Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Tale of Winter in July

It's a Beautiful Day in The Neighborhood... (Article by Robin & Woody)

We can change the world and make of it a better place. It is in your hands to make
a difference” ~Nelson Mandela

Picking up rubbish in the community in honor of Mandela Day
The first day back to school for Term 3 was Mandela Day. In November 2009 the United Nations declared the 18th of July as Nelson Mandela International Day and each year it's marked with acts of good works in communities throughout the world. At one of our primary schools in the A-side of the village, we celebrated Mandela Day by singing happy birthday to Mandela during the morning assembly, then singing the South African national anthem. In recognition of the more than 67 years Tata Madiba spent serving his community, his country, and the world at large, Mandela Day encourages people around the world to volunteer 67 minutes of their time to do something good in their communities. For one of our primary schools, we spent our 67 minutes picking up rubbish from the school grounds and surrounding community neighborhood. The entire school participated in this event from Grade R (kinder-garden) to Grade 7. Hands big and small worked together to clean up the community. And boy did our community needed it too... Wish we could have Mandela Day every week! Happy Birthday Tata Madiba!!
67 Minutes picking up rubbish around the community

Literacy Day Reading Competition (Article by Robin)
"I can read in red. I can read in blue. I can read in pickle color too." ~Dr. Seuss

Learners read during the Literacy Day Competition
The Mpumalanga Dept of Education decided to implement a district-wide literacy day. In honor of Literacy Day, one of our schools on the B-side of the village hosted a program in July which included a reading competition, speech giving, and story telling competitions in both the home-language of xiTsonga/Shangaan and in English. Forty-nine kids from grades 1 through 7 participated in the competition. Myself and two other teachers were asked to judge the competition. We judged the participants in handling of the book, reading the heading, title, and author, reading fluency, tone, confidence, posture, and minding punctuation (full-stops A.K.A. periods, commas, and questions marks) while reading. For the reading competition, each learner read a section or page from a story book. The competition started with 3 or 4 students from each grade reading in xiTsonga/Shangaan and then in English. While I am not fluent in Shangaan, I was able to pick-up from intonation which students were reading more fluently then others. We also had speeches and stories told by several of the 7th graders.

We judged participants on fluency, tone, posture, and in handling of the book.

UNISA College Talks (Article by Robin)
"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today." ~Malcolm X

UNISA Recruiter speaks to grades 9 through 12
After the career guidance talks hosted by Ulusaba last month, I realized that our high school students needed more guidance and information on the application process for college. Many of the kids at the high school don't really have plans for their future and most have no idea what the application process is like for college. I can recall trying to tackle the convoluted application process myself when I started college many years ago. So, I decided that it was time to arrange for them to hear from a college recruitment officer. I was able to get two guest speakers from the University of South Africa (UNISA) to come to the school and speak to the kids about what the application process is like, what the requirements are for acceptance into the university, what courses and degrees they offer at the college, as well as how to apply for financial aid. My goal was to get the kids to start thinking about their the future and for them to understand that they need to be making good grades and preparing for college now. We had about 400 students from grades 9 through 12 who participated in the two-part sessions.

UNISA gives students advice on applying for financial aid

After-School Computer Classes (Article by Woody)

Mr. Mhlaba gives lessons on using the mouse to Grade 6 students
In mid-July when the school term started again we were able to arrange a shopping trip with one of our two Primary schools to get the few missing supplies for the computer classroom. With those in hand, we were finally able to finish wiring power to all the computers and get all the computers operational. A couple weeks later, we opened the computer class to the Grade 6 learners after school to give them their first hands-on introduction to using a computer. One of Peace Corps' goals is to have us work with counterparts (either educators or community members) training them on program functions and helping them to gain the skills needed to continue our programs once we are gone. My counterpart at that school, Mr. Mhlaba, started the class with an introduction to using the mouse, and got the learners practicing with a game-program written by another PCV to help them learn hand-to-eye coordination in moving the cursor to a target and learning the difference between a single and double-click. Because of the amount of new vocabulary words they're having to learn for the class (mouse, monitor, keyboard, click, single, double, log-on, shut-down, etc...), he's having the present most of the lessons in XiTsonga for now. Once they're more familiar with the terms and concepts, then we'll hopefully be able to transition to more instruction in English.

