Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Last Days of School

On August 5th and 6th Nick and I had one of the hardest jobs of this volunteering experience… saying goodbye to the kids and staff at Dalubuhle and Wes-Eind Primary Schools. When we arrived at Dalubuhle, all of the students and faculty congregated in their gym/cafeteria room. The teachers spoke to the students in Xhosa, the students said a prayer, and then we heard our names…”Miss Jen and Mr. Nick.” One of the teachers turned to us and said the school’s choir (we didn’t even know they had one) has prepared a few songs to say goodbye to us. In that moment, before they even started singing, I felt that feeling in my stomach and knew the tears were about to flow. After they sang a few songs for us, one of the other teachers told us we had to go in the middle and stand before the entire school. When we did, a teacher we had never even met greeted us and said the most wonderful things about how they were grateful to have us at their school for the month and how they’d never forget what we’ve done. (Insert tears now) Then she proceeded to wrap a beautiful beaded necklace around my neck and bracelet on nicks wrist. It might be the most meaningful gift I have ever received. I will cherish it forever. After a few photos with some students and faculty, the children went back to class, and we drove away in The Kusasa van.

Our goodbye at Wes Eind was slightly different. Nick and I held a contest during one of the days we were substitutes and had to give out prizes to three students. When we got to school, we met with the teachers for their daily meeting and the principal was so kind as to thank us for our efforts and tell us we’re welcome back anytime. After that, we walked to the fifth and sixth grade rooms to hand out our prizes and say goodbye. Just before we left the sixth grade room, I pointed to a few of the boys who’d been playing kickball after school with us and told them they have to keep playing even though we’re not around. I really hope they do. When we were walking out, I saw that same group of boys I’ve mentioned in a previous post… the boys who never go to class, and who don’t have basic reading and math skills. This time Nick, Sintu and I walked over to the group. Sintu asked them why they weren’t in class and they bowed their heads, giggled, and began speaking in Afrikaans. We don’t know any Afrikaans. Sintu walked to the nearest classroom to find out why these boys were not in class. While he was doing that, I somehow influenced them in saying that they need to be in school to learn, and they need to learn in order to have a better life. After a few minutes I convinced the three to follow me, I’d take them back to their classrooms and explain to the teacher that they were sorry and they are ready to learn again. I was shocked when they didn’t say anything and all followed me. The first stop was the sixth grade classroom where two of my friends needed to go. I knocked on the door and when the teacher came out she gave one look at the boys and rolled her eyes. I politely said, these guys just want to apologize to you for their behavior this morning; they’re ready to learn and would like to come back to class. The teacher looked at the two boys and then at me and began yelling about how disruptive they are when they’re in class, how they never do anything and they’re bullies…on and on and on. Then she informed me she kicked them out of class a few days ago and they’re not allowed back in until they bring their parents to school. In that moment it took everything I had inside of me to not yell back at this teacher and make her take these boys back in to class. Unfortunately for children like Darryl and Jason who most likely act up in class because they don’t understand… they’re going to get lost in the shuffle. I can tell you right now, they are NEVER going to tell their parents what happened and that they need to go to school. They’re going to “go to school” so their families think everything is okay, but after a few weeks they probably won’t be allowed on the property. And then what? Will they get lost in a world of drugs and abuse? Will they ever learn to read and write? Can they even get a proper paying job? I’m okay with taking a guess and saying no… they won’t. And I’m definitely not okay with this. The principal needs to be efficient and give the boys some type of in school suspension so at least they’re doing something! I’ll go as far as to say that he should drive them during the school day to their parents house, or wherever their parents work to tell them what happened. How… how on earth, in good conscience can these teachers just let these boys go? It breaks my heart, and it’s not okay.

We left Wes-Eind, and the boys stayed… wandering around the property. In that moment I knew my job here wasn’t done. I’m not finished with these two schools, and I don’t want to leave… ever. Call me crazy, but it’s my new mission in life to help boys like Darryl and Jason. To give these kids a chance. To tell them to dream and dream BIG. To teach them to want more than what they’re given, and that it’s fine to wish for a better life. I’m not prepared to leave South Africa, but I can assure you I’ll be back. And I… can’t… wait.

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