I think it's about time I updated my blog with what I'm actually doing work-wise out here... My placement is a school 'for the intellectually impaired' in a rural township in South Africa. The disabilities at the school range from Epilepsy to ADD to brain damage ie starved of oxygen at birth and the children's abilities range hugely also! Here I teach maths to classes middle A and B as my main role.
Of course, this is not what my original project was (Cotlands- Johannesburg). Unfortunately Cotlands had their funding cut so could only accommodate 2 out of the 3 volunteers placed there. I voluntarily moved projects from an urban area with many white people where everyone speaks, at least a standard level, of English to a rural area where we are the only white people and hardly anyone speaks English at all. When I put it like that, I sound crazy which at the time I think I was. It's definitely a challenge.
The children at the school speak NO English so lessons can be a struggle and definitely need a member of staff to translate. However my Sepedi (the language spoken here) is coming along slowly. I know the most important phrase off by heart now "aowa, dula fase" meaning no, sit down. An essential when taking an arts and crafts class with the children!
I am calling the pupils children but actually many of them are not, in fact most of them! The youngest is 9 and the oldest 32. We were shocked as we began to discover the pupil's ages! Many of them look a lot younger than they are, as their childhood development was stunted because of their mental impairment.
The pupils are fantastic. Each with their own personality we've grown to love. Of course you shouldn't but I definitely have my favourites. I know everyone's name now which is an achievement considering some of the impossible pronunciation.
Thabang is a tiny ray of sunshine. He's 9 (but physiologically and mentally about 4). He can't talk but that big smile and those huge eyes speak volumes! He walks round holding my hand and constantly blows what I think are kisses on my cheek and wears a wooly hat everyday without fail, even in 40 degree heat.
Thabo (18) is also a sweetheart. He has been described by doctors as 'severely mentally retarded'. The answer to every maths question you ask is 2! His disability has been put down to the fact he didn't cry at birth. Every morning without fail he says "hi how are you I'm fine". He absolutely loves a dance to the Beyoncé classic, Single Ladies, after class which I will try and post a video of soon it's a must see!
Matome (21) is another one of my favs. He is probably the most disabled pupil at the school. He can't really speak and can't read or write (although that is common in the school). The biggest brightest smile sweeps his face when he sees me in the morning accompanied with his jumping and excited grunts. He has so much character. I asked a teacher why he sits in the floor in class and apparently it's because he once sat on a chair and fell off so now he refuses to sit on a chair again which I thought was brilliant!
And finally 'our husbands' or at least they think... Selello (25) and Maquettcha (18). Maquettcha told a teacher to tell me today that we shall get married, he shall buy me a Range Rover and he we keep me by his side all the time because his friends will try and steal me. Despite his optimistic dreams there would be an extreme language barrier! Although he does give me cake so all is good. However I think Nadine would rather like being a WAG. I say this meaning her 'prospective husband' is a footballer! Selello is in the South African Special Olympics football team. After winning all their games in Pretoria last month he has been selected to play in the team in the finals in Portugal. We're so proud of him! Despite tirelessly politely declining the bolah (money the husband pays to the wife's family to marry her) they seem persistent. It definitely adds an element of humour to our day!
There are many more pupils I could write about but I'd be here all day so we'll keep it not short and sweet. I need to get some shut eye now to prepare myself to praise The Lord in choir practice tomorrow- yes that right me in a choir! Africa has changed me, I'm full of surprises. Hallelujah.