Sawubona (Hello in Zulu)!

I landed in Johannesburg for my internship almost 3 weeks ago, after 32 hours of traveling. My supervisor had said she would send the organization driver to pick me up from the airport. After almost two hours of waiting for a man with my name on a sign, unsuccessfully trying to get a hold of my supervisor with spotty airport wifi, and panic-messaging Nicole (wonderful cohort-mate, summer roommate and co-intern) who had reached Joburg a couple weeks earlier, I eventually found another employee from the organization who had come to pick me up (the sign with my name on it with safely tucked away in her purse, making it just a tad bit difficult to spot her…) and I made my way to my supervisor’s house which would be my home for the next 3 months. The drive to my new home reminded me a lot of India – a mix of tall fancy buildings, tiny shops and residential neighborhoods. I already felt at ease and was excited to start this new adventure.

The organization I am interning with is a local, literacy-based NGO that focuses on creating learning materials in all 11 South African national languages, primarily for grades 1-3.

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“Welcome” in almost all the 11 national languages in South Africa

Everyone has been extremely warm and welcoming, which has helped me settle in quickly! I have gone out to watch soccer and rugby matches at bars with coworkers, which has been a lot of fun (though rugby is stressful to watch…the players don’t wear helmets and jump on each other!!!) A coworker has also been giving Nicole and I lessons in Zulu! While I probably can’t learn all 11 languages in my 3 months here, I am definitely eager to learn as much as I can and am grateful to be surrounded by people speaking so many different languages at the office!

On the work front, so far, I have assisted with the revamping of the organization website, organized files of all the learning materials and support resources developed by the organization so far in all the national languages, written a literature review for a technical proposal on mother tongue instruction and learning, edited grade 2 lesson plans for EFAL (English as a first additional language) and edited the midline report for an ECD project taking place in another province. I have also started creating vocabulary posters for grades 1-3 and phonics flashcards for grades 1-3 in Ndebele! It has definitely been both challenging and a great learning experience to work in a language I have no previous experience with. I am excited to continue learning and engaging with different projects.

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Ndebele Phonics Families chart that I have been referring to a LOT (in addition to the Ndebele-English dictionary) to create phonics flashcards

I was also given the opportunity to attend a literacy workshop in Soweto on Youth Day (recognized in honor of the students of color who lost their lives in the Soweto Uprising of 1976 while advocating for equal education rights during Apartheid) and discuss advocacy, research, materials development and teacher coaching in multi-lingual settings with education specialists in South Africa.

Though I’ve only been here for 3 weeks so far, I have managed to do quite a bit outside the office. It’s been really nice having Nicole around to explore the city with!

History: We got a crash course on South Africa’s turbulent and violent history through our visits to the Constitution Hill (former prison and site of the new human rights court) and the Apartheid Museum and a guided tour of Soweto by a local! We also watched a theater production of the Broadway musical Sarafina (based on the Soweto Uprising of 1976) at the Joburg theater, which was absolutely spectacular.

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Solitary Confinement Cells at the prison
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Soweto – the site of many political activities during Apartheid
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Soweto colors
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Sarafina at the Joburg Theatre

Heights: We got an amazing view of Joburg from the ‘Top Of Africa’ (50 stories high). Aynur, Nicole and I also had quite a thrilling adventure – we went bungee jumping in Soweto!

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View from the Top of Africa!
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Bungee Jumping from the Orlando Towers in Soweto!

Nature: While Joburg is known for its greenery, there aren’t many safe green spaces to go on a walk or spend an evening relaxing. After some serious research (thanks, Google), we found some outdoorsy stuff to do, like going on a 10 km hike in the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve and Heritage Site.

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View of the city from our hike

More internship details coming soon, but in the mean time, here are some education-related signs I’ve seen around Joburg!

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‘Empowering Education’
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‘Books before Babies!’
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Education progress in South Africa

– Sharanya