When African Impact asked me to write about my time volunteering in Cape Town, I jumped at the chance to encourage others to sign up for the “Over 30s” project. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to put into words how important the children I had worked with were or how lucky I feel to have met the incredible women who care for them.
When I left the UK I was feeling quite disillusioned with teaching. It was a big decision to leave my job at home but I don’t regret it for one moment. My time working in the communities of Red Hill, Masi and Ocean View reminded me what teaching is all about and why I love it so much!
I had worked as a primary school teacher for a number of years at home but quickly found that the way I taught at home was going to have to be adapted. However, I also soon realised that children are children, whatever their nationality or background. You do something fun - they want to join in; you do something silly - they laugh; and most importantly they love learning new things.
As I came to the end of what was supposed to be my penultimate week, I knew I wanted to do more. I changed my flights and extended my trip by an extra 7 weeks! Every extra day of those extra two months would confirm I had done the right thing. I saw the children becoming more and more excited about learning their letters and numbers, which gave me the most amazing buzz.
The moment which really made me remember what teaching is all about came at our end of Quarter assessments. All the fun games and lessons we had had together over the past few weeks had actually paid off and it was truly apparent in the results. Children who only had known a handful of letters or numbers in September had now doubled their original scores. What was even more exciting was that they were confident in what they were doing…actually looking for the number 4 because they knew which one that was, rather than randomly handing me a wooden block and looking hopeful! I was so proud of what they could do and more importantly they were proud of themselves too.
Every Friday as people drew to an end of their time “on project” they shared their highlights. By the end of 11 weeks there was no way I could sum up my amazing experience in a few words or by a few memories. I know I helped embed a love of learning in those children, which I hope they will keep forever but for me they brought back my love of teaching and because of that they will always have a very special place in my heart.
The only problem with coming home is missing that rewarding feeling at the end of EVERY day; the energetic, loving children and the babble of their Xhosa conversations; (the lunchtimes at the beach were pretty great too!) I guess there’s only one solution… I’ll have to start planning my return trip!