Sunday, January 25, 2009

Due South

We’ve been in South Africa since the end of December now, and there is plenty to write about, but let’s first start with where we are.


Our school is in the outskirts of Johannesburg (Jo’burg for short).  It was started about 9 years ago by teachers from Edenvale Baptist Church (Edenvale is the suburb of Joburg).  We have six teachers teaching grades “naught” (or zero - kindergarden) to seven.  Class sizes are about 30 children, and about half of them are boarding here during the week, returning home only during weekends.  During the week, we stay at the school.  Our kitchen is the staff kitchen, our washroom the staff washroom, and our bedroom is adjacent to the boys’ dorm where a set of bars and a thin curtain provides a modicum of privacy. Periodically, kids will ask if they can fetch their ball back from the cow’s field (which also belongs to the school).


What we’re doing here:


Dora: School commenced last Wednesday.  It wasn’t until Monday that most of the students arrived. As we are in a boarding school, many students extend their holiday by skipping the first week of school. She has been teaching the grade 4/5 and grade 6/7 math classes. This week, she’ll start applying all the theory of helping kids with special needs back from university and start assessing students in different classrooms.


Tim: There are a few projects that I will be doing here:

- computer resurrection.  I tested and networked together dust covered Windows 98 machines to enable students to be able to do some computer based learning.

- teacher training on Word and Excel.  There is an amazing amount of unnecessary paperwork and photocopying here. 

- there is a “tuck” shop (“tuck” is an a South African word for odds and ends) we have for students to buy odds and ends (pencils, snacks) but we are tracking it manually.  I am evaluating POS software to help automate this.


Differences between our experience in Ghana and South Africa:



South Africa


A wave

Thumbs up


dry season



Computer school and kindergarden

Grade 0 – 7

Power outages


Monthly (though we had only an hour of power on the second day of school)


Weekly, then needs to be delivered by truck to school

A pump and well


Public markets with individual vendors selling their wares

Shopping malls/grocery stores similar to North America


Goats, chickens, sheep roaming regularly through our school

Bats that come out at dusk

Insect bites

Invisible mites and fleas biting our legs and feet

Mosquitoes keeping us awake with their high pitched buzzing

Living with

Home of Pastor and his wife

At the school during the week, in the city during the weekends.


Beat up left wheel taxis are the most abundant vehicles.  1/30 of vehicles are newer than 5 years old.  Most cars are actually imported from overseas and sold on the second hand market.  I saw a car driving with Colorado plates once.

Right wheel BMWs and Mercs are more popular than Hondas.  About a quarter of the cars appear to be newer than 5 years old


Black church, the only “whites” were the Korean missionaries, our Chinese Pastor and his wife, and us.

White church in the city.  No blacks.





35 degrees

25 degrees


10 minute walk to internet cafe served by a combination of ADSL and a satellite receiver

In the SIM office in the city, and also through a 3G modem elsewhere.






Don’t have pics of school yet, but here’s a picture of a township in Durban.  On the other side of the street was a regular white neighbourhood. Probably the most obvious reminder of apartheid.

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