Monday, 3 September 2012

"It's goodbye for now, but one day hope to see you again" Mzwakhe Thine Ndlovu, 11E

So here we are, two nights back in England and I've had enough sleep to start feeling vaguely human again.

My last day at school was bittersweet, Vijay and I wrote evaluation forms for each other as teachers working together (apparently Vijay likes my great use of English both most and least about me :S ), we had a goodbye party with his 10B. 11E had a surprise leaving party for me in my free period, probably organised by Mr Shetlele. Sipho, who is an untrained opera singer, sang for me. The video doesn't begin to capture the quality of his voice, but even so it is fantastic and I will be uploading it onto my blog as soon as I can. 11E had prepared a goodbye speech for me, and several of them wrote poems for me. One of which is quoted in the title of this post. I will be scanning and uploading the others soon too. They also gave me an amazing picture frame containing goodbye notes from all of them and some of the pictures we'd taken on my last Thursday. I spent my last lesson with 11F (and 10A who tagged along wanting photos with me) outside playing football/netball and chatting to the kids one last time.

Pauline, Sabatha, Thabiso and Neo
Lunch time arrived before I knew it, the maths department gave us leaving presents and then I went outside to celebrate spring with 11A - as promised. They had warned me this involved throwing water at me, but I underestimated quite how much water they were going to throw, six large buckets of water later I was wet through, and retaliated with a good deal of hugging people while sopping wet.

Me, soaking wet
My kids gave me some amazing presents, including the poems from 11E, Pauline's favourite hair clip, one of Neo's scarves, which still smells like Africa... There were many more tears and hugs while saying goodbye. And I have been receiving a barrage of emails and facebook messages about how much they miss me and want me to come back. And if there was any way I could, I'd be right back there.

I don't know how real teachers deal with the intense feeling of loss, when you have to leave kids that you have seen grow and mature and gain confidence. If you'll excuse the terrible cliché, I left a large part of my heart in Soweto.

Africa feels so far away, but at the same time England seems strange, for one thing, it's really really white. I think we've got to the stage where we're so used to everyone else being black it's bizarre to be back here. Nothing seems to have changed in six weeks away, except for me. I am indescribably lucky to have had the opportunity to go to Soweto and work with the kids at Namedi, each one of them touched my heart and inspired me in some way.

The issue of whether or not to reapply for Warwick in Africa next summer has been on my mind for most of the trip, but after seeing the impact I made on these kids I feel like I have no other choice. Not even in terms of maths, but in terms of showing them that they have potential to succeed, that initial failure to understand does not spell total failure, and that, to paraphrase my evaluation forms, black and white people are all on the same level. At the same time, they have taught me about how it's possible to be positive and have fun, no matter what your situation in life is. That even if there are language barriers between you, playing a game is enough to make friends and laugh together. I've seen my kids show incredible fortitude in difficult situations, and they have inspired me.

Ngiyabonga kakhulu, thank you very much, students of Namedi. I am missing you.