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Volunteers' Stories




Teaching English at a Township School on a voluntary placement in Knysna in South Africa

I believe I gained maturity and self-confidence from this placement. While I have no desire to teach when I’m older, doing the placement allowed me to experience what teaching is like, as well as learning the way in which children are educated in less privileged countries. Teaching in a township school for two months has given me a broader outlook on life as I now appreciate how fortunate I am. Were I to have another time at school I think I would be more polite and appreciative towards my teachers!

Obviously the teaching was great, however the most memorable parts of my placement was the trips that Jim [Travellers SA Asst. Manager] took us on. They were so much fun and well organised. This placement would suite anyone who is positive, laid-back and looking to have fun. This depicts South Africans and their culture quite accurately and therefore to fit in people should be prepared to arrive with this attitude. Things often don’t run on time or go as expected and people should be able to take this in there stride and go with it otherwise they may find themselves frustrated. I would absolutely recommend this placement to others, and have done already.

Can you describe a typical day?

 My typical day started when I forced myself out of bed at 7.10, an entire 20 minutes after my alarm first sounded. With just five minutes before we all had to leave it was a real mission to get ready and be in the car by 7.15. In truth I was rarely in the car by this time but it didn’t matter providing I wasn’t the last person. Ten minutes later two other volunteers and myself would walk through the playground towards the staff block. On the way many children would run up and wrap their arms around us and hold on even as we walked. The older children would shake our hands. This happened without fail at the beginning and end of every day.

Once in the staff room Leon the headmaster will come out to see you. He’s a really nice man and will make you feel at ease. If you’re white then he will most likely call you David Beckham if you’re male, and Britney Spears if you’re female. After a fully Afrikaans assembly which seems to go on for eternity, school starts and I would wonder round the different classrooms and ask if any help was needed or take a class which had no teacher present.

I would either help teach a lesson on whichever topic the class was doing or I would choose something to teach them. I’d take them out and play football or rugby as a reward for good behaviour as that is what they really enjoy. The general behaviour in class is not particularly good and therefore rewards for good behaviour is needed. Fighting in and out of class is a regular occurrence, not helped by the fact that they love WWE Wrestling and have no concerns about practising the wrestling moves on each other!

After taking lessons and playing football or rugby I was usually quite tired and in need of some time to relax. School ended at 1.00 and the rest of the day was up to us. We would normally eat out for lunch and have a few cold South African beers with our meal. The evenings would either be spent watching videos and drinking some fine Stellenbosh wine or going out to Zepplins for a few games of pool and some more beer. At just 70p a bottle it would have been rude not to drink a lot of it. I was normally in bed by 11 and preparing myself for another eventful day in South Africa.

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Christopher with Children

Christopher with Children

Christopher with Children