Report from work in Cape Town September/October 2007
Since 1999 I have been in Cape Town and worked together with Ann Sharfman and her staff for 6/7 weeks every year, except year 2006. This year I had the opportunity again to work with CCE (Center for Creative education).
South Africa, and specially Cape Town and CCE have been part of my life since the day I met them in 1999. And the reason for that is not only that they are wonderful people, but it is because of the way that they are working. They never give up even if there is a both financial and human difficulties on their way, they keep on with the long will that is needed in this kind of work.
We all know about South Africa with its apartheid- regime-past and we also know that the outcome of that has many different side effects. Even though many has gained from the changes in the policy, there are too many who still are as poor as they were before the apartheid regime was a closed book. A country with a population of 47mill , 79,6% black,9,1 % white,8,9% colored and 2,5% Indian/Asian, 25,5 % unemployed(officially, probably more), the second-highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world and is on the top of the list of crime rate. This is daily life of the rainbow-people. And even though they have build many new houses in the Townships and people move in, new shacks appear and new people move in there -it never stops. One of the reasons for that is the steam of people coming from other parts of Africa, for example Zimbabwe. I could go on with facts about S-Africa………. This is important to have as a picture to understand the situation of the people living in the Townships and their daily life.
On my way to Cape Town I was very excited and I had lots of thoughts and questions: how was the work in the kindergartens and in the training getting along. Had things changed and what had improved?
I arrived late Saturday evening and after sitting in the plane for more than 15 hours I was happy to be at Ann`s place. After a good night`s sleep I couldn’t wait to ask 1000 questions about the work, CCE, Isiseko Subunto and all the people that work with us and in the kindergartens, and there was a lot to tell……… poor Ann coming from Nairobi the same day as me had to answer all my questions. After coming for so many years I know all the people she was talking about, except for some new who joined the work last year, but I was soon able to meet and get to know them too.
Working in the classes with the students in Wetton:
It was a new term for the students from classes three and four and I was going to train them for two weeks. Even though I have been here several times before and know how it all works, the first day of training is always very exciting. The two classes had ca 20 students. They all come from different kindergardens in the Townships and around Cape Town. This group had mostly black women, some coloured and some white-a very dynamic and active group. I noticed this immediately the first day. I worked with this group on the subject: Management and Administration in the Kindergarten, which is not the easiest subject to teach, especially with so many different principals to build on.
We worked from 0900 till 1500 every day. We had art and craft in between so that there was a balance to the subject we had to work on. We did drawing in the morning and made marionettes for a puppet play in the afternoon.
There are many ways of running a kindergarden seen from the administration point of view, and we did find many things that are similar even though the students come from different places. It was interesting that we very often came to the point of view that no matter what options you had, or how many children you had to look after, or in which condition your kindergarten was, the main thing was how the teacher was dealing with the options she/he had.
Everybody enjoyed the drawing and making marionettes. We made two/three marionettes each during these two weeks, one out of silk and one with cloth (cotton, or whatever they had). The second marionette was more African and to me the most beautiful, foe it attended to the African soul.
We spent the second week on questions around the administration and management and we did stories for marionette plays and birthday celebrations.
In the last two days we spent a long time to set up a puppet plays. We had three different stories. It was very difficult in the beginning. We did a lot of work on movement and manipulation and it was worth it- on the last day they all had a “performance” with their puppets and the story they had chosen and we were all very proud. The struggle and sometimes frustration not succeeding was forgotten when we saw the result. And now they all had one/two dolls to take back to their kindergardens to use in stories and to give their children a taste of beauty which is badly needed in many ways.
2. Years students:
I had one week with the second year students. The main lesson was Festivals and Birthday Celebrations. Our art and craft was drawing, weaving and knitting. Some of them had never knitted before and I was wondering how it would work out. But there was no reason to worry. After a couple of days they all knitted and I think they were knitting at home as well because they finished up a knitted hen during that week and some of them also knitted a cat. Again we were all proud! In the beginning of the week I thought they would never finish all that we have planned, but they did! and I get surprised every time. And for the students I think one of the most important thing for them in this training is to see that they can manage something and that they are so proud of what they do, which will certainly benefit the children when they go back to their kindergardens.
