Our experience thus far at Masiyile Secondary School!
Masiyile Secondary School located in the heart of the Khayelisha Township is unlike any service site we’ve ever volunteered at. We ignorantly anticipated Masiyile to be a disorganized and inefficiently run high school, but, after our first day working our anticipations were dismissed as the students and teachers are incredibly hopeful and driven. Unfortunately Masiyile does face a tremendous amount of barriers, so our job with CIEE Service-Learning is to help assuage students from stress, namely through the Drama Club.
Masiyile Secondary School is comprised of students grade 8-12 and it is all Xhosa-speaking. Since we are both White, English-speaking Americans there was an immediate insider-outsider duality that we had to face and a wall that we had to dismantle. After a few awkward interactions and nervous introductions, students began to approach us and ask us how we are and what we think of South Africa. In return, we excitedly ask them how to say common phrases such as “hello, how are you?” and “my name is” in Xhosa. So far, we have a six-page Xhosa-English dictionary!
Our days consist of observing in classrooms, mostly with grades 11 and 12 in Life Orientation or English classes. The Life Orientation class is specifically interesting because issues such as rape, HIV/AIDS, alcoholism, gangsterism and more, are discussed. Mrs. Matyatya, the Life Orientation teacher and our liaison, does an incredible job facilitating discussion while simultaneously instilling values and dreams in her students. This sense of encouragement is something we hope to instill in our own minds.
Aside from the tremendous amount of stress these students have from gangsterism, rape, molestation, abuse and more, they have an amazing sense of social cohesion and we seldom see anyone upset. In an effort to get to know these students better we decided to make flyers for a Drama Club, hoping that it would evoke interest and excitement from the students. We had also heard of ‘My Masiyile, My Voice’ so we wanted to further that project and name this one, ‘My Masiyile, My Drama Club’, or something of that nature. We wanted to create a space for personal expression, creative growth and group collaboration. We are also hoping through writing plays and monologues it will help with their comprehension of English, a focus area for many students.
(Our original flyer):
After posting several flyers around the school and speaking to almost every class, we were amazed to find upwards of thirty students at the first rehearsal. Since we know little about drama, the first few rehearsals were mostly focused on familiarizing ourselves with everyone and doing fun exercises. Our favorite exercise so far has been the ‘freeze’ game where two people begin a scene and another person in the group yells ‘freeze!’ and taps one of the two people out. Then, they have to create a new scene from that.
These students not only have confidence, but they can write, sing, dance and act. With little instruction from us, they have facilitated their own scenes and have covered issues of rape, teenage pregnancy, homophobia and religion. Every Thursday when we leave for home we are amazed at these student’s potentials. Unfortunately the group has dwindled from thirty to about ten students but we haven’t lost hope because this group seems extremely dedicated.
We are planning on using this break from service to research the correlation between after school programs and academic performance, as we are interested in seeing the connection between drama club and English comprehension at Masiyile. We are also going to speak with Equal Education about costume donations, contemplate possible themes for plays, and finish our funds proposal for Baxter Theatre tickets. We are also hoping to collaborate with the Masiyile after school choir, as many of the students have expressed interest in incorporating singing into the final play. The road ahead is daunting and we understand how much work there is to be done, but we are willing to put in the effort because these students are simply amazing.
Grace Schierberl- Providence College
Mollie Epstein - Vanderbilt University