Twice a week, during this semester, I have joined some other students to go out to the townships and tutor disadvantaged high school students. This has all be part of a student organization called TeachOut.
is a project under a larger umbrella organization called Ubunye
that promotes social development. TeachOut operates under this umbrella along with Inkanyezi
(a mentorship program) and Thetani Debating League
(formerly the Township Debating League or TDL).
There is another student organization at UCT called Shawco, where student volunteers from the university work with young people in disadvantaged conditions. A couple of my housemates and friends work with Shawco. That organization appears to be more well-represented in the materials for students coming to study at UCT for a semester. I knew about it before I got here, but I only learned about Ubunye and its parts during the IAPO student orientation back in early February.
Ubunye is a much smaller organization, funded almost exclusively from student fund-raising activities. Part of what drew me to it was the fact that they work with high school students (Shawco generally focusses on younger primary school learners). As someone who is not always particularly fond of children, I find interacting with teenagers to be easier and more meaningful. I also liked the underdog, grassroots feel of Ubunye and its projects.
Twice a week, I have jumped into a van with other volunteers from UCT and trucked off to the townships.
On Mondays I work with high school students in Gugulethu. It was a bit daunting at the beginning of the semester as I walked into a classroom to work with 25 students, using a scratched up chalk-board to try and work through algebra problems. Over the course of the semester, most of the boys have apparently come up with something better to do on a Monday afternoon, so for the last few weeks, I have mostly worked with a small group of dedicated girls. I love that these young women are subverting stereotype and rocking the higher math!
Please forgive the Humanitarians of Tinder
style photographs. TeachOut was holding a selfie contest among the tutors to help with recruiting (having us post selfies to facebook with a blurb about why we do it). Ever willing to participate...
On Tuesdays, I am the token Maths tutor (it is plural here for some reason) in a group of English tutors that go to a yabonga in Mfuleni. Yabongas are community centres developed to support members of the community living with HIV. The setting is much more informal, and I work with students from multiple high schools in the area, all of whom have been touched by HIV in some way (whether infected themselves or have family members who are). In general, at Mfuleni, I work with somwhere between 2 and 8 students, varying dependent on who comes to the centre that day and who feels more like doing English than Maths.
|My boys at Yabonga Mfuleni|
|They take themselves so seriously...|
|...but got them to crack up when I joked about their police photos.|
|Some good camp among the kids.|
|And yes, they love my play-dough hair|
|Some sessions are hard to get going when there is a soccer ball around.|
I will miss working with these kids. Even the administratively difficult days of miscommunications between schools, TeachOut, and us volunteers proved to be some of the most interesting and rewarding times spent in this country. It has opened my eyes to another side of South Africa and enriched my experience as a tourist, as a student, and as a person.
I encourage anyone, as I was encouraged, coming to South Africa to spend some time volunteering with an organization like TeachOut and Ubunye and expand the breadth of their experience here.