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Posts tagged ‘south africa rural school’

Month 10: library opening!

The library is finally open at my school. I’m almost done training my grade 5-7 library monitors who now know where to put back the books, how to help learners pick out appropriate books for their grade/reading level and how to check-out books.

I will slowly integrate the library into class time by bringing classes in and showing teachers how they can utilize it. To lead by example, I am currently introducing my grade 5s to the library and differentiating from fiction and non-fiction texts through a research project for my English class.

They are researching three countries: Ethiopia, India and Nigeria to decide where our class character will travel in my class story. Then, one-by-one each learner will tell me me why he should travel there for a speaking grade for term 2. We are researching those countries specifically because they are the only countries we have books about. Twelve kids are sharing one book, so I made photocopies of the books. They are also using an atlas from the 1980s that has a page about the USSR…the USSR still exists, right? Hmmm… maybe my characters Umhaha and Amandla can travel to the USSR? Yeah, you can get pretty creative with little and old resources…

This will be the project – other than my class – that I spend the most time for the rest of my time here. I’m ecstatic because it’s sustainable, the learners love it and it will teach the kids that reading is something fun and enjoyable.

The library with tablecloths and all

The library with tablecloths and all. My principal added the final touches to the library on a Saturday — ah-mazing, right?

That computer, straight from the 90s, works

Believe it or not, that computer, straight from the 90s, works

Ethiopia group working hard...or hardly working?

Ethiopia group working hard…or hardly working?


Researching what people eat in India


Taking a break from researching Nigeria… I guess the “throw yo hands up for the camera” is a worldwide “I’m a cool kid” thing


Sanele drawing a picture perfect map of Ethiopia


Some of my learners – like Siyanda – struggle with English, but are artistic. It’s nice to deviate from the norm and give them something to draw and label


Siyabonga and Buhle working together to draw the Nigerian flag

Dear Peace Corps high, won’t you stay for a while?

Yours in service,
Small heartLiz

Month 10: “funny” day

My school counterpart is the most creative South African I’ve met during my time here. To fundraise for our Books for Africa project, she decided to start “funny day” at our school. She described “funny day” as a day where learners pay 1 Rand to dress up “funny” — meaning cross-dressing, dressing up as adults, wearing clothes too big for them, wigs, etc.

I thought the beauty pageant we hosted for fundraising last month was ridiculously hilarious, but then this day happened. Enjoy the photos — I hope you laugh as much as I did!

Remember “that one kid” I told ya about?

After I edited his stories, he rewrote them into a new notebook I gave him. He decorated the cover – how neat, right?! I wasn’t even expecting that.


I think that’s supposed to be both of us; I’m always doing library stuff on my computer when he comes to see me

The stories are the same, just with some grammar and punctuation changes from my editing.

Then I read this:

“Miss Mathebula this is for you now. Thanks to believe me about these stories, other people don’t believe me. Miss you’re the best person in my school. And you’re kind of like my mom. Give me a name that you like best.”

Awwwwwwwwwwwwww – awww, aww, aww. Once again, it’s the little things that show me why I’m here – even if it’s just editing a kid’s stories during my free time. May I add – I unexpectedly play the “mama role” again in my service work.

So, what English name did I decide to name him? I had to hold back from naming him after my favourite American author, J.D. Salinger or fictional character Holden Caulfield. Salinger is a recluse and a very strange man, but a brilliant writer. Then, there’s my favourite fictional character, Holden Caulfield of the Catcher in the Rye. Slight problem: probably shouldn’t name him after a love-or-hate controversial American writer or my dog, Holden the pug. Slash that thought.

After consulting with my English major and literature loving friend Lauren, we decided to go with Ralph. I wanted to name him after a famous and brilliant American author – something that he’ll remember throughout his school years. Ralph is related to two people: of course, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ralph Ellison, the author of Invisible Man. I didn’t want to name him after just a white guy because he needs to know that there are famous black authors out there too.

When he gets older and can understand such literature, he can read Emerson and or Ellison’s work and see why they are such valued authors in America. The themes of the works – especially Invisible Man – may resonate with American culture, but this kid is smart and will be smart enough to relate it to his life, eventually. I plan to give him a book or excerpts of these author’s written work when I leave in a long year and a half from now.

Yours in service,
Small heartLiz

Help! In need of suggestions for my grade 5 class story

Nicely put, the South African English curriculum for grade 5 is absolutely unrealistic for rural kids and is a load of eloquently written and presented nonsense.

Instead of sticking to the books, I created a class story for my English class. The kids get two different stories each week that build upon each other. Each story is simply written and has bolded vocabulary or a punctuation concept. My main goal for this ongoing story is to help the kids who can barely read, read a little better, and the kids who can read, critically think. I debated about going on with the story because some of my smart kids finish the work so quickly, but whatever, I’m all in now.

A short summary: The class story is about a boy named Umhaha (greed in Zulu according to my Zulu book). The boy lives in a village and is bored with his life; all he wants to do is travel the world and see different things. He walks to a birthday party with his best friend Thobile (humble in Zulu) and gets cornered by a talking horse, Amandla (power in Zulu). Amandla gives him them the option to each make three wishes. Thobile doesn’t think it’s a good idea because he thought the horse was lying, so he leaves Umhaha and goes to the birthday party. Umhaha, however, decides to make three wishes. The next time he meets Amandla the Horse, thinking that he can make his first wish, Amandla tells him he must complete a task first and will know if he doesn’t because he’s magical and can see everything. Umhaha then realizes that Amandla is pretty powerful horse and could maybe do harm. The task Amandla has Umhaha complete is ridiculous stuff – like steal his sister’s sweater and put it on a goat. After he completed the task, he finally got to make his first wish, which was to travel to other countries. As soon as he made the wish, he and Amandla ended up on a beach in Mozambique.

That’s as far as the story has gone so far: All I know is he is going to travel all over the world and have an adventure in each country –whether that is running into trouble, trying new food, seeing a new part of a culture, whatever. Then, I’ll show the kids on the world map mural at my school where he is in the world. If the kids are good (unlikely), maybe I’ll make guacamole during avocado season and Umhaha travels to Mexico.

I ask the kids questions that evaluate Umhaha’s decisions and what they would do if they were in similar situations. Then (starting this term) I will have them draw pictures of the sequence events in the stories each Friday. Critical thinking and comprehension points! I asked some of the kids last term if they thought Amandla was a good or bad character and some actually said a bad character because he told Umhaha to steal. I was STOKED! Then, there are the kids who copy word-for-word things out of the story to answer questions…a helpless battle so far.

Alright, I may be creative, but I also get writers block more than often. That’s where YOU come in!

Where do you think Umhaha should travel? What kind of trouble do you think he should run into? Why? What lessons will he learn? What should be the major lesson he should learn? What other two wishes should he make? Should Amandla end up being a good character or continue to be a manipulative character? How should the story end?

Got ideas? I have some, but am looking for more. It would be pretty awesome to use outside suggestions. E-mail: Lizinservice at gmail dot com or comment away.

Term Two starts tomorrow. Not in the slightest ready, but it can only get easier from Term One, right? Currently dealing with severe-post-vacation-village-shock.

Yours in service,
Small heartLiz