Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mr. Mavundla

May 15, 2009 (Friday) – Part I
Mr. Mavundla

Today was my second day visiting Zonkizizwe Primary School. I stayed with Mr. Mavundla all day, and it was a blast. He had a commanding presence and a resonating deep voice that could be mistaken for being aggressive and insensitive, but he was in fact very passionate and caring towards the learning of his students.

I sat in on him giving a 6th grade Social Science lesson on “Poverty and Development” and it was phenomenal. He began by asking the class, “What do you think poverty is?” Student responded with, “lack of education,” “lack of shelter,” “unemployment,” and “lack of food.” He wrote those on one side of a table and on the other column wrote “Development.”
“Now,” he asked, “How can we fix these today? You all are sitting here getting an education that will help you for tomorrow, but your parents are suffering today. What can you do today?”

In response to “lack of education,” students noted that the government could build more schools for adults. He chimed in saying that the government could do this through investing more in the Adult Basic Education and Training program. He wrote this on the ‘Development’ column.

In response to lack of shelter, students noted that the governments could build more RDP (Reconciliation Development Program) houses like the ones they already see in their communities.

In response to “unemployment” students said, “Our parents can go get jobs.” Mr. Mavundla said, “Where? There are no jobs. Factories are laying off people all the time. Where will they find jobs?”

The room became silent then he got frustrated because students were not thinking of ways to alleviate unemployment. He yelled, “If your parent does not have a job stand up.” Out of a class of 41, 14 students stood up.

He then yelled, “Now you, you one’s standing up. What can be done today?” One girl standing up said, “Factories can pay less and keep people longer.” He said, “Yes they can do that, but there are people who didn’t even get factory jobs in the first place.”

After more seconds of silence, he referenced the Mbuntu (Sp?) people from ancient South African history. “Who are the Mbuntu people?” he asked the class. “They are our great ancestors. And before the Egyptians and the Chinese they created a civilization. They thought for themselves. They worked for themselves, so must you!” “Go home and tell your parents to be self-sufficient. Don’t go looking for jobs because there aren’t no jobs!”

Lastly, in response to “lack of food” he pointed to a picture of a corn stalk on the wall that was put up for the Natural Science course. He said, “What is that?” The class responded in unison, “Maize.” “And what do we use it for? Do we not make pop (a South African side dish) and maize from it?” “Start planting these damned things in your own back yard!”

I learned a lot from his teaching. Though seemingly “authoritarian” he intended to teach the kids at where they were at. Later when I got a moment to converse with him he shared that he was taught under apartheid at a Teacher’s College for Blacks. “Here we learned how to be practical. While the Whites were at universities learning the philosophy and theory of education, we learned how to teach.”

When I asked what could help him do is job better he said, “Government support and openness to consult with teachers.” This is when I knew that I was on the right track with my interest in Global Urban Education Policy.

*While the kids at VVOCF were eating their meal, I captured an image of an RDP house on the background. The little girl with the pony tail in Black was actually in Mr. Mavundle’s class earlier today.

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