Thursday, 29 October 2015

Volunteering with Preschool Children in South Africa

Meagan - a teaching student from Texas State University who joined VA32 for 3 weeks during July this year, shares her experiences working in a rural Wild Coast preschool. Foundation phase education in the Eastern Cape of South Africa is one of the most challenging areas to work in. Generally the preschools and day care centres are under-staffed and under-resourced with few facilities and a lot of children!

"Our first day at the school I, myself and the rest of my peers at that school, met the principal and all the teachers in the computer lab. After we all met, the teachers left the computer lab and shortly after, I went to the crèche where I would be teaching to meet the kids. To my surprise though, it was just the kids, Pumi (the teacher) was nowhere to be found.
Not sure what to do with a room full of four to six-year-olds whom didn’t speak any English, I told them all hello (luckily one of the only words I knew in Xhosa) and that my name was Meagan. Then, so that I was not sitting there awkwardly, with us all staring at each other while waiting for Pumi to get there, I pulled out some children’s books from my backpack. I read a couple of books to the class before Pumi arrived. I knew that no one understood what I was saying, and the room would get a little loud at times with some of the kids still talking but I just kept reading and showing the pictures.
There was one little girl, Uminathi, who kept yelling “thulani!” toward one little boy who was being pretty loud and disruptive. At the end of the first book I looked up at this little boy and said, “So I guess your name is Thulani?” No one really responded, unsure what I just asked in English. Later, I learned that “thulani” means “be quiet” and that the little boys name was actually Khanya. 
Pumi was a great teacher once she got there and she was very accommodating - helping us understand what was going on, the tasks and plan for the day. Most days started out with Bible study in the morning, next mental math, and then usually some sort of lesson in Xhosa. The theme of the week was "jobs in transportation", so the lessons were parallel to that theme. At some point during the day the children would take out activity books that they each had and these activities usually followed the theme also. 
My favorite parts of the day were when everyone sang and danced together. There was a song for the days of the week, the months of the year, “If you’re happy and you know it,” and several others in Xhosa. 
The last day we were there we helped Pumi with a cooking lesson. The whole class peeled and shredded carrots, cut onions and cabbage and then cooked meat and macaroni. They put it all together and ate it for lunch. Pumi had us try it and it was quite delicious!  
I will admit that, I felt a little useless in the beginning of my time there before we found our place in the classroom. We learned pretty early on though that we would be just fine, because luckily, love and play are both universal languages."

Volunteer on the Community Preschool project, Chintsa
Teaching Student at Texas State University

VA32 partner with several preschools in the rural communities in and around Chintsa. Find out more about the Community Preschool Project.

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