- Walking adventures around the village and bee attacks
- Lots of books
- Some rad sports gear from a South African lotto grant for my school
- More books, books, books
- My first visitor to South Africa – Amy, a best friend from my hometown will be staying with me in my village for a little bit. Very excited!
I originally planned to invite any PCV involved in our library book project to my site to sort books with the Mayfields. In the past, PCVs have taken all the books out of the boxes onto tarps and then sorted them into different boxes depending on what schools want. This time, we did it a little differently – and a lot quicker! All the books we ordered were “leisure reading” books, which means they are random assortments of children’s and chapter books. Each box was already labeled based on grade level, so instead of opening all the boxes, we just assigned an average amount of boxes per PCV based on grade level the PCV requested. We only opened really heavy boxes to double check that a PCV didn’t get a box of textbooks in lieu of library books. All boxes of books I’ve opened for my library are incredible; I can’t imagine the other boxes aren’t similar to mine since I pulled them randomly!
My partner-in-crime Paige, who has been extremely helpful with this project, crunched numbers for me and assigned each PCV a certain number of boxes. (All of these numbers ended working up perfectly. And as a mathematically challenged person, I am forever grateful!)
We originally had to store all the boxes into a spare classroom at my school because we couldn’t use the large community hall at my school until after the Grade R graduation. The hall opened up last week; two of my good PCV friends – Katrina and Michael – came down from Manguzi to help sort the boxes and for a nice visit with me and my host family.
It took all week, but Katrina, Michael, and the older boy learners moved all the boxes into the community hall and placed each order under someone or a school’s name. Now the boxes are either ready to be picked up, or shipped off to another area of South Africa. Michael’s counterpart picked up Katrina and Michael’s boxes on Friday, and they have arrived safely in Manguzi after a comical road trip.
My Peace Corps program director, Lydia, visited me last Wednesday for her routine check-in. She took back a bakkie full of boxes to the Peace Corps office in Pretoria to be delivered to the two PCVs that lucked out on the Mayfield’s generous delivery offer. I keep expressing my gratitude with this project, but here’s some more: I’m really grateful to have such a fantastic program director, who will always go out of her way to help us and make our loads lighter! (Literally and figuratively.)
On Thursday, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education visited my school to see our recent donation, expressing much enthusiasm and support. Many schools in KZN have room for libraries and books, but getting a hold of children’s books is rather challenging in South Africa. This never really clicked in my mind until I was rummaging through my donation boxes and found countless books I had when I was little: Disney, Golden Series Books, Spot the Dog (MY FAVORITE), Sesame Street, Clifford, Maisy, etc. American pop culture is so strong that children’s books and toys are readily available and easy to adapt into learning materials. Many other places in the world don’t have such popular children icons. Anyways, the DOE will arrange for transport in the next two weeks to bring the books from my school to Northern KwaZulu-Natal PCV schools in Manguzi. Slowly, but surely, these boxes will leave my community hall.
Now I’m engulfed in the mundane process of numbering all our new books and putting them into my school’s accession register. I hope to have everything done by January and will work during vacation to ensure this happens. I enjoy being a busy bee!
Five hundred and sixty boxes arrived at my school today! Thanks to the help of the Battlefields PCVs, David Rattray Foundation employees, my school and the secondary school we unloaded all the boxes in a timely manner. They’re now stored in a spare classroom at my school. Next step in the process: sort the books into specific orders. But what matters the most right now is all the books made it safe and sound from America to South Africa! Time to rest.
Remember our library project? Well, it’s FINALLY happening. Twenty-five thousand library books for 30 rural communities will be delivered to my primary school tomorrow. I have a headache, am a little flustered and not sure if I’m prepared. My Peace Corps Battlefields crew, my school and the David Rattray Foundation has got my back for unloading these boxes off the truck. I called out for help, everyone responded, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support.
But better yet, we received support from an American couple that I never had met prior to last week – Claude and Barbara Mayfield – from Atlanta, Georgia. I mentioned this in a post from September about our books being packed and shipped, but they found our project online and got in contact with me. They are Books for Africa volunteers and are running a BFA project in Zimbabwe – the Zambezi Schoolbook Project.
They had a business out here in South Africa, traveled back in forth between America and South Africa and are well-versed with Africa. They go where they can help, which brought them all the way to my area – Rorke’s Drift, South Africa.
The Mayfields flew into Durban a few weeks ago and were staying at a hotel right by the Durban port awaiting the arrival of Sophie – our beloved cargo ship that decided to take her sweet time. We expected Sophie would reach Durban around 22 October, but that didn’t happen due to engindifficulty. She stopped in Walvis Bay, Namibia, had to get fixed up, then kept chuggin’ along down to Durban.
The plan was to have all the PCVs involved in this project come to my site once the books were delivered, sort the books into the specific orders with the Mayfields. Then, the Mayfields planned to take two orders of books to the Mpumalanga province to my Peace Corps friends George and Lilly. This would have significantly helped with delivery of the books, and it was so generous of them to offer to do.
