We’ve been in Cape Town for just over a week now – just about starting to get the hang of things. We’re staying with a lovely family, Mr & Mrs Gool, in Crawford, Athlone, and working Monday to Friday in a local primary school.

To give you an idea of our daily routine – we’re up early to get breakfasted and out the door for our short walk to the school. School starts at 8am and runs until 2.30pm, with two half-hour breaks or intervals. At the moment, we’re working on getting some resource rooms up and running. Niall is working to set up the computer room, which I’m sure he is blogging about.

I’m primarily working in the library or “media centre”. After much fundraising, haggling and harrassing local authorities, the school has finally acquired paint, desks, shelves, cupboards and books – it only remains to be assembled. A local volunteer has cleared an old classroom, retiled and repainted it and set up the furniture. My task at the moment is to organise the books into some semblance of order and have the room reasonably set up. I am hampered somewhat by the fact that roughly half the books are written in Afrikaans, as well a small number in isiXhosa – neither of which are languages I’m familiar with.

Our evenings are spent at home getting to know our family and the community – we attended their two-year-old grandson’s birthday party on Friday – as well as taking it easy and enjoying Mrs. Gool’s DELICIOUS home cooking. This weekend we went into Cape Town and orientated ourselves a little – it’s still quite cool here, so the beach exploring will have to wait a few weeks.

To give you and idea of the situation – we’re in a coloured township, meaning that this area used to be designated just for ‘coloured’ or mixed race people. It’s still largely populated by mixed race groups, many of whom speak Afrikaans (or a mixture of Afrikaans and English) as their first language. The school is an English medium school, with Afrikaans as the ‘additional language’ taught. As you can no doubt imagine, in a country with 11 national languages, finding a language that all learners can understand is difficult. This is compounded by the fact that the school has children from a wide variety of areas across Cape Town, including the shacks or ‘informal settlements’ of the most impoverished. Many of these children may speak isiXhosa or Zulu as a first language – still more come from neighbouring Malawi, Zimbabwe etc and so speak another language altogether. It is a crazy linguistic melting pot, and the teachers really struggle to communicate at times.

More to say but the internet time is up!

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