Crocodiles and Lizards by Rebekah Faldon

Rebekah La

Ten months out of my total twelve have now passed me by! It is really scaring me how little time left I have in Swaziland!

A lot has changed and progressed in my projects out here in Big Bend since my last update. In the New Year, after a holiday in South Africa whilst the schools were off, Penny and I came back to Big Bend feeling energized and re-motivated; ready to really go for it and not to hold ourselves back.

Our first major alteration was dropping our one morning we spent a week at Majombi Primary School. We felt that the three hours we sat and read with the children in Grade 1 (Grade 2 for Penny), was not having much (if any) impact on the children’s English. This was simply because the class sizes were too great leaving it possible to spend literally a few minutes with each individual child every two weeks. On top of this, there was no follow up by teachers or family members with the work we would set each week. Although it was a disappointment to drop this project, it meant we could spend this morning more wisely, teaching at Injabulo Pre-school. Although this was a tough decision to make, it was without a doubt the right one!

To think back to how Injabulo Pre-School was at the beginning of our year here, with no materials, no constancy in the children attending and absolutely no teaching structure, it’s hard to believe it is the same school. We soon realized that in order for the children to really progress in their learning, attending school just three days a week is not enough. Consequently, we squeeze another two visits to the school after our two mornings spent teaching at the Moriah Centre. With a LOT of our time and hard work going into Injabulo, it is now beginning to function as any “proper” school should be. For us, this is a HUGE achievement! One of the main changes we’ve made is splitting up the 50 children into two classes; the Crocodiles and the Lizards. This has meant that we can also now cater for the needs of both the younger children as well as the older, more capable children. Not to mention the craziness of having so many children in such a small space is nowhere near on the same scale as it was last year!! No complaints there!

As a result of holding many community meetings to discuss various issues concerning Injabulo, we now have a stable input of money from parents – E10 (equivalent to 1 pound) per month per child. Cooks also now show up for the children everyday and the community do their best to sweep the classroom, which makes our job a great deal easier!

It has been such a great experience to have complete charge in the early stages of Injabulo. It’s been amazing to see how far our kids have come along this year. We feel like two proud mums!! It will be so hard leaving them behind once time is up. However, before this time comes, we have a school trip to a nearby Game Park planned. I can’t wait for them to be able to see more of their own country as the furthest most of them will not have been from their homes will been to the local village store!

I could really go on and on writing about this project…so I’m going to stop myself here!

Over at the Moriah Centre, things have stayed pretty much the same. We are still teaching there two mornings a week. Since the beginning of 2011, I teach a new group of children, as my previous class all moved up to Primary School. Their graduation (preparations mentioned in my previous report) went extremely well. They each had on a long black graduation gown and a homemade graduation hat!! Brilliant! In fact, one of my highlights at the Moriah Centre was to witness all their little faces as they each received their own Christmas shoe box. They were fascinated by each and every gift within; whether it be crayons, a toy car, a flannel or even a toothbrush! They were SO happy. Loved this!

Soup Kitchen has really kicked off this year. We managed to get the support from a local restaurant, which now supplies us with their abundance of left-over food. Each time we go, we are shocked by the amount of food they can just give away! I’m certainly not going to complain though! It works perfectly for us! Just before leaving Big Bend for good, we are planning a ‘Fun Day’ out with the kids here. The High School we stay at are happy to donate their sports equipment and help out on the day with the various activities we have planned; wheelbarrow/sack/three-legged/relay races, obstacle courses, football, hockey, rounders and even the possibility of there being a bouncy castle!! I cannot wait! This will end our time here perfectly!

As if these 3 projects weren’t enough, we decided to start up a new remedial scheme in a local government primary school. There are many children in each grade who are struggling a lot in their English, which affects their performance in other subjects. Our job is to help those in most need of extra tuition by running this after school programme three times a week. So far so good! Despite spending the entire morning at school, the children seem eager and happy to stay for an hour longer, which to me, is impressive enough!

Wow, so that’s that! As I’ve been thinking back about all I’ve been doing out here, I am not surprised how quickly the time has passed. I’ve really had the most amazing year out here in Swaziland! I really do not want it to end. With preparations for the school trip and ‘Fun Day’, I am sure that I will be kept busy in my last couple of months here. Consequently, I know that before long I will be writing my final report of my year living out in Swaziland… This, I am NOT looking forward to!