First computer class with Grade 6
Our goal is to give 1 hour each week to classes for grades 4 to 7 during the school day. We may also be able to keep the class open after school 1 day a week for learners who want to continue to practice, educators who want to work on improving their skills, and community members who want to learn a little about computer operation.

Welcome to the Library... (Article by Robin)
"A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded." ~Lemony Snicket

Reading Little Lucky Lolo and the Cola Cup Competition to Grade 5
My weekly English literacy classes at the primary schools are still going well. The library lessons for English literacy are adapted from a curriculum developed by the READ Education Trust. The program includes a library orientation in the first few weeks. Then once-a-week for a month we continue to read the same book each week in class. In the first week, I read aloud to the kids so that they can hear the book being read and hear how the words sound. Then we do group reading with the same book during week two so that the kids can help each other read, then followed by guided reading in week three so that the teacher can help guide the kids' while reading. Finally we move to independent reading in week four. Our libraries also have 6 library helpers consisting of students from grades 6 and 7 who help with the day-to-day tasks of running the library after-school.

Reading a book donated by Biblionef to Grade 5 students
The organizational system that we use at our libraries is a color-code system. Each category of books has a separate colored sticker on the spine of the books. For example, Science and Nature will have a green sticker, Arts and Hobbies a red sticker, History a blue sticker, and so on. It's much easier then the whole complicated Dewey Decimal system. Unless you have a full-time librarian who can restock books, then the Dewey Decimal system is generally too complex for most kids to understand how to re-shelve books. The color-code system allows the students to put books back in the category/section where they found it. Additionally, since there is no public library near the village, the our libraries are open two days a week to the community during after-school hours. We also have a lending system that allows the kids and community members to borrow books.

I read English as my counterpart reads the XiTsonga version.

Speaking of Books, Books, Books, We Need Books!!

Do you have books that you no longer want? Donate them to a great cause! In light of our upcoming Literacy Centre project at the high school, we would like to host a book donations drive. Please join us in raising needed book donations for our future library at the high school. You can donate individual books or organize with your school, church, scouts group, community group, or host a drive at your place of business. Ask your local library to adopt our library project. We'll be giving up-to-date info on the progress of the library build. Donated books can be either new or used. Our request for books will continue from now until the library is officially open, which will be several months from now. What better way to help this growing community than to support education and literacy? To see a list of books and get ideas of what we need for the high school, please review the past June 2011 post or contact us directly via email.

Books can be mailed to:

Robin & Woody Al-haddad
U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers
Schools and Communities Resource Program
PO Box 1174
Thulamahashe 1365
South Africa

With support from you we will be able to enhance and expand the high school's impact on the lives of the students and within the community.

As always, we appreciate your support!!!

1 comment:

Adam Willard said...

AWESOME!!!!! It's so great to see all the projects thriving there! Seriously, you guys are just awesome PCVs (and people) and we're so glad you're doing such good work with everyone. I tell you, seeing that photo of Mhlaba in the middle of all those kids at the computers really was great for me. I'm glad you guys have pressed on past all the difficulties to keep making it happen. When Lora gets up, I'm going to make sure she sees all the cool library stuff too.

Anyway, I know I haven't written you back in a while (moving preparations and support-raising makes things BUSY!) but right now it looks like we'll be arriving in South Africa around Sept. 30th. We're hoping to buy our plane tickets this week. We especially want to be in Dumphries for Nelson's wedding ceremony on Oct. 8th, so we should be around that time. I don't know if that corresponds with when you're out of the village, but let us know so we can make sure to also be around when you guys are around.

Anyway, keep up the great work!