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For the last two days, we have been without power. After experiencing two months of no rain in Motswedi (and almost 7 months before that, according to the residents), we have been hit by storm after storm. Starting at the end of last week, we have had some incredible lightning shows, with quite a bit of rain. Very nice for a place that has been experiencing a drought, but difficult for us to get used to no power on a regular basis. When we first were accepted to Peace Corps, we thought that we would have no power or water. We then learned that everywhere in South Africa has electricity, a lot have water. So, our expectations changed. Now that there is no power, we are struggling to adapt, complaining about something that we didn’t think that we would have in the first place. Kind of funny, me thinks. Anyway, I had written the following little bit for the blog, but I didn’t have the chance to get onto the Internet. So, here it is. Enjoy!

October 8, 2007
“I have been very negligent with my blog and I apologize about that. September 1…wow! I have written up a review of my time here in South Africa, going back to when we arrived, but I have not had the time to finish or post it yet. But I will at some point. Internet access is a little tricky and can be expensive. The purchase of a laptop will help matters greatly. I hope to be able to post once a week from here on out. At a later date, I will decide which day will be posting day.
Robi and I are now in Jericho in the North West Province of South Africa. This will be our permanent placement for the next two years with Peace Corps. We were sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers on September 20 and after lunch, rode to Jericho with our principals. As our primary project, we will be working with four schools (3 primary and 1 middle) and with the Educational Development and Support Centre in town. Our secondary project will be something that we develop that suits our own interest. The names of the primary schools are Mafale, Mmatope, and Charles Mamogale. The middle school is Makopye More. The setup of the primary schools in South Africa are a little different. The primary school is divided into two parts; the foundation phase and the intermediate phase. The foundation phase is Grade R (kindergarten in the USA), Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3. The intermediate phase is Grades 4 – 6. The middle school is grades 7-9. So far, we have divided up the schools for ease. I will be working with Mafale and Makopye More, while Robi works with Mmatope and Charles Mamogale. It is interesting to already see the specialties of each principal.
“We live in a 3-bedroom house behind our host family’s house. They are the Kgoathes. The eldest are William and Priscilla Kgoathe. Both retired from teaching. William was a principal and once on the parliament of Boputatswana, a region in South Africa that was governed by Chief Lucas Mangope. (Look him up for an interesting history of the end of Apartheid.) William and Priscilla have a granddaughter in the house, named Lefensi (we call her Fenji). She is almost 30 years old and has two daughters, Amolgelang (Amo for short) who is 13 years old and Tlhotlho who is 3 years old. They are a wonderful family and have done a great job of making us feel like part of the family.
“The principal of Mafale Primary is JJ. He is a very outgoing and gregarious man. Some call him an entertainer. He has grand ideas on what needs to be done and goes after them. He seems to remember everything in his head and doesn’t write much down. This makes it a little difficult for me to figure out what is going on, but I am going to work with him on organization. Very ironic, might I add, since my organization skills leave something to be desired. It certainly will be an adventure to work with him. So far I have only worked with him for two days. I will be returning to Mafale on Thursday and Friday of this week. I am excited to get some work done.
“The principal of Makopye More is Nnopa. He is a very smart and just person. The students come into his office throughout the day whenever they have a conflict that they need help with. He has encouraged the students to go to other teachers, but they continue to come to him, seemingly because they like the way that he deals with the problem. He has done a lot to get the school two computer labs with a total of 45 computers. In addition, he just put in a proposal for a new two-story building with new administration offices and a new lab on the second floor. He is really striving to get the computers involved in the learning process, but he doesn’t know much about computers. He doesn’t use one on a daily basis and doesn’t ever go onto the Internet. Like JJ, he is not very organized and I will be working with him on integrating computers into classroom activities and organizational skills.
“South African schools are a little different from US schools. The students remain in the same classroom all day and the teachers move from class to class. The students only leave the classroom to work in the computer lab, during break time/lunch, and to use the restroom. Before 1994, all black schools were under was is called Bantu Education. The idea was for the black population to be taught that they were below the whites and that they did not have the mental ability to be at the same level as the whites. All learning was by rote and critical thinking was purposefully excluded. In 1994, with the end of apartheid, the Department of Education came up with the Outcome Based Education (OBE). It is very much like the education in the US. The main push of OBE is to build critical thinking. The only problem is that the teachers were taught under the Bantu Education and don’t have the knowledge base or know-how to teach in the OBE style. So the teachers have been overwhelmed with workshops and two-day seminars to quickly learn how to think differently. OBE is a very good idea, but the essence of it is lost on the rural educators, particularly because the language used in the documents and books is very much legal vocabulary. I even found it complex and complicated and it is in my native language. So here we are, trying to decode the jargon so that the teachers can learn a new way to teach and make the classes more learner-centered. It is very much a difficult proposal, but I am very excited about it.
“The town where we live has about 30 thousand inhabitants within 7 kilometers, though you won’t know it. It still feels like a village. When we arrived, there was no running water even though there were faucets, a bathtub, and a toilet in our house. We were very confused. Water was brought in by truck and put into a big green Jojo tub (10,000 litres?). Since we have been in South Africa, it had not rained. About a week ago, the rain started. At first it was wonderful, but it has rained at least once everyday since, and it is very damp here. Once the rain started, I guess the reservoir level got high enough that we know have running water. Well, it is getting late and I have work tomorrow. Talk to you soon.”

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