Showing posts from September, 2011


"Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another."
Nelson Mandela

One of the emerging themes in my Masters research has been the idea of the “opportunity-to-learn” in a classroom setting. This relates to how time is used in the classroom and how learning happens in the reading lessons I’ve been observing. It is also about how to assess the extent of learning in any given lesson: how do teachers know when learners have sufficiently learned something?

The question of the expectations teachers may have of learners is also pertinent: if a teacher has an hour to teach something every single day for a week, how will they be satisfied that learning has taken place? I’ve wa…

body politics:my skin

I am fascinated by my skin. I think it’s my favourite part of my body.

My fascination began when I was very young and someone told me I was black. It had never been a problem that I was black (in fact I saw myself as umXhosa and not black, but that was not the most important thought when I woke up in the morning). What became a problem was when someone attached a value judgement to the pigment of my skin. We had just moved to the suburbs (an area with more white families than black families at the time) and my sister and I were looking for friends. We approached girls who were our age and applied the same rules we used on the school playground when you wanted to spark conversation with someone, “can we play with you?”. The little girls were startled by the request. One of them ran inside her house and emerged quite soon after with a response “my mother says we cannot play with black children”. Crestfallen, I began to understand that there was something wrong with being black, if it me…

the real diva

I woke up missing Bhele today, my granny. In spite of having a few memories of her, those I have are profound. The last time I saw her was last year, two weeks before she passed away. We had a date, which really means I just spent the afternoon in her room with her as she was already bed-ridden. A date with my gran usually meant chatting with her while people came in and out of her house. She would often boast about her granddaughter from Rhodes coming to visit her. Many people would be stunned as they last saw me as a toddler.

The visit also included digging around for pictures and memories in my gran's room. Above her bed there was always a picture of her in her 20s,looking beautiful and still, as well as pictures of her son and her grandchildren wearing their school uniforms. A picture of me in grade 1 was placed above her mirror opposite her bed. It always made me feel special knowing my picture was in a position where she could see it every morning when she awoke.

We had a gre…

To be or not to be [a teacher]... that is the question...

Last week I had an interview for a teaching post at a private school. I applied because I could and I didn’t think I would get an interview because I don’t have experience teaching in high school. When I was informed I was selected for an interview I had a pseudo-melt down...why had I applied to a private school in the first place?

I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was 18, in 2005. The decision was based on the belief that being a teacher was a guaranteed opportunity to add value to someone’s life (assuming the job is done correctly). It was also part of a reflection I had been going through at the time seeing as I had been at the same school for 12 years and had great teachers throughout that period(not to deny the fights and tensions with some of the teachers). What I didn’t appreciate fully at the time was the fact that the education I had received was not the norm in South Africa.

Moving to Grahamstown and volunteering at a school in Joza meant coming face to face with th…