it with me now – cor-nu-co-pia) of people of different beliefs living together.

‘So Miss, you wouldn’t ever slaughter a sheep to celebrate an important event?’ They asked me next.

I attempted to broadly explain the Western world’s take on this sort of thing (the physical slaughter of animals for religious or cultural purposes, not to be confused with those animals who are slaughtered for human consumption, particularly on religious holidays - although in writing this now I find myself confused as to why and how the two differ). I also touched on groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the importance of respecting the laws of the land. This then bled into an analogy on Female Genital Mutilation being practiced in Canada by Sudanese immigrants and the uproar that it created. Little did I know at the time that none of them were familiar with what FGM is. Oops.

In any case, the conversation was an interesting reminder of some of the stark cultural differences that exist between their lives and my own, or more specifically the social/religious mores and attitudes that are commonplace in and unique to each of our home environments.

Oh and I received an invitation to the next sheep-slaughtering ceremony that any of them attend.