Friday, February 26, 2010

Oooo baby baby its a wild word...

On small bits of paper I wrote an assortment of random words for a poetry assignment. Students picked one word out of a hat, which formed the title of their poem, to be interpreted as they liked. Once completed, I read the poems to the class anonymously. They absolutely loved it. Below are some examples of the fruits of their labour. Bon appetit!


It is better to have seen and tasted
then to never have tasted or seen

So come come and taste
the sorrow and everlasting pain of
my heart and soul

Now is the time
To be licking your fingers in joy

This opportunity comes only one a lifetime

So taste the emotions and feelings
of those around you

Taste the joy and peace
You have taken from nature



like birds singing to
the ocean’s children, flowing in
and out
of their sea home

smell of nagging ghosts’ puke
wakens me from my nightmare
while few focus favoring my fantasy
and my screams bark more and more towards
my awareness

I limit my desire to rejoice
my fearless dreams to which
I turn as a lonely person who
believes the only limit is the sky


I am here with a purpose
A purpose with reason
You will never pause the peace that I live with
I am who I am
I can’t change
I will live deadly on earth
I know me but I never
see myself
I can hear a calling but
I’m death and now
I can walk without feet
I am on earth with a reason


How can you live without food?
Is there any hope of living?
Is there any end of this road?
Sometimes I ask myself these questions
What am I want to be?

I wanted to become something
I knew nothing about
If you are living
You have to come up with
What you are ready to be

Try not to think about your life
And what holds you down
Try to say in fact:
Is there any crime in doing that?
What you want
You can get


Draw a picture inside me
Drawing the loneliness and pain I feel
Drawing me as a picture
Drawing with my imagination
Drawing my weakness and my strength
But not knowing I’m 
being judged

Drawing my life inside me
Drawing my teenagehood but
Not knowing I’m still a child

Drawing my family
but not knowing they kept secrets from me
Draw my sadness
but not knowing I’m drawing my happiness
Draw my bad memories
but not knowing I’m creating new good ones

That is my drawing!


The clock was ticking
til it stops at five
o’clock in the morning

the alarm was singing
til it wakes me up
to wash getting ready for

I ran liked a chased cheetah
to the bus stop to catch
my five thirty bus
but I smelled the
smell of tar that told me that
the bus had left

I was the bus stop’s best customer
but that time
I was five minutes late


My Last voices
My message of
victory spinning
the wind.
My Last songs
burning pure glory
of smoke.
My Last words
written by the
gift of the magic.
Listen to them
to represent a
new story.
For your ways
to drizzle compassion
as the snow
flowing along the mountains
Don’t miss this
chance and contain
the new light.


A shelter is a nice place to be
You hide from the world
and your debts.

The poverty is built and watched by
people who invade other people’s
privacy and problems.

Shelter is like an umbrella protecting from
all your enemies
creatures of the outside world.

It is the cover of all problems,
the protector from all seasons,
a shoulder to cry on. It is the key and
the place where people unite.
It flicks all the problems inside to the
It is a nice place to be.


Shoes are our feet
Shoes are our walk
Can we go places with
bare feet?
Shoes cover
our feet and make
our feets warm

Sometimes shoes help
to cover our ugly toes
That’s what I like about

They even help during winter season
to keep our feet from getting


Bright yellow
The colour of peace
and happiness in SA
Like a sunflower under
The rise of a

The big yellow sun
hugging and giving
light and warmth
to the amazing people
of this motherland

Let yellow spread
Let peace spread
throughout SA
and flick the
light of peace
to everyone
even the


Don’t make a sound
be brave yet
don’t be too proud

Quiet because the power
of no sound gives life
and education which is
sharper than a knife

The voiceless sound of
abused children
sounding pain
as my veins
pumped hatred
I was Quiet

They who have power
have sound
but they who are poor
make no sound but are proud

Quiet like a cheetah
ready to prey upon
the weaker
yet no sound is made
be Quiet

Be Quiet just for a moment…
and when your voice sounds
the nation must listen


You never know
what tomorrow brings
for you and me

You wake up
We wake up
Asking yourself
What tomorrow brings
for me and my
great grand children

What tomorrow brings
for the world of
my great grand children

What the leaders
of this nation can
bring tomorrow

What will tomorrow
bring for me and
my nations

Yesterday I was free from Apartheid
But tomorrow I will be free
from Poverty

What will tomorrow bring
for me and you


Once I found out
that I have the right
not just any right
the human right

The right to get a good education
The right to a safe and comfortable home
The right to be protected from harm
The right to be proud of my customs

Now my life is bright
It’s not like the darkness at night
It has the colour of peace, white
Yes, that’s right

Because I know my right
I feel like I could shine like the sunlight
now that I know my right
not just any right
the human right


Why should I cry
Why are my tears so heavy?
When my enemies see me
they will just cry

Sleeping with a painful heart
Simple means my girlfriend hurts me
I’m supposed to cry
Because my feelings won’t let my thoughts go
back to sleep


Home Sweet Home
Every time i wonder
Every time i cry
For those who don’t
have homes

Home is where the
heart of the nation is molded
and where children reap the
sweetness of wisdom
granted to them as freedom
Home Sweet Home

Home is sweet
Every one has a
right to have home
Home Sweet Home

(Written by a student who has recently been left homeless when a fire destroyed the her family’s shack)


Ask me to love you
Ask me to make love to you
Ask to touch your body
Ask me anything about love
Ask me, why don’t you ask me?

