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Summer Substituting in Africa

by admin on July 15th, 2005

Well I’m in London now, how’s that for extreme posting. I just returned from 3 weeks in Swaziland Africa. I’ll explain the trip more in detail at a later point, but I got the opportunity to teach for a day.

The farm we worked at had about 15 kids, 5 of which attend a very rural elementary school, “near” their farm. By near by, I mean they have to walk 2 miles to school and back each day, and most of it’s up hill. I decided to accompany them one day, to see their schooling progress, and how schools run in the third world. Let me say, I was in no way prepared for what I saw.

The walk itself almost did me in. It was hot, and like I said, mostly uphill…the kids kept saying to, “hurry, we’ll be late.”

We hurried, and along the way they warned me, “The house has white dogs, if you walk, they don’t bite, if you run, they bite…”

I walked, but sadly we WERE late, now being late in the US means very little, ususally a mark in the gradebook, a nasty look, and that’s the end. In Swaziland, not so. They put all the kids who are either late, or without uniform in a group, and one by one, march them up, and whip them in the rear with a stick about 3 feet long, and 1/2 inch in diameter. Needless to say, I felt bad for the kids, although, they’d have been late despite me.

After the whippings, I introduced myself as an unpuntual teacher from the US, and that I’d very much like to observe their school. We fiddled through our language barrier, and eventually I found myself sitting in a math class for 7th graders, that totalled 45 students.

The classrooms, have no lights, and the desks are hardly functional. I mean that if you LEAN on them, they’ll break. ALl the text books are wrapped in newspaper, and they have these horrid numby pencils to write with. THe math lesson went well, although it was all in Hectre’ and “Me-tah’s Square” I felt privilaged, the teacher did it in English, and I could tell it was strictly because I was there, normally it’d have been all in Saswati. After the lesson the teacher went around the enitre room and checked their work, this, as I saw it was a huge waste of time, but the kids all behaved, and sat quietly. I noticed in the front, there was a stack of the whipping sticks laying in the ready. LAter, I found out, they whip wrists for inproper behavior in class. I wish to GOD, we could do that at my school.

The lesson ended, and the teacher asked me to introduce myself and talk to the kids. They were a little shocked to say the least, I assume its not very often a 6′ 5 white dude with a beanie comes in their room. I talked for about 5 minutes, and one of the teachers came in.

” Sir, The children’s teacher is not here today in room 5, you need to go there now, and teach them something….”


I followed him, and figured he must be joking, or something. He led me into another room full of 50 6th graders…said “Ok, now you teach them…” and LEFT THE ROOM.


It was ME and 50 Swazi children. I really hadn’t prepared anything…so I ran from the top of my head, and did a basic Geography lesson, on where I lived, and the basics of the United States. I think I spoke way too fast, and jumped around like a pgo stick, but they seemed to like it, and laughed at my jokes. I went for about 50 minutes, then another man came in and said.
“you need to go to room 5 now…they are without teacher…”

SO I went to room 5.

I guess, in Swaziland, when the teacher is sick, the kids sit in the room all day, and do homework. Weird.

In that room, I decided to to a lesson from thier English book. It was on food groups, and making graphs from their likes and dislikes as far as food went. IT wentr well, and eventually, I had full class participation, which made me feel pretty good. THe kids liked hearing the English words pronounced the correct way, and would repeat words I said, just to learn it right…that was a shock.

About 40 minutes in, another teacher came in, I figured she was my replacement, but she sat, and began to observe ME, taking notes, and watching. How utterly strange. After my lesson, I spoke with her, and she thanked me for coming, and told me it was very special to have someone who spoke English come and work with them, and how they’d NEVER had that before, and how I needed to stay a month, and bring others. I felt reaally good about that, and something in me clicked.

If I don’t do that, NOBODY EVER WILL. No one would just up anf go to Swaziland, 2 hours from a major city, ooff dirt roads, and foots paths, to teach English to these kids, and they need it…they’re suppossed to be taught in 50% English. I can say for sure, that DOESN’T happen.

I’m going back, maybe not next year, but soon, for a month, I’ll volunteer, and give them what they need, because if not me, than who?

I observed briefly in two other classes, then snuck out, and headed home before they made me principal. ON my way home, I saw the white dogs, and I walked…and sure enough, No biting.

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  1. Paco permalink

    Very Cool! You are right, some good old corporal punishment in the USA would be nice. That reminds me… remember the really random character from the Simpsons named “Corporal Punishment?” HAHAHA!

  2. Jess permalink

    Wow, dude. That is really freakin’ cool.

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