by Julie Mitchiner, Greenheart Travel Volunteer in South Africa
I had a nice weekend away in Mdumbi – about 4 to 5 hours north along the coast. It is very, very rural but absolutely gorgeous. The hostel there is completely sustainable and everything used is reused. You stay in little rondavals with thatched roofs on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
While there we had a chance to visit the local preschool and it was great to get to see another classroom on the Eastern Cape. Literacy in Mdumbi was much higher and the day was much more structured but we got some great ideas and it’s definitely something to aspire to. Back in Cintsa we taught the kids one of the activities we learned in Mdumbi. They go around in a circle and say “Hello, how are you?” and “I’m fine” while shaking hands. After school there was a special event promoting the launch of a local bamboo project – Thuba Bamboo.
The mission behind it is to increase the Eastern Cape economy and establish co-ops in local communities and teach business skills. Five women from Cintsa East were selected and have been making a variety of products out of bamboo. A lot of community members came out for the launch and the school choir performed led by the preschool teacher, Phumla. As if this woman could do any more – she’s a teacher, a student, a mother/grandmother/foster mother, Friends of Cintsa advocate and an overall amazing community leader. If there were more people like her in these townships, I have to imagine there would be a lot less AIDs, drugs, teenage pregnancies and illiteracy.
The following day was a great day at Bulugha preschool. As I may have mentioned previously, the preschool classroom at Bulugha is tiny for 30+ students. There is a room next to the classroom that is filled to the brim with everything from a bed frame to watering cans to school resources that are buried underneath everything else. The volunteer coordinator and I decided it would be great if we could do something about this while we are here and propose revisions to this space, i.e. cleaning out the storage area, organizing the contents, incorporating new shelving and maximizing classroom space. We took pictures of the crowded conditions and wasted space and also did a site measure of the entire building.
We created a floorplan and then a new proposed floorplan and put it all into a powerpoint. It was presented to the head of our volunteer organization for approval to build and fund new shelving units. It was then presented to the principal of Bulugha and within a half hour of showing it to her, she had the whole school working in the preschool classroom and adjoining room to clean it out and get rid of rubbish and putting resources in their correct rooms.
Though I’ve never seen so many cockroaches in my life, it was so wonderful to see such a quick and positive response to the problem. The kids were so helpful (and found my response to the cockroaches amusing) and more than willing to help out. The classroom has never looked bigger (and cleaner!) and I’m excited to see how the changes promote a more positive school experience for our preschoolers.