Showing posts from May, 2010

Classrooms in SA

Recently I have been observing Grade 1 classes in Grahamstown schools in preparation for my Masters thesis. This has helped me get a feel for the reality in many classrooms and the thoughts of teachers in the impoverished schools in Grahamstown. The surrounding context of these schools is not the lush green lawn and playground safely bound in a security tight fencing. Some of the schools I have been to do not even have sporting facilities, no jungle gym or swings for the younger children. The view from the classrooms are the mudhouses and shacks some of these children walk from everyday, derelict “homes” that are at the mercy of any whim of the Grahamstown weather. I have made various observations from visiting these classrooms and interacting with teachers who are doing the most important job in South Africa with the least recognition.

Today I was with a teacher who has been in the profession for 41 years! And this is her final year in the classroom, she's retiring with another co…

Beyond the mountain-more mountain*

I know the residues of apartheid in my own life: my father’s limited opportunities because of a lack of quality education, my mother’s precarious psyche that was affected by the traumas of living through apartheid and the lack of dignity that poverty can cause in ones life. Somehow because of my education (formal, informal and spiritual guidance) I find that I am a unique position where I have not been limited by my past, South Africa’s past. It wasn’t until I came to Grahamstown to study at Rhodes that the reality of what still needs to be done to address the inequalities in our society became clearer. The question of redress in South Africa is still a sensitive one.
The beauty of a small town like Grahamstown is that everything is in walking distance. Traversing from the lush suburb area in town into Joza and Tantyi is a simple 15 minute walk but the inequalities one sees are enormous and need an entire change of a system to address. 16 years later little has changed: some of the roa…

My First Time Confronting Sexism Head On

Growing up in an urban setting (mostly in flats in the CBD of East London) I learned very early in my teens that I didn’t own my space when I walked out in public. Like many women who are dependent on public transport and public areas waiting for taxis, the mail gaze has always been part of my daily bread.

When I asked my mother and older sisters about a strategy in dealing with men’s comments in public I was often told, “su’bahoya wethu, a’khonto babhetere ngayo” (Don’t worry yourself about [men], they’re not worth your attention”). This didn’t allay my frustrations because it seemed that the less vocal women were in these public spaces, the louder men became. The attack on the woman at the Noord taxi rank was a prime example of what happens to many women across South Africa. I have been fully dressed but some men have had the audacity of slapping me on the bum simply because he can, or caressing my face as though he owned it.

Apart from the physical harassment, men have the annoying h…

Teaching and learning!

Today is the last day of a term where I was immersed as a teacher/lecturer.I have no formal education as a teacher but this is what I have been in educational settings since I was 18years old. First as a sunday school teacher to primary school children, then an on and off teacher where I stayed with about 50 children between 6 and 13 years for 3 years while I was an undergrad student.

When the thought of teaching first came to mind it was about how I would be the person who would influence the learners and draw them out and be part of their journey of making sense of who they are. Instead little of this has happened. I have been the student learning about life from people as young as 6 years old. The greatest lesson I learned from "the Dinkies"(Grade1-3 learners who were living at the hostel with me) that the most important thing in life is to play and be listened to; the best form of violence is to kill people with kindness and hugs have the ability of communicating everythi…

Why I have fallen in love with Ruth First

Today Rhodes University hosted Judge Albie Sachs to launch the Ruth First Scholarship.Apart from the launch, Justcie Sachs spoke about "Ruth".Simply put,he told a story about a woman we've only read about in books and articles.He finally did her remarkable character justice.I was inspired by her rigour in scholarship as well as the daring nature the Justice described.She was simply human,and not afraid of asking difficult questions.

This made me think about my role as a scholar and what I will do about my education and insight.This is not to suggest that knowledge is only found in the walls of universities but somehow there's a different elememt here that shouldn't be taken for granted nor viewed with derision.Ruth First saw scholarship as a platform to engage with people and not empty discussions that have no effect on the real world.

