Internship highlights: Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to be more involved in the ECD project I talked about in my last post. As I mentioned earlier, I was in the Limpopo province for a week, during which my time was split between doing work in the satellite office there and visiting schools with trainers to provide school-based support to Grade R (kindergarten) teachers. The following week, the trainers invited me and Nicole to attend a steering committee meeting where the principals from some of the schools involved in the project came to discuss the strengths and challenges of the program as well as the changes they have seen in their schools since the implementation of the program. While it was exciting to see the enthusiasm with which the principals participated, it was apparent that they were hesitant to talk about the challenges their schools still faced or provide constructive feedback to the trainers and project manager. Perhaps this was due to politics, lack of comfort/safe space to provide honest feedback, feeling an obligation to say only positive things, worrying that negative comments may result in weakening relations with the organization and not receiving future support, the presence of a DBE (Department of Basic Education) representative, all of the above or something else altogether. I really did wish that deeper conversations about challenges and discussions on strategies to overcome these challenges had occurred rather than just talking about general positives. Also, the principals who came to the meeting were mostly from “model schools” – schools that ranked high on the baseline assessment. It would have been nice to hear the experiences of principals from other schools as well. Regardless, it was still interesting to see another aspect of the project and engage with principals after having had the opportunity to engage with teachers the previous week. The fifth and final teacher training workshop took place this week, but unfortunately, Nicole and I were unable to attend. I hope that I will be able to go back to Limpopo for more field visits at some point before my internship ends. In the meantime, I have been tasked with editing and compiling all five teacher training modules into a training manual that the organization can publish. It has definitely been taking a lot longer to do than I had expected, but I am aiming to provide the organization with a ready-to-print document before I leave.
Travel highlights: Aynur, Nicole and I took a break from the office life to go see some wildlife. We went on a road trip to Kruger National Park where we saw lots of giraffes, elephants, LOTS of impala, wildebeest, rhinos, monkeys, buffalo, crocodiles, hippos, zebras, lions and lots of different kinds of birds! It was an amazing experience. We could be driving for hours and not see any animals, and then suddenly see a herd of elephants in the middle of the road. We also saw some of the most beautiful sunsets ever. It was definitely a great to get out of the city for a few days and enjoy the African safari experience.
Nicole and I also explored the Sterkfontein caves at the Cradle of Humankind one weekend with our supervisor. Many hominin fossils have been found here which have contributed to paleoanthropological research on the evolution of mankind.
Highlight of the day: I found a great restaurant South Indian restaurant, introduced Nicole to South Indian food and chaat (Indian street food) and FINALLY ate dosa (rice batter crepe) after 3 months! (Anyone who knows me knows that I usually eat dosa at least twice a week). I almost cried tears of happiness.
Stay tuned for updates on my last few weeks in South Africa!