Monday, May 10, 2010

Masters of the Universe

It hasn't been very long since my last post, but a lot has happened and all of it is pretty awesome.

Before all of that, thanks to everyone who shared their advice and examples of student newspapers. Moshaweng News is coming along. Our first issue is coming out in June (fingers crossed).

Over the weekend was another Peace Corps party, this time in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the victory of General Zaragota Seguin over the French at the Battle of Pueblos (Ruan, please correct me). Anyway, I visited a real butchery for the first time in preparation for the celebratory braai. My friend J and I each bought beef fillets that turned out to be the most delicious food items ever. The meat was absolutely incredible! I kind of see where the Afrikaaner obsession with meat is coming from now. Of course, a big thanks is due to K, who actually cooked the meat. Another K, an RPCV who married a South African and lives in the area, also provided a variety of biltong and lamb kebabs from her farm which was thoughtful, sweet and, naturally, delicious. Several other volunteers also made food to share, including multiple tubs of guacamole and even Mexican cornbread (my contribution was my host mother's oven and pans). The best part of the night was seeing volunteers who traveled all the way from sites outside the Northern Cape. It's rare that I see people other than my immediate neighbors. Hopefully we will find another reason to gather soon.

The party was well-deserved because the end of last week was spent re-building the computer lab at Moshaweng High School. The operative word there is "build". My friend Justin, who has been traveling all over the province for a month helping other volunteers with their computer labs, trekked to Lopeng to help me with mine. The school had a bunch of computers, but they had been so poorly treated many were non-functional. Justin and I quite literally took them apart and re-built them. I spent the better part of two days on my hands and knees with a screwdriver pulling out hard drives, cloning them, dusting out the computers and putting the hard drives back in. It was exhausting and frustrating. We had power issues, missing mice and keyboards, really the whole experience proved the existence of Murphy's Law, but after several days the computer lab at Moshaweng is complete and functioning beautifully. The server Justin built (again, literally) is magical. I can shut down all the computers, all 33 of them, with 1 click! Forget Scholes and Hillibrand, I am a Master of the Universe. I can't wait to start teaching in the lab this week.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Moshaweng News

In my first full week at Moshaweng Secondary School, I assumed responsibility for the school newspaper. Apparently, sometime last year, a group came out to the school from town to workshop the learners on putting together a school newspaper. They produced one issue, but then everything fell apart and nothing's been done since. Well, now that I'm in control we have assigned staff positions (editor, sub-editor, photographer...), set deadlines (May 21st is the first), and organized twice weekly meetings for ten minutes after school and before the study period begins. While I'm really excited to be doing this, I have a few problems.

I know absolutely nothing about running a school paper. I was never part of Newspaper Club or anything remotely related to schools, news, or publishing. As the staff advisor, what exactly is my role? Without being too demanding or picky, how do I guide the students to better results? I tried to let them be creative with the title of our future publication. All they came up with was "Moshaweng Newsletter".

This leads me to my second problem. The learners don't know what they're supposed to be doing either! They've never seen a school newspaper before, some have never even seen a real newspaper. The blind really are leading the blind here.

The learners are also terribly unenthusiastic. I think this stems at least partially from the fact that no one really knows what they're doing, much less what they're capable of doing. The education system in South Africa does not reward creativity or thinking outside the box. No one here has ever heard of brainstorming. So, in order to up their enthusiasm and give them some ideas, it would be awesome if some devoted blog readers sent me a few copies of school newspapers for me to show to my students. Hopefully they'll feel less lost and more inspired. In the meantime, I've got cookies for our next meeting.

This coming Wednesday is my first meeting with the agricultural science learners. We're building (what else?) a compost pile.