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Posts Tagged ‘Gugulethu’

SA project Manager Vimbai was in Vancouver for the past two weeks. Part of her visit included promoting the Vancouver South African Festival, as well as raising awareness of Education without Borders and its work in the Cape Town Gugulethu area.

Vimbai spoke to festival goers throughout the weekend, and concluded the event with an emotional and inspirational talk about the realities of South Africa, the country’s large income disparities, crime and violence, and what it is like to work with young people facing so many challenges. Vimbai’s talk, sobering at times, also drew wonderful examples of how despite such adversity, Education without Borders is making a difference in the lives of so many students.

Besides the film festival, Vimbai also spoke to various community groups while here in Vancouver. Organizations in the area of dance, music, and the local media got to learn first hand how Education without Borders is working to improve outcomes in the area of education. How we are working in english, arts, and math education, and how we are drawing on local talent to find local solutions.

Vimbai, it was wonderful having you here with us! Keep up your hard work in South Africa, and we look forward to hearing more news from you, Courtney, and the students.

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This evening, after leaving the office late, I was tempted head straight home and go to bed early. This past week I’ve had very little sleep; the unfortunate juxtaposition of my obssession with early morning starts, and my partner’s obligation to study well into the morning hours for his Ph. D. Call it burning the candle from both ends.

An early Friday night seemed awfully tempting on a cold and rainy winter’s night, but in the end I stuck to a promise I had made myself earlier in the week, that I would go to synagogue to practice my Hebrew and connect with my community. Now don’t get me wrong, I am about as religious as an apple can be an orange; however, religious event aside, there is something special about being part of a community, being connected to people of similar backgrounds and interests.

Community is important. It connects people together to a common project to better their lives and the lives of the people who live around them. Education without Borders’ mission is to empower parents, teachers, and students to build a community around their schools. The long term objective is not just education, it is also to create a community around the schools EwB supports.

Yet EwB also indirectly helps build community amongst South Africans living abroad. Our NGO achieves this by offering meaningful cultural and fundraising projects (such as the Vancouver South African Film Festival) that bring expats together in a common cause to help improve the lives of fellow South Africans.

In the end everyone is looking to belong somewhere. We are all in search of a community where we can contribute, and where we feel we belong, and where we can be better human beings. Projects such as EwB help build that sense of community for so many people, whether in  Gugulethu at the start of another school year, or here in Vancouver on a cold raining night.

 

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Phumza in the new Fezeka School library!

This past April I had the opportunity to visit South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique with a Canadian friend who had never been to Africa before. In Cape Town we did all the usual things a tourist would do in the Mother City, visiting the Waterfront, de Waterkandt, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Town, The Company Gardens, Muizenberg, Stellenbosch, and Camps Bay – yes there is a lot to see in Cape Town!

We also were treated to a unique visit to Gugulethu, Langa, and the Joe Slovo squatter camps with Education Without Borders volunteer Ted Weber as our guide. On the trip we stopped in at a couple of arts and crafts markets where Ted works with local guides developing tourism in the community. Our tour also took us to Fezeka School, where Education Without Borders has been involved since the early 1970’s. There we were treated to a guided tour of the school grounds and some of the buildings, and also met with several students. From what we saw on our tour it is was evident that Fezeka School, like most schools in South Africa faces vast challenges.

All of the classroom doors and windows at Fezeka School are covered with burglar bars and chicken wire to keep out burglars. While this keeps the burglars out, it sadly does not lend to creating a warm and hospitable learning environment. The communal areas of the school are also a far cry form the comforts enjoyed by students in the more privileged schools of Camps Bay, Ronderbosch, and Bishops.

Yet despite the challenges, good work is being done at Fezeka School. For example the school library, which was nothing more than a pile of books on a floor when we visited in April, is now a beautiful fully functioning school library with an inviting area for students and staff to study and read.

There are also plans to decorate classrooms with student murals, and the school’s food garden has grown into a wonderful success story educating the students about food, ecology, and gardening. As a volunteer driven organization, Education Without Borders has taken an active role in working with the Fezeka’s teachers, administration, and students to achieve these successes. Building new classrooms, establishing vibrant arts and dance programs, and growing the Maths and English program are but a few of the projects that Education Without Borders continues support within Fezeka School.

The challenges facing Fezeka School may appear insurmountable; however, when one looks at the work being done on the ground by Education Without Borders, the students, the teachers, and the school administration one realizes that Fezeka School is playing an integral part in bringing down the borders to education, and in so doing, helping secure livelihoods for hundreds young people.

Join Education Without Borders as a volunteer or a donor and help bring down the borders to education in South Africa.

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