After a solid few days of sightseeing it was time to get to work. Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit Langa Township and two schools in the community. At Moshshesh Primary School we toured around the math classrooms with Mr Amani. Mr Amani is a 6th and 7th grade math teacher and interested in collaborating with us at Town School. His energy and enthusiasm was wonderful and the students were working on similar content to what we study at Town. Mr Amani did keep leaving the classroom while we visited and what I soon learned is that he in fact had 3 full classrooms of students. I can't even imagine. I continue to feel grateful for my own class size, and for the space that I am able to call home 9 hours a day. At the end of the day the students are given organized study time to work through homework and studies. The realization that getting work done at home, with little to no support and potentially lack of electricity, has led them to develop time within the day to get guided practice and homework time. I was so excited to hear that they are making positive changes in the community to prioritize education. My favorite moment in that classroom was when of the boys asked, “take my picture”? After doing so, his comment was then, “I am going to America!”. We laughed as we acknowledged that he was going to America within my camera.
It was time to say goodbye to Mr Amani with the acknowledgement that I would do everything in my power to connect with this school in the future. Learning beside these students would be a privilege and I am going to make it a priority. On our way out of the building we were greeted by 1st graders. They ran to us immediately, making us feel like movie stars. They were also ecstatic to be in photos. As I glanced around, standing in the rain, I continued to wonder how we can help alleviate poverty? How can we help make the conditions of this community better? How can we help make the education system stronger? How can we connect with this school and in turn help my students understand more about the world in which we share with so many others?
The second stop of the day was at Siyabulela Primary School where we shown around by Zola. Zola is a Science and English teacher and was able to not only show us his classroom, but also the computer lab where the grade 3 kids were working. Sitting in the computer lab we witnessed the students playing an online game that helped them practice the native language of Xhosa. It was fun to see, and learn a little beside them. The computer lab actually had about 25 working, connected computers. While their system may have been windows '98, I had a positive feel about the class and their use of technology at a young age. I am hopeful that this school could be a positive connection in the future as well. Fingers crossed.
Zola spoke at length about the challenges the school was facing with testing in grade 6. While their lower grades are testing fine, he is concerned with the scores of the 6th graders. Due to that he has rallied teachers and parents to support an after school program that focuses on English and Maths skills to hopefully fill the gap. We assured Zola that the problems he is facing in regards to standardized testing is not the different from what teachers face in the US and we encouraged him to look at the problem straight on and continue to rally the community, especially the parents. His commitment was admirable. He clearly cared for the well being of his students, the community, and the education system in Langa.
Following our two school visits in Langa, Sammy, Michael and Treasure gave us a small tour of Langa. While I recall the Town School art project that Leap Future Leaders have led with where they build the township together, it was eye opening to see this place in the flesh. The shacks that they call home, the lack of electricity, running water and personal bathroom quarters… it all made me so sad. Not pity, but empathy. Tears in my eyes as I saw the smiles on these kid’s faces, watching them be just be children… smiling children. The difference in economic status between them and Town's students so vast but the smiles all the same. A quick stop at Leap's Computer Center, a computer lab created in the township for students to use that don't have a place to study at night and a place that the community can use for a small fee really rounded out my day time visit.
They say that home is where the heart is and I have to believe that, especially when my last and final visit to Langa was a visit to Lelapa Restaurant. I had no idea to expect when I was told that we would be spending the evening at a restaurant in Langa. It was dusk and I have to admit I was a little out of my comfort zone as we drove through the township to the restaurant. I had no idea where we were. However, I was immediately excited when I arrived and Sheila began sharing her story. Was it her story on time? Was it the amazing food she set before us? Was it her joke about tasting wine? Was it her home? It was all of that and more.
Sheila explained to us her 30+ year dream of transforming her home into a restaurant. She explained the trials and tribulations of space, loans and her realization that she needed to follow her dreams. Sheila explained her working world before Lelapa and I was in awe. The story that will stay with me as I continue to be in awe about the price of things here compared to San Francisco is about her work as a maid. Sheila was making 40 Rand a month cleaning a house in the 70’s. Her eye opening moment was when she found a receipt at the house that said two cheese and one wine for 40 Rand. Sheila’s words were powerful as she said, “I had to leave the job and go to school full time. I no longer wanted to be worth two cheese and one wine”.
Based on Sheila's occupational success, she clearly could have moved out of the Township by now. But she enjoys the community, gives it a positive name through Lelapa and has expanded her home for the good of her family. This woman belongs here. I am a better person having heard her story. Oh and the food... unreal! Check it out!