Trustee Emily Hogge is spending six months on the ground in South Africa. She will be providing monthly despatches exploring the impact our work is having on local communities in KwaZulu Natal and Cape Town. This first report focuses on her initial impressions during the first few weeks of her trip.
Driving up the tar road towards Ingwavuma I could be forgiven for thinking nothing has changed in the two years I have been gone. The road is still full of holes, animals roam around, water pumps lie dormant and boys play football. How ever a closer look reveals two new Chinese shops ending the domination of Spar, more houses including some two stories, a new medical clinic relieving some of the pressure on the hospital and three beautiful buildings which make up Ekukhayeni Orphanage. The atmosphere in the village is also changing, there are signs of entrepreneurship with car washes and new tuck shops appearing, the younger generation seem to be striving for greatness. However the joviality and business is still ever present and provides a joyful backdrop to everyday life.
It has been wonderful settling back into life in Ingwavuma, the beauty of the African rhythms of each day. Getting used to life with limited water, the pack of dogs that guard the house and reduced access to food has taken time providing a humble reminder of the privileges of living in the UK. However I am now fully in the swing of teaching grade two at Khethani Christian School, where a number of our children attend, as well as grade seven geography and history. The school has come a long way since its birth seven years ago. Grade 1-7 are now together on a main campus with the South African and Khethani flags flying proudly. The school has a dedicated teaching body led by the experienced principal Mr Swift. The inclusion of children with mental and physical disabilities is also developing with time. As always the sport and extra curriculum elements are strong and the children get an all-round quality education. It really is a pleasure to be a member of the teaching body again. Like the school Facebook page for an insight into everyday life at the school https://www.facebook.com/khethanichristianschool.
Finding myself at the coal face of our work has been fantastic as I am able to deal with the ever changing needs of our children with fast and practical solutions. In the few weeks that I have been here I have already started to build relationships with all our children. My position at theschool gives me the opportunity to interact with our children on a day to day basis. During the past two weeks I have brought bikes to deal with a transport issue for two of our children, started a Zoe Trust girls meeting once a week to discuss relationships, careers, positive choices and role models, started working with our two older boys to develop their laptop skills, confidence, responsibility and communication skills, started daily feedback meetings with one of our young boys who is close to exclusion and allocated time each day to focus on helping one of our children with cerebral palsy to learn to walk unaided. These are all interventions that will develop with time and I hope will have a positive impact on these young people’s lives. Most importantly it is amazing to be forming relationships with our children which I am sure will prove useful in years to come as they navigate secondary and tertiary education.
The challenges of Ingwavuma are ever present and helping our children to navigate these and providing them with the skills needed to do so is one of my primary aims for my time here. This can be tricky and during my first day one of our children was expelled from school which was a sad and troubling time. Unfortunately as hard as we have tried his home life has remained unstable which has impacted on his ability to learn and behave in class. However we hope that the skills that we have given him over the years will provide him with the opportunity to make the most out of his new school. He is a prime example of how important a stable home life is and how our focus must continue to be around the whole child.
Alongside my work with our individual child I have also started working on ideas for our innovative education project. I hav
e launched two SOLES (https://www.theschoolinthecloud.org/) with the year seven class in geography and history. It will be interesting to watch these develop over time. In addition I have started to introduce the talk for writing concept into the grade two classroom which is an exciting experiment.
I look forward to continuing our work over the coming months delving deeper into the educational systems, the needs and challenges of our children and further exploring innovative education projects.