I woke up at 7:30 in the morning and got ready for a new week at Ikaya. It was strange though. Normally I dread Mondays, but today I didn’t mind. I was looking forward to getting to see all my kids. Buscha usually comes to my room in the morning to wake me up, but mostly he wants to play games on my iPad. I won’t let him play until he finishes his breakfast. It’s a good incentive for him.
So my days at school usually consists of two different classes. The first half before interval, I help out Pam with her English classes and after interval I help out Zuki with her math classes in the computer lab. I enjoy doing both. However, today turned out to be more frustrating than anything else. In Pam’s English class, she had me check the learner’s assignments from yesterday. It was simple; read a short story about rain forests in English and then answer a few easy questions. I was cracking up from some of the answers these kids wrote down, but the more papers I checked, the more I became floored by how these kids don’t really comprehend the concept. Take a look at this paper for example:
These answers don’t make any sense! This is grade six. This kind of work was equivalent to third or even second grade work back when I was a kid. Not a single paper I checked received a 100%. I honestly could not grasp why these kids did so terrible on something that should have been so easy. My frustration only began there though. After interval, I went over to Zuki’s grade five maths classes in the computer lab. Yes, I know I put an “s” after the word “math”; that’s how they spell it here. Their assignment was simple, for example: John has 2 knives more than Mark. Mark has 3 knives. How many knives do they have all together?. First thing, why do these kids have knives haha?! I remember at home using simple variables like apples or books. Here I noticed they use knives, cassette tapes, and other odd things. Word problems like these were the most difficult task in the world for these grade five learners. Simple subtraction or addition. Simple! Even when I tell them what two numbers they have to add, some of them still use the circle or tally method to count. I may have gotten a little tough on them “You’re not babies. Only babies count with circles and tallies. You’re big kids now, this should be easy for you.” There was one learner who had absolutely no idea what 6 minus 2 was. I tried to explain, in the most simplistic terms, how to find out what six minus two was, but he was still confused.
I thought maybe these kids just don’t understand me? Maybe my accent is too thick for them. I even spoke slowly trying to get the kids to communicate. They understood me just fine. I really don’t know what the problem was. I talked to Zuki and told her a lot of these kids don’t understand basic math and she told me something very disturbing. She said most of the problem lies at home and their parents have no interest or desire in helping their kids with their homework or even ask about their day at school. The parents just whisk them off, and that’s that. They don’t get the motivation they need from home like I would get in America. Even if they did help, most of the parents don’t even know how to do the homework themselves. I shook my head. At my previous two schools, Christian Primary and Shining Star, the learners were very young so if they didn’t understand something then it was feasible. But these learners at Ikaya were entering their teenage years and couldn’t comprehend basic literacy and basic maths. The next day at the school was the same thing as yesterday: frustration. If I had more time here, I would personally tutor a handful of these kids after class. Nonetheless, I did tutor a group of people after school. Before I left one day, a group of teachers came up to me and asked if I could help them with their computer literacy assignments. These computers are a new thing for them so I was happy to help. I walked them through a guide using Microsoft Word. Tables, margins, bullets, fonts, etc – the basics. They appreciated the help for sure and were wowed by how much I knew. As a matter of fact, it’s now well-known around the school that I am handy with computers. I would be summoned to fix the broken computers in the lab almost everyday. Some weren’t connected to the school’s network, a computer would always freeze, a mouse wouldn’t work, or simply the screen wouldn’t turn on. For some reason, everyday there was a malfunctioning one. Internet wasn’t working properly one day, so the principle asked me if I knew any way to fix it. Piece of cake. Just consider me Ikaya Primary’s personal technician :).
I wondered how the kids I hang out with at Zulu’s are doing in their classes. They are in grade seven, so the only time I see them at school is during intervals. I have no idea how they are doing academically. So one day when they were following me home from school, I asked them if they had any homework. Aphiwe and Mawande did. I told them if they want, I can help them with it back at my place. Over time the boys would bring their work to me and I would go over their assignments and reinforce what they should already know into their heads.
They were fine, some more than others. They just needed a little nudge. But I told them as long as I was here I would help them out. Last thing I would want is for any of them to have to repeat a year at the school. Toy Toy and Mawande also had a group assignment they had to turn in tomorrow. They had to make a poster about the different cultures of the world and paste pictures of different foods and people onto it. I went to the library around the corner and found an assortment of pictures they could use, so I copied and pasted them into a Word document to print. Come to find out that the library ran out of ink. Oh Africa! I asked some locals, where I can buy a poster board but I couldn’t understand anything they were saying to me haha! It was getting late. I wish I would have known ahead of time them I would have prepared for this. I asked Mawande and Toy Toy how they would get this done. They said they’ll be okay. I hope that’s the case.
Well…in the meantime I’m hungry! I always am here. Mama Zulu feeds me well, it’s just that I’m a greedy pig. So after school the next day, I took the kids who were with me (Avele, Toy Toy, and Chester) and treated us to McDonald’s. On the walk there, they asked me how much longer am I staying in Kayamandi. I told them just a couple more weeks, unfortunately. But I will come back again to see them one day soon. That’s when Avele revealed some news. In a few months, he and his family would be moving to Eastern Cape. Once he completes grade seven, he will start high school in a totally different setting and will have to make all new friends. That always sucks. But who knows? It might end up being good for him. It’s nice to take the boys out to eat, often because they stay with me so long that they seem to miss out on dinner at their respective homes. I met Chester’s grandmother today by the way. On the way home from school, Chester showed me a shortcut to get to Zulu’s but first stopped at his house. “Oh you must be Chris’ friend?” she said to me. I swear everyone I meet in this town knows who he is haha! “Yup, my name is Dan.” I noticed how small and bleak Chester’s place was. It was about the size of my garage back home. He pointed to Mawande’s home which looked even more desolate. I couldn’t imagine growing up in these living conditions, but these kids make the best of it and are completely happy. I never ever heard them complain about it. I do plan on visiting most of their homes later on before I leave because I have a luggage full of stuff that they can get more use out of than I can.
Before I came here, Chris gave me the number of a friend he met while he was here, who he suggested I contact for trips. His name is Isaac. I contacted him a few days earlier and he came over today to meet me. What a nice guy! Isaac is going to help me do the excursions that I had a hard time trying to do myself. The main one is skydiving. I have been trying to skydive in South Africa for the longest time but every time I book it, it end’s up raining or something. Winter is not a great time for that, I know that now. I’ll keep in touch with him.
I told my teachers that I won’t be at the school Thursday because I am planning on visiting my old school, the Christian Primary, in Muizenberg. The kids there have no idea I am coming back! While I’m there, IVHQ asked me to check on the progress of the computer lab that should have been completed back in June. I’ll see how that turns out, even though Lucy already told me that the computer lab became a storage room. Oh boy. But once again, I feel guilty leaving my kids here in Kayamandi. I tell them my schedule and they always want to know the precise time I will be back! Gotta love these guys.
I am planning on buying as much school supplies for these kids as possible before I leave. Friends have messaged me offering to help. So I set up a PayPal account if anyone is interested in donating. Every little bit helps.
You can send through PayPal to my email, DANIELSLLRS@att.net.