Stephanie Smith: Final Report from South Africa

Stephanie Smith writes her final report on her experience volunteering in Ngcizela, South Africa.

My life in Ngcizela

Yho, (this kind of loosely translates to a sigh in English) is the first word I think of to begin summing up my life in Ngcizela!

Firstly, I would really like to take this opportunity to thank the community for having us live in and amongst them. It was such a different way of life. However, it is not so much the tangible things in the sense of fetching water or using a loo drop. Rather it;s the intangible things like the pace of life and the outlook on how you live your day that was very different. To be able to sit on my step, wash my clothes and just look out into the horizon and be truly content, was what I was looking for in life.  I am thankful that the community allowed me the space to just be.

Photo of an inspiring lesson painted on school wall

Inspiration in Ngcizela

School Life

School life was one of the best experiences of my life so far as well as being one of my greatest challenges. Teaching my students was amazing; such a fulfilling use of energy and time. I thoroughly enjoyed planning lessons, delivering lessons and working more one-to-one with the students that needed more support.

The personal challenge came from the structure of school at Isolomzi SSS. The structure of school incorporates personal life, professional life and one’s culture and that was what I found most difficult to reconcile. The sad thing was that I wasn’t able to reconcile this and so detached myself more from the structure of the school. Instead I focussed my energy on teaching the students and doing the best that I could for them.

I believe that I wanted to make more of a difference in terms of structure and in the end I had to accept that was not my place or what I was there to do. Within Isolomzi, however, we were able to help create a culture of reading.  We gave the students more access to novels and created a library day with the TETA Senior programme. One of my objectives was to help with literacy, and more access to novels will certainly help that aim. I can’t be unhappy with that.

Photo of children reading

Children reading in Ngcizela – literacy has been a big focus for Stephanie

Projects

Before I returned to Ngcizela I knew that I wanted to implement a sustainable reading programme. I also wanted to introduce the community to reusable menstrual health products. Out of these two ideas we were able to create the literacy programme TETA and the menstrual health management programme, MProjekt. A summary of both projects is in the third report. To watch these ideas grow from being an idea to actually becoming an impletmented project has been a truly magical experience.

TETA was handed over to the Qolora Education Centre and Soga Junior School from the fourth term of 2016.  There was really good feedback from both the Education Centre and the teachers from Soga. They are keen to continue TETA and for it to grow into 2017 and beyond.

MProjekt will also continue at Isolomzi with the assistance of Transkei Outreach. I am currently scoping how the project can continue into other areas moving forward.

Moving Forward

In the summer of 2012 after I had graduated from University, my gut told me to go into teaching. However I didn’t listen to it. I was too preoccupied with having a career that I thought needed to be unique, interesting and just…wow. Teaching at the time just didn’t cut it. After coasting for about two years and just not being in a really great space my gut told me to go travelling. Going with that instinct has really put me in an incredible space.

I travelled through Germany and parts of Southern Africa. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy time and space and meet inspiring people. I spent two months in Ngcizela during these travels, which led to me being able to go back and teach in that community for a year.  So in the winter of 2016 (summer of 2016 Northern Hemisphere) I followed my gut.  That was to do my PGCE and become an official teacher.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hazel’s Footprints Trust for helping make this experience possible.

Much love,

Stephanie

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