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6 posts from March 2012


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):

Download Interested in Drama

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.

 Guest Bloggers:

Grace Schierberl- Providence College


Mollie Epstein - Vanderbilt University


Motivation Mondays: Yabonga South Africa

Today is the week before Spring break here at the Cape Town Study centre. Spirits are high, but the heads are low, stuck in books preparing for all the tests and assignments professors leave for this last week! Today we are highlighting Yabonga, an NGO we have worked with since 2010 (  The mission of Yabonga is to create an effective, sustainable model of care that provides education, support and skills development in order to empower HIV positive women and men to effect positive change in the lives of their children, families and in the communities where they live, based on the principles of positive living, personal development and income generation. But their work really transends this, and I think that the following inspiration will bear witness to my statement.

In Spring 2011, we had two students working at the organisation; Elora Way from Clark University and Chelsea Steck from Beloit University. These two were specifically assigned to work with the growing group of "out of school youth", who may have Matriculated (graduated from High School) but who have no resources to study at a tertiary institution, or youth who have not completed high school hoping to do so in the next year or so. Chelsea and Elora together developed two manuals as their Capstone final report, focussing on exploring careers as well as the educational paths related to these careers. 

Chelsea did Part one of the manual, and she looked at exploring career options. The manual gave a short description of each possible career option, characteristics of each of these career options, the educational requirements including school leaving subjects, possible salaries, potential employees as well as contact information on where you may get more information regarding a specific career choice. This was quite detailed.

Elora, in conjunction with the first part of the Career manual, looked specifically at the Educational Paths, after you have chosen your career. Here she looked at the different tertiary institutions in the Cape Town area (area specific to the learners she was looking to address); their different faculties and requirements as well as how to go about applying to these instittutions. The most amazing part of this manual was that it also had a few financial options for the students who have obvious financial limitations to them studying at these tertiary institutions.

Just last week I was informed by the Programme Manager of Yabonga, Emily Rudolph, that the two manuals were requested by the South African National Planning Commission ( to get permission to print these manuals and distribute them to all the relevant institutions, nationally!!! In addition, the Director of the Education and Training Portfolio of the NPC, has extended her sincere thanks to our CIEE Service-Learning students in her annual World Aids Day Speech; saying, “at this stage I have to thank our volunteers Chelsea Steck and Elora Way, who have spent many hours researching and producing a manual which incorporates all the information required by school leavers as they do their selection of further studies towards their chosen careers. We are so proud that this document has been identified by the National Planning Commission’s office, as one worthy to be incorporated in their strategy which will put our country back on track to fulfilling the promises made to our people when we voted the ANC into power in 1994.’

Every week, I am reminded that each of us has  our role to play and our piece to give to this world. Chelsea and Elora have achieved so much here, not without hard work, but it was definitely a stepping stone towards further growth and promise for the future of South Africa!

I hope you are inspired!


Motivation Mondays: Brooklyn Chest TB Hospital

On Wednesday 21 March, we celebrate Human Rights Day in South Africa. The day is set out to commemorate those who died during the struggle and those who had their Human Rights violated by the Apartheid regime. I thought it appropriate to start with Brooklyn Chest hospital, as the changes that has been made to the hospital had been so starkling and really hit the core of the Service-Learning Programme's focus of children and education in South Africa. 

The Brooklyn Chest Hospital is the only facility that treats XDR TB patients in the Western Cape. It is a 349  hospital beds and consists of 56 paediatric beds which are usually filled to capacity with over 60% of these patients being HIV positive. Children treated at Brooklyn Chest Hospital can stay there from 6 months to 3 years and are not able to attend normal school. The school educates approximately 40 pupils on any given day.

When our Service-Learners started at Brooklyn Chest about 3 years ago, we worked with a teacher who taught all school-going aged children at the hospital school.  The hospital school consisted of one classroom and one teacher that taught a class, with differing levels of capacities. The children in her one classroom school, ranged from Grade R all the way to Grade 7, sometimes Grade 8.  You can imagine her task at hand.

     Brooklyn-Chest-Hospital- beforeThe School before renovation; one room, one teacher, about 40 students.

Last year in October, the S.A.M.E Foundation hosted the official opening of the new Brooklyn Hospital School and this year our new Service-Learners assists in the school, where there now have 3 teachers and seperate classrooms for the seperate levels. The total cost for the project came to R1 125 000, donated funds. See for yourself the changes that have been employed!

    The School

The entrance to the new and improved school!