I was inspired on many levels by this speech(warm and fuzzy feelings),but also afraid as this kind of relationship with the academy…

A rock and a hard place

Today I started my day thinking that I was going to "Rhini"Primary School(this is not the actual name of the school) simply to observe teacher practices in order to help me frame my research for the Masters in Education I am reading for. Much to my suprise I realised that the teacher I was allocated to for today was not coming to school.

There are 4 grade1 teachers in the school with classes over 30,a third or more of the children in each class have learning disabilities or behavioural problems. 3 of the teachers have been have teaching longer than I have been alive and they are all older than me. None of us are entirely sure why I keep going to their school, but they are all welcoming and indiluge my curiosity and patience in their class.

So today I entered the school as a psuedo-researcher from THE university and I left as a teacher. I was handed over into a class of Grade 1s with no preparation, no knowledge of the children's name and abilities, no knowledge of the clas…

Meeting the Old Man,Madiba

When I told my mother that I had seen Madiba, she laughed as I am one of those star-struck kids who have always wanted to meet the person I had proudly told anyone who would listen that he was my grandfather!There wasn't much time for conversation when I met him but he did ask where I am from and he guessed by lineage,"oh!ebaThenjini?" when I simply said "eKomani ta'mkhulu!".It was difficult not noticing his smiling eyes and his desparation of making conversation with all 28 of the scholars!

I study isiXhosa because I can

When people hear me speak English they often ask me where I am from and I tell them I from the Eastern Cape. I have realised over the years that this is a polite way of saying to me, "you're a coconut". I'm in two minds about this identity as it has been thrust upon me by people who are trying to understand me and figure me out.I have never once woken up in the morning and thought "Hmmmm,Thank you God for making me a coconut".But somehow this identity follows me.

Part of what entrenches this identity is the education I have received.Informally, my mother was the first teacher educating me about colonialism, the prophet Nxele, the story of Nongqawuse and underlying many of these stories is the reminder that "abelungu bane-date yokufika apaha eMzantsi,ungayilibali lo nto Baba"(White people have a date of arrival in South Africa and don't ever forget that my baby).I can't judge her for her views as she felt apartheid first hand and knows the l…

Inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili

I discovered a whole new world of literature in my 3rd year at Rhodes.The irony however is that I had been studying English literature as a major since my first year but it was only in my 3rd year when I took isiXhosa 1 that I realised that there was a history of prodigious writers from the Eastern Cape writing in isiXhosa.Apart from the challenge of this new course, I was ashamed at my ignorance of this knowledge and partly angered by the formal education I had received that had successfully ommitted such a rich heritage from my curriculum while I was in school, in the Eastern Cape nogal.

Ever since this course I have been re-educating myself on the history of the Eastern Cape and the writers and intellectuals.Yes,it's part of my existential crises of making peace with my legacy and education but it is mostly a realisation that when we talk of developing African language literature we are not operating in a vacuum,we stand on the shoulders of giants, inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili.


On leadership, youth activism, and duty of those 'born free'

Last year I was shortlisted and selected as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar for this. One of the questions in the interview posed by Sibongile Mkhabela was around the issue of what kind of legacy will my generation leave behind.I was stumped as this is something I had never really contemplated. Many things can be said about abantwana bangoku some good, but many people are disinterested and some profess doom and gloom for the kind of future we have.The following article expresses these thoughts...

Why education fails so many

I count myself as one who has been very lucky in receiving the kind of education I have.I matriculated from Clarendon Girls High (a girls school in East London) in 2005. Part of my education was sponsered by an organisation Friends of South Afroca Students (FOSAS) which has now amalgamted with Student Scholarship Programme. It was only after I came to Rhodes University when I realised that what I had called school for 12 years was no the norm for many South African people. The article below is a reflection on my experience and as well as moving forward as somone who wants to make education better for the majority of learners in South Africa...

The centre cannot hold

This is a piece I wrote for The Mandela Rhodes Scholars Thought Leader. I was sharing my frustration o the many initiatives making education a focus but somehow ingathi sichitha nge-rice esanti (we are spilling rice on the sand)...