Ask me to get your attention
Ask me to save you
Ask me to save our love
the silent love
Ask me anything
Ask me, why don’t you ask me?


The stone
when thrown into the river
creates waves.

I speak poetry
when I speak poetry I create waves
I do make a difference
cause when I speak poetry
I create waves
The stone
when thrown into the river
creates waves.


Sometimes all it takes
to improve your life
is deciding which beliefs do not save you
and certainly
changing your mind about them.

Choose beliefs
that serve the grand dream
of who you want to be
and still hope to be
in the darkness

Never give up
for that is just the
place and time
that the tide will turn
and light will shine down on

Just hope


Will shall forgive those who harm us
You will hear voices screaming WE WANT

But the white man has no sorry for black
we may forget about apartheid
forget what happened yesterday
focus on today

forget how we were treated
forget about Mandela in prison
forget about Hector Pieterson
Will shall forgive but we shall never

I have this Gift
I got from my grandparents

The Gift that can
make my life and
dreams come true

I walk to the street
People tell me about
this Gift this is my
Life my dream

This Gift that
can make the world
a better home for

This is my Gift
is my dream
my Gift is
my future


The black skin
my parents gave
me made me

The beauty that
makes the nation

The green of Nature
and the blueness of
the sky

Yellow for the mellow
colour is made by the
rainbow to give meaning
to the star

Yet bold to give rise
and shine

Colour tells a story
it shares movements
it feels pain

I am black
this colour says
a lot!


Reading is the light of my life

Read in order to lead
Don’t speed
If you do it
Can’t be good indeed

Don’t smoke weed
or you shall be
lazy to read

The seed mother
gave me was
to read

As education lightens my life
I shall read
until my eyes bleed


Grow to become old
Grow for the world
is ready for the young child

To grow is to understand to be found
To have knowledge
To grow is to make mistakes
and to learn from them
To grow is to move from confusion
to light

Grow to known that life
is sharper than a knife
as we kiss our dream
to dance the change
in our hands


A child is the light
of the nation
a confused person
smaller in age
brave by heart

Child who lives
in the wild
is blind by influence
of his time

I m a change
the power rests in my hands
I am the dreams in my head
I am the child who loves education

A child is nothing
but a child
full questions and love
A brave child could never
go to the grave soon
but shall live the years
of the promised land


So what if I was blind?
So would I feel or smell
the colour of a person
or their clothes? So?

So what if I was deaf?
So would I hear or
recognize what the person
was saying? So?

So what if I was a man?
So would I be the person I am now?
So would my actions be different
to the ones I do now?
So would my mind think
the way it does today? So?


Outside there is a space
where the living dwells
from the fowl of the sky
to the serpent of the land.

Outside not inside
a sphere over which one
does not have control

Joy can be found where
things interact. Destiny
is found outside where
Pride is everyone’s ride

Death is encountered outside
Outside is dark and bright
Cold and not

Outside is where I marry
the dreams of my interest
and where I am cooked

Opportunities and tragedies
are ready for you and me outside
Out there mines are mined
Sweat and work
Seriousness and laziness
Jealousy and love

Outside is where we shall meet

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

days like these

there are days
where she feels inspired.

days where her students respond

days where their circumstances
their struggles
their pain
their hunger
is a little less obvious

but then there are other days.

days where her students withdraw
become unresponsive
young eyes cloud over
old beyond their years

days where the drive to work is more jarring
the stench of streets lined with litter more pungent
the taste of hopelessness in the air more acrid
the sight of bodies with broken spirits more depressing
the sound of silent defeat more deafening

days where she cant help but wonder:
what the fuck is she doing?
what is the point?
is there one?
why is the world like this?
what. the. fuck. is. she. doing.

and on these days
the despair is almost catching
the frustration almost overwhelming
the light at the end of the tunnel almost extinguished
this great tragedy impossible to ignore

Thursday, February 11, 2010

the family man

Part of my English students’ mark for Term 1 is a reading mark for which they must demonstrate their ability to read out loud. How the mark is obtained is left to the discretion of the teacher. As one of the local newspapers routinely delivers packages of week-old newspapers to the school for students to use and read (though since they are placed in a room which students are forbidden to enter very few in fact do so), I thought these would be appropriate for this task.

Students were each given a newspaper with a variety of dates over the past month and we spent a period reading. I instructed them to find an article (of at least 100 words for Grade 11, 150 for those in Grade 12) that they would read then briefly summarize in a few sentences to the class. This would allow for the evaluation of their comprehension and public speaking skills.

One student chose an article that discussed the recent revelation of South African President Jacob Zuma’s extra-marital affair and the birth of a ‘lovechild’, bringing his total number of children to 20.

