I’m officially half way through my internship! The past few weeks have been filled with some great adventures and learning experiences, and I am definitely grateful for the opportunity to be here in South Africa!

Over the last few weeks, Nicole and I have been involved in two projects.

AFAL (African Languages as a First Additional Language) Lesson Plans:

In South Africa, students learn in their home language until Grade 3, and then switch to English as the medium of instruction from Grade 4 onwards. From Grade R (Kindergarten) to Grade 3, students whose home language is Afrikaans or an African language, learn English as a first additional language (FAL). In recent times, there has been a push toward introducing African languages as a first additional language in schools.

To this end, our organization is working on a project to create lesson plans for African languages as a first additional language in Grades 1 to 3. Nicole and I have definitely found it challenging to create lesson plans for languages we have no background in, but reading the Government CAPS (Curriculum and Pedagogy Standards) document and doing research on the components and structures of the different African languages has proven to be informative and useful in creating these lesson plans. However, since we do not have any knowledge of how to teach these African languages, we are creating templates for the lesson plans which will consist of topics to be covered and activities to be included in each lesson. A language expert will fill in the details for the lesson plans.

Mphahlolle ECD Project:

The organization we are interning for has been administering an ECD project in the Limpopo province of South Africa since 2015, specifically for Grades 1-3. This year, they have expanded to include Grade R. The project aims to ensure social, emotional, physical and cognitive readiness of Grade R students for Grade 1 by providing coaching for teachers through workshops and school-based support. Nicole and I spent this past week in Polokwane, Limpopo at the satellite office, engaging in this project. I am really excited about this project because ECD and teacher coaching/professional development are my two areas of interest and this project encompasses both!

We spent the first few days meeting with the program manager and the team of trainers, reading reports, working with data and speaking to the trainers to understand how school-based support is administered. The next few days, we visited schools in Limpopo, observed Grade R classrooms and along with the trainers, provided coaching to teachers on instruction, pedagogical practices, classroom organization and assessments. We visited one of the schools on Nelson Mandela Day (this year marks his 100th birthday), so we got to watch a program put on by the students of the school commemorating Nelson Mandela.

We were also given the opportunity to design a set of qualitative interview questions to ask the teachers regarding the benefits and drawbacks of the project. It was definitely an eye-opening experience to see these teachers, most of whom are above the age of 60, manage to teach in poorly resourced classrooms with over 50 five year old children.

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‘Fantasy Area” in a Grade R classroom. This corner is meant to promote creativity and imagination in children.
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The library in this classroom was more of a storage corner with a box of broken toys, old files and registers and some mops and brooms.

At the end of the day, we met with the principals of the schools to discuss their role in supporting Grade R teachers and students. At the end of the week, we wrote a report and presented to the project manager and the trainers on our Grade R classroom visits, challenges and our recommendations and suggestions for future iterations of the program based on teacher responses to the interview questions and our own observations. We hope to go back to Limpopo to attend teacher workshops and be more involved in this project (and to buy more avocados! You can get a bag of 14 avocados for $2 there!)

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Look at the size of this avocado!! (Laptop for reference)

While these projects keep us busy on weekdays, Nicole and I have been exploring the city and the country over the weekends. We went to Cape Town to meet fellow IEDP cohort-mate Susan, saw penguins at the beach, got some pretty amazing views from Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope, hiked Lions Head, and ate lots of food.

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View from Table Mountain
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Penguins at Boulder Beach
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View from the Cape of Good Hope
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View of the 12 Apostles mountains from Camps Bay in Cape Town

We also went to the Lion Park just outside of Johannesburg and fed giraffes, pet a lion cub and saw lots of animals (zebras, springbok, wilderbeest, cheetahs, lions, hyenas…the list is endless). As if we hadn’t seen enough animals for the day, we went to the Crocodile and Reptile Park, held snakes and a baby alligator and ziplined over 2,500 Nile crocodiles (they’re one of the most dangerous creatures on earth)!

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There are lots of exciting things planned for the next few weeks, so stay tuned for my next post!