   Classroom 1

The first Classroom

    Classroom 2

Classroom 2

   Grade R classroom

The Third Classroom


The Library

   Computer lab

The Computer Lab


And off course a designated play area for the little ones.

In section 28 (2) of the Constitution of South Africa, it is quoted that "a child's best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child". What has happened here at the hospital is really so inspiring and also comforting, knowing that the rights of the children to quality education is acknowledged, even though they are admitted to a TB hospital! I hope this piece motivated you as much as it did me! Stay tuned to find out the wonderful projects that the Service-Learning students will be doing throughout their semester here in Cape Town!


Reflective Friday

This week marked the 5th week of service for my Service-Learning students and this is also the week I chose to start with project visits, just to see how things were going at their respective community sites. I sent an email to all the partners outlining what I wanted to talk to them about, but very high on my agenda was Positive Stories that came from their organisations, inclusive and exclusive from CIEE's involvement. I was so overwhelmed by the responses I have received, that I have decided to share these with you every Monday for the next few weeks. I will call these updates Motivation Mondays and I hope it does just that, motivates you for the week! Our students are making a difference, but the communities are also taking the initiative to employ changes in their own respective communities! This inspires me!

I have  also been speaking to my students about their Capstone Reports and ideas that they have for the communities that they are engaging. They too inspire me. And to give you a sense of their excitement and commitment, I have attached this youtube video clip on an organisation called Yabonga. Our students go to the different Yabonga sites and all they tell me about their projects is how happy the children there are and how everyone is always singing and dancing. Enjoy and share the link. We want everyone to hear and see what happens here in Cape Town!




The Fruit of the v(w)ine

SLP Winetasting 2

Mackenzie and Mollie pressing the grapes from the vine to make wine:)

SLP at Winetasting

The group of students lounging and having snacks at the Harvest Festival in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Sitting outside, sipping on a glass of locally made merlot, listening to the sound of live music, it was hard not to fall in love with our Saturday afternoon at the Spier Wine and Harvest Festival. From the moment we stepped off the bus, it was clear we were leaving behind the chaos of Cape Town for the day and entering the lush tranquility of Stellenbosch.  “Simply elegant” are the best words I can find to describe the experience, with seating limited to pillows on blankets, guarded from the sun by white drapings overhead.  People of all ages roamed the venue – children covered in Spiderman face-paint, young adults giggling as they stomped grapes, and elderly couples sampling fine wines.  Strolling up and down the rocky paths, tasting specialty wines and food, it was easy to lose yourself in the splendor of the day. 

 In a program where we are so often called to look upon the economic inequality in South Africa, and find ourselves working in underprivileged communities on a daily basis, it was interesting to see the other side of things.  How the other half lives.  Saturday was a peaceful (and much needed) vacation from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives in Cape Town and the emotionally weighing nature of the things we see at our service sites, but it was also an eye opener to the vast inequalities that exist in this country today.  In a country where there is still a great deal of people living in informal housing, without access to basic resources, should a festival like this exist? As service-learning students, it is our job to ask these questions!

Written by Guest Blogger,

Lindsay Voet, North Eastern University



AFRIKAAPS: Who does Afrikaans belong to?


Awe me broer! This past Monday, the CIEE Service-Learners had the incredible opportunity to screen Afrikaaps (a documentary about the history of Afrikaans, one of the world’s most politically charged languages) with the director. Afrikaans is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages spoken mostly by whites and coloureds, and is stigmatized as the language of the white oppressive class. It’s also the only language in the world with a monument built in its honour. The director, Dylan Valley, is coloured and his parents didn’t teach him Afrikaans when he was growing up, so listening to him explain the social consequences of that decision, and the reasons behind it, was fascinating and provided insight into the struggles Afrikaans-speaking non-whites face. He calls the message of the documentary the “emancipation of the Afrikaans language,” reclaiming the ownership of the language to transform it into a means for empowerment.

 Needless to say, we had lots of food for thought to chew on, along with the delicious pizza. One of the Service-Learners, Crista Carter, particularly enjoyed considering the parallels between the African American and the South African coloured community experiences, comparing the politics of linguistics involved in both Ebonics and Afrikaaps, saying when people try to say either of the languages aren’t legitimate it places the people who speak it on a lower level and makes them feel less human. Language is clearly a controversial part of South African society, and I know we’re all excited to observe and experience the linguistic atmosphere for the rest of the semester!

Written by Guest Blogger,

Rebecca Reed- Vanderbilt University