Posted on February 24, 2008 by Benjamin Barr-Wilson
About a month ago I was sitting working on a computer at Abbotspoort Higher Primary when the Mr. Moruane (the principal) came and lay a hand on my shoulder. He said that an emergency meeting was about to commence at the local secondary school. An emergency meeting sounded serious, and interesting, so I asked if I could tag along.
The meeting was in regards to the low, low matric scores from last years grade 12 learners. The matric examination is required test that learners must pass in order to graduate here in SA. Majadibodu Secondary is one of the, of not the, largest secondary schools in the the Lephalale Municipality and 70% of its learners failed the examination (ouch). It turns out that only a few years ago Majadibodu had been one of the top schools and had been declining steadily over the past 4 years.
At the meeting there were counselors from the municipality, the mayor of the municipality itself, representatives from circuit and regional levels for education as well as the educators from Majadibodu secondary and their feeder school Abbotspoort Higher Primary. Also a representative from the ANC Youth League was present.
The meeting was really a meeting of the minds as to how to help a struggling secondary scho0l find its way back into the light. At the end of the meeting I approached the principal of Majadibodu and offered my support. After talking with both of much supervising principals at my two primary schools I began helping out with science and mathematics for the grade 12 learners one day a week. I have been teaching physics the physics class, and preparing the lab for a chemistry experiment. To the learners knowledge there hadn’t been a lesson containing a practical element taught during their time at Majadibodu and considering the disarray I found when exploring their science materials I can believe it.
I have also been helping out after school. Learners are required to stay from 3:15 to 4:15 in grades 10, 11 and 12 in order to study and work on homework/classwork. During this time some learners asked if I could come back on Saturday. It turns out that learners gather at the school on Saturday in order to study in a quiet place with friends to help. Teachers do not come, just the dedicated learners. Some learners desire to do well and therefore are willing to put in the extra time to accomplish their dreams. If I can in anyway help them I will. Although I have only had the opportunity to go once since I have been asked I have enjoyed the chance to work on math, physics and chemistry at the high school level once again. Hurray for wider opportunities.
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Posted on February 1, 2008 by Benjamin Barr-Wilson
“Runners take your mark…”
The sound of a pistol rings through the stadium as young children rise up and begin to pound their bare, dusty feet against the sandy ground. Striving to be the one out in front at the finish line, or just struggling to put one foot in front of the other in the pursuit of the long distance race, these youth are running their hearts out.
Athletics (track and field) happens very soon after the start of the new school year. About 3 weeks in, all learners are brought out to the nearby soccer ground and are asked to race across the field as educators watch and select those learners who they deem to be the fastest for certain events. A few weeks later after minimal training and practice, the majority of the school migrates to local stadium down south of Abbot’s Poort in Shongoane 3. Races are held from about 9am until 2 in the afternoon as the scorching African sun beats down from overhead. This event is at the circuit (district) level and learners who do well here will head off to the municipality level in our local town, Lephalale, to compete and then on to the province and finally the national competition.
Although the distance races too place early in the day before the sun was at it peak, we were shocked and saddened to see a number of these youngsters crumple to the ground mid-stride as other learners were forced to sidestep to avoid trampling their peers beneath their bare feet. Malnourished, dehydrated and under-trained these poor young learners had been so excited to be participating that they ran their little hearts out.
Suz took it upon herself to go to these youth that were unceremoniously lifted and dragged off of the track onto the grassy field by the educators. They were propped up in a sitting position against their “coaches” legs as their heads lolled from side to side, shaded by one of the umbrellas that many of the adults carried. Water and electrolytes were needed and our Nalgene bottles and juice, purchased from the educators under the bleachers, served this purpose. Each and every one of these learners, given enough time to rest in the semi-cool shade, with water splashed on their heads and cold juice in hand came round and could walk away under their own power, but it was a jolt to the system to see each one go down.
We were told by the sports coordinator that during the following day, when the secondary learners compete, there would be more fainting do to heat exhaustion and over exertion. Sports just aren’t the same out here in rural South Africa under the relentless dry-heat of the mid-day sun.
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