Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cape Town Higher Ed "Inside and Out"

Today we packed in two major learning opportunities. 
First we visited the University of Cape Town. Our major topic was higher education in South Africa and how students from R/K-12 transition into. First I was surprised to learn that everything seems settled in 10th grade. You have to make decisions on what you want to do in higher education and plan accordingly. Bacholors degrees are really a three year program in SA and are dependent on what you did the last couple of in high school if you didn't take h math, you are not going to be able to major in math. The other thing I was surprised to see is there really is no articulation partnerships. You can forget transferring credits from one university to another. 

My main curiosity is what are universities doing after apartheid to afford opportunities to all students? 
For the University of Cape Town, the answer given was CHED

We met with Suellen Shay, Dean of Higher Education Development. She gave us candid valuable in site to what her university was doing to to help. They have implemented a number of programs. The three that I felt were the most intriguing were: A first year assistance program, extended time (program of studies that was geared for four years instead of three), and a program that took the brightest from 20 township schools and achieved a 80% acceptance rate. I did seem to see a student body that seemed to reflect a significant amount of diversity. (The University of Cape Town was a white institution before the end of apartheid.)

After our visit at the university we went to Robben Island.

This was a prison where many proclaimed political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned.
One of the most fascinating details to me was how many prisoners worked on their education in prison and even received degrees from higher institutions of learning while being there.

It was not what I expected. In many ways. The theme was not...look what bad things happened here, but let's celebrate unity and the triumph of human spirit. It may take some time for me to really figure out how I felt about the visit. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

No Photos

Ok, so I have a photo of a big chess board. HA!

But, we made it to Cape Town today. After getting settled into our new home (40 Winks) we made a trip to the US Embassy. The title of my post is no photos, because you can't take photos of the
Embassy. Security seemed to be very good. No need to go into details, but let's just say that I felt very safe inside the facility. I didn't know what to expect. They basically gave us a quick briefing of what was going on in South Africa. It was well done and it was just for our little group of 7. 

It was basically broken down into three sections. Economic/political, Security, and Public Relations.

While there was a lot of good information, the one thing that I didn't realize is how much money the US is spending on HIV programs in South Africa. I believe that its truly appropriate. In the area we spent the most time in, the Eastern Cape, 15% of the population has HIV, in the townships it is as much as 1 in 4.

Principal McKay talked about 12 year old's being the head of household because both parents had died, and they were taking care of their brothers and sisters. Sad very sad. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Last Day @ Emafini

Today was the last day for us at Emafini. I wish I had a few more days. While I know I accomplished a lot with their technology issues, there was a lot more I wanted to do. The great thing is we installed Skype and some other tools to allow us to still work with them. I should be able to help from across the pond with some of their technology needs. What an amazing group of professionals Emafini has. Their warm personalities and dedication to the profession certainly provide their learners with positive outcomes. I will miss them, but we should still be able to be connected through the power of the Internet.

I truly hope to be able to come back someday, and hope they have an opportunity to visit us.

Today Principal McKay had to leave the school for a brief time. He gave me his key to his office just in case I had to leave and needed to lock it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Horridly over regulated!

Today we visited two schools before returning to our home-base of Emafini.

Both are former "Model C" schools. During apartheid these schools were all white schools that might be described as semi-private. While they are public schools, there is a significant fee to parents attached to student attendance.

Cape Recife is a school that focuses on special education.  We only has a short amount of time to spend there, but what we saw fantastic. The services available to learners was amazing.

Ever since we have been in South Africa, many have talked about Grey as the school to aspire to be. Their mission is to develop the learners full potential in mind body and spirit. An all boys school, Grey is a former model c school. Their head master, Mr. Pearson, won my line of the day. He had been to the US and toured 17 schools his take on american education was that it was "horridly over regulated!"

While both schools charge parents fees for their children to attend, its clear that even with these fees, significant fundraising is required just to maintain their programs. 

Below you will find photos of two distinctively different public schools. How do you attempt to tackle equity issue? While both Lungisa and Grey work hard to maintain what they have, how can you justify the stark contrast in public schools?

Grey Boys School (Junior/Senior) Former Model C School.

Lungisa (A Township High School )

Sunday, July 27, 2014

School Budgeting in South Africa

Today was a great day for reflection. We had a great lunch at the home of a Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University professor. The discussion was great and helped at clarifying some of the things I have seen here. One of the stark realities is budget. Today I wanted to reflect on school finances a bit because I know I am going to get to see a government school tomorrow that is said to be cutting edge. Emafini was officially listed of having 1233 learners for funding purposes.

The school gets 1059 Rand per learner per year in funding. That includes many things, including maintenance of the school. The government pays for their teachers from a different source, but operating expenses have to come out of that amount. The school gets 481 Rand per learner, per year to provide lunch.

Lets put this in perspective: It costs $48.00 to per child to feed them for a school year. They get roughly $105.00 per child a year to run the school. A recent study suggested that investing in teaching and learning support materials leads to better student outcomes 
(Rooyen, 2010, p. 166). Emafini receives about $48.00 per student in this area per year.

So lets just look at child nutrition. They go to school 201 days a year. So they feed their learners for $.23 cents a day. In one of my photos you can see the document that lists the only ingredients they are allowed to purchase for lunches. Having seen the lunch staff cooking, they do an excellent job with the resources provided. They do all the cooking as unpaid volunteers. They are family members of the children that attend.

After I get to see a school that is "well" off I will contrast some of the perceived budget differences.

Rooyen, J. V. Managing teaching and learning in South African schools. 
International Journal of Educational Development, 162-168.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


We went to Addo Elephant National Park today.

It was an amazing experience. I took lots of photos, but only had a couple to upload from my iphone. Seeing all the animals in their natural habitat was great. We may have seen nearly 100 elephants. Over 50 i'm sure. I loved the warthogs too. They seemed to have a great attitude. I bet I'm leaving one out, but we saw: Elephants, Zebras, Ostrich, Warthogs, Kudu, Water Buffalo, Mongoose, Red Heart Beast, Many Birds, Jackal, and Dung Beetles, but they were at the visitor center. 

The park was established in 1931. It was formed during a time when Afrikaner nationalism was emerging and other national parks were being created with a seemingly political agenda. (Coombes, 2003, p. 154). Some argue that the intention to establish national parks was to invent a reality where Afrikaners were by tradition nature conservationists. 

Over 80 years later, the park seems to have been very successful even if its initial creation may not have been pure at face value. Those issues seem to have all but faded into the background by my observations today.

Coombes, A. E. (2003). History after apartheid: Visual culture and public memory in a democratic South Africa. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Technology issues are common everywhere.

OK, so it really be titled students will be students. 
I have been amazed this week at student behavior at Emafini. Keep in mind it's a 1-7 (grade) school with 1200 students. I have been working on their student information system so I have been in the office a lot. I have not seen one student referred to the office for behavior issues.

Today we visited a high school. It was not a normal day for the school. Teachers were getting ready to go to a conference so it was an early release day and we didn't get to see "normal". But...there was some evidence in the computer lab that suggests that high school students share some similar behaviors throughout the world.