It is of great help if somebody shows you how to do it!
We also discussed how to make it possible to celebrate a festival, or birthday in every kindergarden. We asked the question,»What is important here in Africa, in the Townships, for this group and for this special child?» We came up with many answers, and again the human aspect of it seemed to be the common thing we had. Especially with birthday celebration, the child must be seen, acknowledge for who she/he is. «Try to make a story were someone cares for exactly that child, no matter what kind of destiny each child has.» The students were discussing how and why they wanted to celebrate birthdays for each child in the kindergarten. It was not always easy to find a solution if you have up to 50 children in one group with one teacher, but as kindergarten teachers we are creative !!!!
Working with the students is always interesting and a great joy, especially when you feel you are connected and exchanging ideas how to educate the small children all over the world. I always find that we have off course, many differences (which are good) and possibilities, but we do work with the same spirit of how to meet the child’s needs to develop.
I experienced the unique needs of the children, not only in the training of the students and teachers, but by visiting the kindergartens in the Township and being part of the field work.
I spent some time together with Nokhanyile who is a fieldworker. We did fieldwork the last week I was in Cape Town. We visited different kindergartens and it was not difficult to see where the teachers had been trained and where the education was only beginning to grow. The facilities and equipment were poor in many places. The lack of beauty and the fundamental needs were big. I am sorry to say, but the worst group, the ones who suffer from the lack of everything are the baby groups. I think it is a big concern and it made me want to stay for a year and just build up a proper crèche with everything that a child from 0-3 year need and at the same time disseminate knowledge about the smallest child. Which I hope we will manage to do together one day:-)
Almost every kindergarten we visited had two, three or four groups of children from age 2/3 to 5/6 and a baby group from 0- 2 year. The babies had the smallest and poorest room of all the groups. Some of the teachers told me their concern about it and the plans they have to build on for the babies, but in the meantime they have to stay where they are. Not only were the rooms small and without equipments, but the space for movements were very limited. Thinking about the importance of movements in the first three years it makes it difficult to accept the situation. But if it was only one kindergarten with that problem it could have been solved, but there are many, many groups like that all over the Township.
To lighten up the situation is the joy and happiness many of the children shows you which one can see in some pictures I took of some “babies” smiling and wanting to get in contact with you, wanting to sit on your lap and wanting to give you a hug and wanting to be recognized. That makes you hope and see that something is happening.
Standing in the door looking out!
After having visiting several kindergartens, some new, some old, some with students from the first year, second, third and fourth year and also some where they had teachers who has been working with waldorf education for years you could see big differences. It all has to do with the person running the place and not so much with the facilities and equipment, although it is a big help to have a proper house and not a shack. I could go on telling about the kindergartens and my impression, but I want to finish the report by giving you a picture of the first kindergarten I went to in 1999. I was working together with Maria and Mavis for almost 2 months.Today they have 6 groups, 109 children and 12 teachers.Lots of work by many different people has been done in this kindergarten, but now it is 8 years since my first visit and now after all this years I can still see things that was made in 1999……….. Things have been taken care of and the mood in the groups is very good, thanks to the teachers (many of them have done the training at CCE) who are running the groups. Of course there are still things that could be better, but where don’t you find that?
I think after being part of this work, even if it has only been some weeks every year I can see why things are happening and going in the right direction; I am sure that the work that CCE is doing with the training program they have, is a big part of the development that is taken place. The women do not only get a training to teach and take care of the children, they also get through the training a possibility to carry out their own traditions and they are gaining self-confidence of what they do and who they are. This is maybe the most important thing of the whole work, to believe in themselves and the future……. I am proud to take part of this work and will do so as long as I am needed.
Arendal 20 October 2007
Eldbjørg Gjessing Paulsen
Children in Khayelitsha with jerseys from Norway