Work in Progress - We Carry Each of These Children in Our Hearts

Sam and Isabel Moss spent the autumn of 2006 volunteering as teachers at a primary school in Soweto, South Africa. Their trip was sponsored by the ERT. Next they went on to Durban, on ERT Teaching Fellowships, to be volunteer teachers at the newest St James School, which opened its doors in 2007. Here is Sam’s account of teaching in Soweto.

Writing about our time in Soweto has proven more difficult than expected. Schools in Soweto have a multitude of problems, and it is very easy to get bogged down in the negatives, rather than looking at and working with the positives involved. So, this is a determinedly positive take on our 2½ months at Khomanani Primary School, Diepkloof.

The school has 865 pupils, and we worked mostly with the 106 grade 5 children (in 3 different classes), teaching English. With 11 national languages in South Africa, many of the children can speak 3 or more languages. Thus their abilities with English are wide-ranging: some are excellent and need extra stimulus to develop further, others struggle with the most basic of reading and writing. What unites them all, regardless of ability, is a keenness to learn. Our presence was well-received and we quickly established a good rapport with them. Every day one or another of them would ask us to take them back to England with us. If only!

For the children that struggle with English, our presence meant some much needed individual attention. With classes of 40 children, teachers are not easily able to give extra help to those that need it. With both of us working in the same class, we were able to help those struggling with basic English. Even with a few weeks’ work, the children’s language improved and they started to enjoy lessons more. The fact that the only means of communication with us was in English was a learning tool for each and every child – just to speak English more often is a means of improving their language. By the end of our stay, most had learnt to ask, ‘please can you lend me a pen?’ rather than ‘please can you borrow me a pen?’! Even cricket sessions with Sam’s newly-formed team were a chance to practise English!

The school has been greatly helped by the TAG Soweto project, and the lasting and wonderful effects of this scheme make it a verdant oasis amongst the dusty, dirty streets of Diepkloof surrounding the school. Many of the children come from difficult, underprivileged and impoverished home situations and to have such a sanctuary as their school is an undeniably fantastic gift.

Khomanani’s Tsonga motto translates as ‘building the nation’ and our time at the school lead to a very strong realisation that these children really are the future of the nation. They are so bright and happy, and we can only hope that this will continue beyond their youth, and build a strong and harmonious nation. Each child has such potential, be it academic, creative or sporting, and our prayer is that their teachers and government will not fail them, that they will seek, and be afforded, opportunities to achieve their full capabilities. The most dedicated teachers at Khomanani have the welfare of the children at heart, but others are disillusioned and exhausted by the pressures placed upon them by the Department of Education. We have been so blessed to meet such wonderful young children, and we carry every one of them in our hearts, especially the grade 5s with whom we spent so many happy hours. Each day we prayed with them, ‘we were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us’. May their lives reveal God’s glory.