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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 

Volunteers' Stories

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GEERT SILLEVIS
Dutch

Teaching English in Khanyisa, South Africa
         

The house (accommodation):
Kremetart, where our house is located, used to be a very affluent white area in Apartheid days. Most of the houses are on the large side. The house is close to the entrance, and typical of the area. There are three bedrooms currently in use, but there are 2 more rooms that could be converted. The house is divided into three flats, each of which has a bedroom, and two of them have the kitchen and living-room, respectively. The kitchen has a table and chairs, 2 fridges and an oven. The Kremetart pub (called Snoepie) is a 2 minute walk from the house. Drinks are very cheap by EU standards and they have 2 pool tables, also very cheap. We ate a large T-bone steak for 56 Rand, which is just under £6, which included a salad and French fries.

The School:
The school is very well-off compared to others in the area. Felicity and I were met by the Head of Senior School, Hein Webber, at the airport when we arrived, and he came across as a very friendly and open man. We later met Ebert Le Roux, who was also very warm and welcoming. For the most part, the teachers have been very open to our presence and happy to help us with our ideas. I’ve been assigned to the senior school and Felicity to the junior school.

The timetables are still being sorted for this term, so I haven’t done very much yet. I covered some lessons, and have found that the younger students are much more welcoming than the older ones, at least the majority. I covered a Grade 6 class, and they were all very eager to impress. The Grade 10s were a very interesting group to talk to, and seemed happy to learn. The Grade 12s were a bit rowdy, but it’s hard to know what’s going on when everyone speaks to each other in Xonga, which the students all do.

The grounds are impressive, and the sports facilities are being updated to include a large grass pitch. The classrooms are divided into blocks, connected by paved pathways and surrounded by luscious greenery. The school has internet, but it’s a bit unreliable and not as fast as people may be used to back in the UK. I’ve been told that I’ll be teaching the younger group in the Senior School. School finishes at 1.15, and there are activities during the afternoon on some days. Felicity and I will be helping with the House Plays on Mondays and Thursdays, and I’ve been asked to help with Junior Football on Wednesday.

On the Afternoon Activities list, I saw an activity called UN Speech, and asked the relevant teacher about it. It turns out there’s a sort-of Model United Nations conference in Polokwane in June, and students are going to take part, so I’m looking forward to helping with that. The teacher, Jean, also told me about a debate competition held in Polokwane in May, so I might be starting a debate team to attend that.

The area:
Yesterday Richard took Felicity and me to some of the other schools in the area. The kids there were very excited to see us, and went crazy when Felicity took photos. Each of the schools seemed eager to get our help, but there’s only so much we can do. Hein and Ebert have both said that they want us to get involved in other projects in the area, but there are obligations that we have at the school. As a result, I started looking at our trips to village schools as a scouting mission, looking at potential projects that might be set up soon.

Each school was very eager to do something to do with Drama (as well as Sports, but that’s Richard’s thing). There are only two of us volunteers, so we can’t possibly get to help all the schools we visited, but I hope we can set up some basics that future volunteers can follow.

Felicity, Richard and I visited 3 schools, and after dropping Felicity back at school for teaching, Richard and I visited 3 more, 2 of which are in Kremetart. The schools in Kremetart are better off than any others we went to, but there’s still potential for projects. I’m only here for two months, which isn’t really enough time to set up anything major, but perhaps it would be possible to set up an inter-school theatre night, complete with music and dance. Khanyisa uses the community center in Giyani, so it could be a good place to do something. People here like the idea of community events, and it could be nice. It’s just a rough idea so far, but I’ll keeping thinking about it.

Giyani itself is a very strange place. The standard of driving is quite low, and there are a lot of beat-up cars on the road. There are three large supermarkets with a wide selection of food. The town is set up very differently than anything I’ve seen before, but I’ve come to realise that it is organised in its own unique way. The standard of life here is quite low, and many people are poor.  

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