I cannot believe I have been in South Africa for a month. I should mention that I don’t find strange anymore having the second winter in the same year. I have a blanket at the office to stay warm 🙂 I can say that I am handling the culture shock very well thanks to the work and traveling around. Regarding the work, I have done so far; I have been given different responsibilities for three different projects. I can confidently say that I am learning a lot about development work which I have been questioning a lot during the semester. Additionally, I am attending different kinds of meetings including steering committee business relation development, stakeholder collaboration and workshops on project feedback. All these are very interesting for me as an intern to observe and improve my professional skills.
I have been given more responsibility for the projects related to early childhood development. The main project is about creating a model classroom for Grade-R(the reception year before the children start primary school) and supporting the professional development of Grade-R teachers to increase the quality of education. For this project, I worked on the literature review and had interviews to learn about the local context to make sure that the design of the classroom and content of the teacher training model align with the current standards in this context. My policy brief is about increasing the qualification of Grade-R teachers and I have looked at the articles and the work has done in this field. When I had an initial meeting on the project and shared my previous policy brief with the project team. I was very confident and I thought I really have enough knowledge on this issue until I had interviews with the people local working in this field. During these interviews, I met consultant, experts, and academicians in the field with different approaches on ECD. While I was having interviews with them, I realized that some of the issues were not included in the articles and reports which are really important to understand the real contents of the problems which make me realize once again the importance of working with local people which we discussed during the pro-seminar sessions. I know that qualification of Grade-R teachers were very low when it compared to the teachers in other level but I did not that grade-R teachers are getting their certification to be a teacher after the started the work and anyone can be a candidate to be a teacher no matter how many years of education the received. Now I think it differently and can understand better even spending a short time here and discussing the issue with local people. I heard very interesting stories about the local context which I cannot find in the articles which enable me to have a deeper understanding of the target population and to improve my networking skills. I think all these discussions and the observation I made so far were a really valuable experience for me for both my professional and personal development on understanding the work I am doing and the world I am living.
Of course, I am here not only for the work! There are not a lot of things to do during the weekday so I am going home and try to find things to do make myself busy during the evening. Living in South Africa made me change my perspectives on the way of living. Since I do not have an internet connection at home, I learn living life without the internet and realized that the life is possible without the internet connection and there are many things to do I was not aware of it before. I keep all my plans for the weekends and I try to explore Johannesburg with my lovely cohort members and colleagues. After the bungee jumping adventure, we have had some more exciting activities: zip lining over many crocodiles and having safari on Lion Park. We have more plans for coming weekends to get to see more around the country. I think here is very important to have friends to make plans and travels thus I am really glad to have friends from my cohort in the same city. Also, my colleagues are very considered try to show me around and they took me to a very historical place, the Constitutional Hall, which affected me deeply about the history of the apartheid regime. There is a great diversity in terms of race at the office which I worked; I was hesitating to talk about it. During this trip, they started to talk about apartheid which makes me feel more comfortable to talk about the effect of apartheid on their life.
All in all, living in South Africa is a really unique experience with all the work I have been part of, people who I met and the places I have been. For my next blog, I will give the details of the implementation process of the early childhood project and my observation in the field.