My first destination in my journey is Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve been here before but when I was younger and so when I came back I was in complete awe of the backdrop of this city. It is absolutely beautiful. There are mountains everywhere you look and once you drive through the mountains you have the Ocean right besides you. It was amazing waking up to these majestic mountains everyday!
The organization I am involved with in Cape Town is LEAP Science and Math School. This organization was founded by Mr John Gilmour. While he was a teacher at a private school in Cape Town, he started coaching cricket in Langa ( the township that is being supported in this school). He then realized that their education results were catastrophic (with only about 6 out of 650 being able to go to university and only about 50 % passing grade 12 with nobody having science or math among the passed courses). He then tried to bring kids to the private school for help and bring teachers to Langa but this was not enough for these kids and he soon realized that these kids also needed emotional support and that is where the dream of Leap came about ( a non for profit that would focus on education and emotional support). John then quit his job as principal at Pinelands to make this dream a reality.The school has now been running for four years and last year all the grade 12s passed with 5 who had A’s in Math.
On my first day, I attended an English grade 12 class. The student who actually took me on the tour took me into her class. I wondered why she was taking me in and if I would have to sit there for the whole class. They were discussing John Keats’ poem: ” When I have fears that I may cease to be .” I had discussed this same poem during my grade 12 and it brought back fond memories ( sometimes not so fond such as falling asleep on my desk on hot days). I pitied my brother and sister right now who used to complain about going to school and fasting. I was used to a maximum of three hour lectures a day. Back to class: the teacher asked the kids what fears may you have when you may cease to be? The kids responded by saying that they may not be able to love, or to watch their kids grow up one day or that of success and fame may never come. At this point this seemed like any other class in the world.
I also attended a grade 9 math class. I caught the teacher’s American accent and was glad to see the it was not only local teachers who were part of this great initiative but overseas teachers were also here. I watched as he taught his lesson and then gave the students a prob to figure out. Most of the students figured out the answer but one girl could not understand. I watched as one by one every student tried to explain it to her. One of the students asked the teacher if it was alright that he used Xhosa ( their local language ) and the teacher responded by sure as long as she understood. One by one they tried explaining it to her with clicks flying everywhere. Some students even tried to use the board to explain it to her and it was interesting to see this. It was a different form of teaching – one I was not brought up with. Speaking in a different language to the teacher and letting students take a lead role in their learning experience. I was a little taken a back as I was brought up at a relatively tightly run school but understood that these teachers were not just teachers they were empowering these young ones.
I then met a couple of students and I asked them what their favorite part of the school was. One girl said that there was food in the school. The school provides everyone with four slices of bread generally with something like tuna or peanut butter, one yogurt, one fruit and a crunchie. There is also milk at several corners of the school. These kids come from disadvantaged backgrounds and food may be sparse at home and the school provides them with food. I had never come across this concept of unlimited food. There was so much I can learn here and really felt like I could not expect anything because they were working on a completely different model to what I have ever seen.
Another student said that Life Orientation was great at the school. Every day the students have life orientation to discuss issues amongst themselves and the rest of the syllabus works around this because life orientation provides them with the emotional support they need.
At this point I am just learning about this organization LEAP. But one thing it has evoked in me is a strong need to also make a difference, that this is something possible and that you can change the life of people. The place to begin that change is in the youth and in education so that the next generation can grow. It is important to try and bridge the gap between the disadvantaged and the advantaged. John Gilmour and his team are a great representation of that. They inspire me to my very core.