Unfortunately, the books didn’t make it here in time for that to happen; as with anything coined with the title “Peace Corps”, flexibility is the key. I canceled book sorting all together and my team of support in the Battlefields improvised for the Mayfields’ visit. They still came out to the Battlefields, had refreshments with the Peace Corps Volunteers, had lunch with Ben (CEO of David Rattray Foundation), and toured all of our schools with Jonelle (a PCV who extended for her 5th year in South Africa at DRF!) and Diana, a PCV from my cohort who lives in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The Mayfields and Diana wanted to see how our libraries ran on the ground. The Battlefields PCVs — me, Monica, Will, Katie and Laura – all have functioning libraries with a similar organizational system. The system we have adopted from previous PCVs is pretty easy to figure out and implement, which is essential for rural African schools where many of the kids and educators have never used a library before. (Side note: Monica won an award from the district for the best library in the province! So amazing!) The Mayfields can use our material and ideas for their Zimbabwe project and future BFA projects; Diana can adopt it for her school once she gets the books from our project. (Big thank you to Jonelle for driving everyone around to the schools and giving a tour.)
The Mayfields are now off to Zimbabwe to meet with rotary and discuss logistics of their BFA Zimbabwe project. One of our Peace Corps South Africa supervisors is a RPCV from Zambia, so we were able to set the Mayfields up with Peace Corps Zambia to possibly assist in bringing a container of books there if Zimbabwe doesn’t work out. Ironically, the supervisor at Peace Corps Zambia has worked with their fellow BFA volunteer/friend on a BFA project in Botswana – it’s a small world, yet again.
Although things haven’t gone that smoothly (and fingers are crossed they do tomorrow), everyone involved in this project has been extremely helpful and flexible; I appreciate it so, so much! The Mayfields, PCVs and DRF still got something out of this past week’s visit, all had a great time, and it was refreshing to meet Americans who are so invested in helping educate our world.
The Mayfields’ grandchildren actually donated many of their books from their personal libraries for our project, and they also packed many of the books they collected from their Zimbabwe project from book drives from local schools and organizations in America. The Mayfields showed me pictures of their grandchildren going through their home library and holding up some of the books – the books that my grade 5 learners will be holding so soon! We plan to get some of my grade 5s connected with them. I will take pictures of my grade 5s and their grandchildren’s final book destination.
I’ve said this plenty of times during my service journey, and I’ll say it again – you’re never alone. There’s always a solid support system of people working for a common purpose worldwide, and a lot of the work PCVs do in the village would not be possible without it. We can’t forget I’m smack dab in the homeland of Ubuntu – because MY humanity is tied to YOUR humanity.
Feeling grateful! But also – is it December vacation yet? I’m pretty burnt out. Ah, soon enough…
Updates to come on the books within the next week.
Check out the Mayfields’ blog and more pictures from their visit here: http://cbmayfield.wordpress.com/
For more information on the Mayfields’ Books for Africa presence in Africa, here’s their Website for the Zambezi Schoolbook Project. Inspired? Support them!
Yours in service,
- Literacy Day Competition in Nquthu; select learners read poetry in Zulu and English, recited motivational speeches and sang gospel and Mariah Carey songs. (“Hero” by Mariah Carey will never be the same again.) We didn’t win any categories, but the learners had fun and tried!
- Yearly field trip to Ncome Museum – a Battlefields history museum at Blood River where the 1838 Boer-Zulu war took place.
- Unveiling ceremony for my sister’s baby girl Noxolo. On August 28th, 2012, my sister Munu had a miscarriage and was about seven months pregnant with Noxolo. The family buried Noxolo at her boyfriend’s property in our village. The “unveiling ceremony” is when everyone gathers, prays and the tombstone is exposed to the public for the first time. This ritual ensures that the deceased is at peace and welcomed by the ancestors. In Zulu culture, a goat is always slaughtered the night before. The day-of entails lots of signing, praying and then individuals say a few words about the person and place money on the tombstone.
Yesterday the CDE released a 65-page report I wrote for them titled "South Africa's Education Crisis: The Quality of Education in South Africa 1994-2011." The graph above comes from the report and shows the large differences between the richest 20% of South Africa's students and the average student in the Eastern Cape. Learning deficits grow as children move through the school system until they reach a zone of improbable progress where the possibility of passing matric is virtually non-existent.
I wrote my favorite Nelson Mandela quote for my that one kid Sebetsang in his notebook – “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – and he nailed it:
“Education is the most powerful weapon, that is true because if you don’t learn, you won’t be anything in the world. You won’t change the world into the beautiful place. You’ll just be the thief or a drunker.
Education is important because when you’re learning at school you can be skilled and have knowledge. You can make your community cheerful and you can change your life into a better life. You can make changes with your family if you’re educated.
If you’re educated, you can make lots of good things. You can create stories or draw anything by your own.
When you’re educated, you can also be respected and taken as a big boss. And you can also be famous.
WARNING TO SCHOLARS:
The tin that make noise, doesn’t have anything inside it. The tin that don’t make noise, have something inside it.
This thing simply means that when you’re making noise, you don’t have anything in your head. And when you don’t make noise, you have something good in your head.”
Don’t ya wish every kid had this mindset? Sure is refreshing!