Today was an ‘Observation Day,’ a day to see and immerse ourselves at Makupula High School and Vison Afrika Primary School. The Kayamandi township is scattered with sheet metal rooftops and the schools are a sanctuary of hope & opportunity. This morning we arrived at Makupula and spent some time setting up for our workshops tomorrow. Then I observed 3 classes: English, Math, and Science. Afterwards, we ate a delicious South African meal with the teachers. We learned that many of them have taught there for the last 8-10 years and teach 5-7 classes with ~50 students each.
Before we can begin to help bridge the divides and make a meaningful impact, we must spend time understanding the context and the challenges and start with some deeper conversations. One high school teacher, Mr. John Dalton teaches 5 different class subjects—he’s overwhelmed with tests, grading, lesson plans, and helping the struggling students get up to speed. In the midst of all this, I watched from afar as he took the time to interact with a student who was tossing a tennis ball by herself. The ball skipped away from her and he reached down, picked it up and playfully tossed it on the back of his hand like a magician doing a magic trick. Her face lit up as she tried to do the same. He smiled back.
As we ate dinner together, we all answered the question: “What surprised you today?” For some it was the network connection issues or the high volume of students in each classroom. For me, I was surprised by the similarities. The same challenges of equipping and engaging students. The same joys of seeing them be courageous, achieve their goals, and flourish.
Although the wifi is limited, the teachers are understaffed, and the resources are few, the students run around with a joyful wildness and freedom. After school, there were dance lessons and sports games in the courtyard. I’m excited for the rest of our time here as we continue to cultivate connections with the teachers and students. Today was one day to observe, one morning to get a glimpse into the challenges these teachers face every day. Although you may not be half way across the world in South Africa, you have a community around you right now that needs your presence and bold kindness. May we all look for opportunities to truly see others, immerse in their challenges, contend for their victories, restore brokenness, and bring hope.