I arrived on July 10th with a colleague of mine called Beatrice, better known here as “B the Pi baker”. Melanie was waiting at Park Station and my future colleagues were looking forward to meet us. “Welcome to SA!” they all said.
After a couple of hours, Beatrice and I were asked to follow them to the park, meet the children and to get to know their work, because one cannot get the feeling of the place until hands are sticky with flour and ready to give the next tissue to a child. Dionne, Anna and Hannah, another intern from the US, were showing the kids how to do art from a balloon, pieces of paper, water and flour. I can’t describe their smiles and their dedication, the same smiles and dedication I saw while later collecting the trash from the dry reddish ground, washing their hands with frozen water and climbing the four flights of stairs.
In that day I had an idea of the place.
The day after I left the office to visit Sky-farms and, once there, probably noticing how lost I was, first timidly and then firmly as if it was their inescapable duty, little Asanda came to me, to my spot, took my hand and walked me towards the pots: “Mam, look: flowers!” My little 5-year-old guide then led me to see the view from the roof and, our noses against the security net, she called my eyes to follow her small index finger: “Mam, home, learning center. Look mam, there!” As her finger stopped pointing to my eyes found hers ”Mam, now play! Run”.
In that day I had my initiation.
One month had passed as I was asked to project a video from Khan Academy to the elder ones and to correct their exercises. I was still absorbed with marking the papers when Sonwabile, an atlas on his knees, asked me: “Mam, I can see that Italy is very small but many people live there and move, they travel. Mam, see, Africa is big but it looks like that people are few and move less?” This is a nice question, don’t you think? Sonwabile wants to become a pilot.
In that day I understood their determination.
A couple of times more I helped either Dionne or Anna, after Beatrice and Hannah left. I assisted to, and learned myself, how they teach by asking the right questions, by triggering peer learning, by leaving room for discussion and play, and by transmitting the principles of never giving up and always working for perfection. I was proud to see Sizwe drawing his first peacock feather, a good one indeed, after claiming that he wouldn’t be able to do better than two parallel lines drafted with insecure hand.
From stories like this I experienced the progress.
I live in the same building where these kids with their families live. And everyday I feel part of the community.
“How do you like South Africa so far?”, someone asked me yesterday.
“You have no idea of how glad I am to be here”, I replied.
“Hahaha, welcome to SA!”
This post was written by Anna Ferracuti, a 22-year-old Italian student at Bocconi University in Economic and Social Sciences. She worked at Streetlight Schools as intern from July to September 2013.