As some may not know, Jacob Zuma is a Zulu, a culture in which polygamy is commonly practiced. To date, Mr. Zuma has had 5 wives: one who committed suicide (allegedly due to strained relations with Zuma), one whom he divorced, and three to whom he is currently married. His most recent child was born to another woman – his mistress – the daughter of a well-known South African soccer executive.

While news of high-ranking politicians with mistresses is nothing new, this issue is particularly of note here in South Africa, a country with one of the highest incidences of HIV in the world. In an effort to quell the spread of the virus, the youth arm of Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) Party – The ANC Youth League – has taken a firm stance on the importance of monogamy in sexual relationships, and launched their ‘one boyfriend, one girlfriend’ HIV/AIDS awareness campaign on Youth Day last year. Organizations like LoveLife work tirelessly to get the youth of this country to regularly use condoms to protect themselves from HIV and other STIs, no small feat in a society where many of its poor live in patriarchic cultures where women’s wants, needs and desires are often secondary to those of their male counterparts.

Yet Mr. Zuma, clearly not satisfied with having not one but three wives, has again broken his marriage(s) vows, and had unprotected sex. Not that the President’s history isn’t already marred with scandal. Keeping in mind that this is a man who faced rape charges before he was elected (Zuma was found not guilty of said charges). Zuma admitted that he had had unprotected sex with his accuser (the daughter of a deceased friend of his) but that it had been consensual. When it came to light that his accuser was HIV positive, and that the President had been aware of his accuser's status before having sex with her, Zuma told the media that he didn’t have to worry about getting infected because he had taken a shower after they had had sex.

Again, South Africa is fighting an HIV epidemic. The ramifications of this man’s actions are not slight. Not in a country where getting many men to use condoms in the first place is a struggle, never mind its leader publically flaunting the fact that he does not and filling peoples’ minds with falsities about how one can protect oneself from infection. I find this man's disregard for the wide-reaching consequences of his actions appalling.

When news of Zuma’s child and affair made headlines last week, Julius Malema, President of the ANC Youth League was quick to come to Zuma’s defense. When asked about the ‘one boyfriend, one girlfriend’ campaign in relation to Zuma’s extra-marital dalliance, Malema refused to comment on the matter because: “Zuma is our elder, so we are not qualified to talk about that." End quote.

When my student had finished her presentation on the article, as I had previously done when a student read an article about a female Iraqi suicide bomber who claimed the lives of 54 people, I asked the class about their opinions on the issue. 10 hands immediately shot up.

The discussion that followed was a delight to watch. Perhaps unsurprisingly, views on the matter were for the most part divided by gender, with boys supporting Zuma’s activities because ‘it is part of his culture’ (as a matter of interest, while Zulu culture does practice polygamy, having children out of wedlock is not something that is condoned. More on this here). Some boys even went so far as to say that the President was ‘a leader’ and 'a chief' for how prolific he has been in expanding his brood and number of women in his life.

The girls were not of this view. One pointed out the contradiction between what the ANC Youth League preaches and the behavior of the President, calling him a hypocrite (single tear!). Another picked up on how Mr. Zuma is not acting like a leader, by disregarding his responsibility as a role model and acknowledging the power that his behavior can have over the South African people.

Another young boy said that he thought Zuma was going about being promiscuous in ‘the right way’. When I asked him what he meant by this, he clarified that because Zuma married the women he wanted, this meant that when he travelled overseas he would not be indulging with all the women he wanted (“like, if he went to China, if he didn’t have one of his wives with him, he would probably have sex with many women, with anyone he wanted, for example, strippers”). I stifled a smile when I asked him if he thought that because the President was married and took his wife or wives with him on his travels that this meant that he wasn’t ever unfaithful? "No miss," he answered, all innocent and wide-eyed. I asked him about the child the President has just fathered, one who was fathered out of wedlock, proving that not only has he been unfaithful but that he has had unprotected sex. It was interesting to see the looks on many of their faces as this logic registered.

I asked the students whether they thought the fact that this country is fighting an uphill battle against HIV was relevant to the discussion. I reminded them that this was not an issue about Zuma’s multiple wives or culture, it was more about his actions going against the message he and his party are trying to send to the youth in this country, the most group most at-risk of infection, and his responsibility as a leader to lead by example. Again, most of the girls and the boys were on different sides of the fence.

One of the female students told the class that Zuma is in the practice of dating women and impregnating them first, and then marrying them, not the other way around. She wondered if perhaps the President would soon be marrying his most recent baby mama. We spoke about how this practice is in complete opposition to what condoms are supposed to do, which dovetailed into a conversation about how unprotected sex is a risk behavior that they themselves must be vigilant about and always use condoms. They all agreed. All except one young man, the joker of the class.

“But Miss how are we supposed to have children if we are always using condoms?” He asked.

Touché. I smiled and said that I didn’t think that any of them were in that position right now, but that when that day came sure, if they are in a monogamous relationship with someone they love and they are both in a position to financially and emotionally support a child, maybe then they can think about having unprotected sex. But what must you do first? I asked.

“GET TESTED!” Came their reply in unison.

And until then?


And what else?


Great advice. Mr. President, are you listening?