Thursday, November 22, 2007

South African Schools, Part II

One of my schools has relatively new classrooms and a computer lab with nine computers. Another lost part of its roof four years ago and they are still waiting for repairs. Class sizes range between 35 and 60 students.

The South African government has introduced sweeping reforms since 1996, aimed at moving the education system towards more outcomes/standards based assessment with a greater emphasis on fostering the critical thinking process. Unfortunetly, these reforms take time and require extensive training for the teachers to learn the new methodology. So it's difficult for all parties involved.

Working at the schools has really helped me reaffirm my convictions regarding pedagogy and good practices. I've had to think about why I believe a certain type of teaching is preferrable. I've also continued to develop my classroom management skills, which were always a little weak during student teaching and have additional dynamics in a different culture.

Friday, November 16, 2007

South African Schools

Stephanie from Indiana asks:
"How do you find the schools there?"

I work with three primary schools in our village, Thotaneng, Phokwane, and Mokgoma. Because of their location in a rural area, all three schools were subject to the Bantu education system established during the Aparteid regime. The result is that many classrooms are overcrowded and sometimes materials and resources are not as available as teachers would like.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Words

Peace Corps has been such a life changing experience so far ans we have only begun. I have been pushed to places I thought my shy self could not go and beyond the wall I have seen my strength. I have found a passion for dancing I was too self conscious to enjoy before. I have been able to laugh at myself as well as many situations I have found myself in. I have been able to connect with other people on a very human level and I am trying my best to learn everything I can in a very short amount of time.

Colleen from the Midwest asks:

"What is your favorite new word?"
To this I would have to say that it is a tie between ventilate and nyaka (knee-ya-ka). I have heard many people use the word ventilate the way English speakers use the verb to vent and I love the sound of it.

Nyaka means simultaneously to want and to need and I think this is beautiful.

Types of Food and Availability

Linda from California asks:

"Do you have access to our types of food, I don't know if food is flown in to you or if you have adapted to local ingredients?
We shop for our food in the community with a stipend Peace Corps deposits directly into our bank accounts. Some ingredients and spices are hard to come by, like fresh milk, mozzarella cheese, and other dairy products. But for the most part we're able to eat a similar menu to what we had in the United States.

We haven't quite adapted to the local diet. The food is good, but sometimes can make us sick. This isn't a problem when we're cooking for ourselves, but at weddings and funerals we are careful not to eat too freely.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recipes from Africa - Tsakalaka

This spicy vegetarian dish is usually served on the side here in South Africa, but makes a tasty main course for us.

1 white onion
3 small green chili peppers
3-4 large carrots
1 can baked beans
1 tbsp cooking oil
sliced bread (optional)

1. Dice onion and chili peppers.
2. Grate carrots.
3. Sautee onions and peppers in oil.
4. Add carrots and sautee until soft.
5. Add can of baked beans and stir until everything is heated.
6. Serve alone or with toast.

With 3 peppers it is pretty spicy, but you can use 1 or 2 and a brown onion for a milder version.