Mrs Bates visit to South Africa

14th March 2015
Saturday 14th
Arrived safely back at London 6am this morning. Just a short flight back to Manchester and then home !
Home safely.


Thursday 11th

Today was my last day in Tlamatlama primary school, and it has been a very emotional day.  I was so happy to be amongst the friends that I have made at the school, but at the same time I was sad to be saying goodbye.  On my arrival I was greeted by the most colourful sight - all of the staff at school were dressed in traditional African dress in my honour.  People wearing wonderful costumes kept appearing in doorways and classrooms and I  tried to take photographs of as many as I could.  Even the children thought this was exciting because their teachers do not generally dress like this for school.  I was invited to attend the infant assembly this morning where they sang songs and prayers to welcome the new day and they also said their goodbye to me.   I had to stand up on a platform and speak to everyone, I had practised the night before and I said thank you in Sepedi.  The teachers also made me count so that I could show off all the things I had learnt in my short time with them. 

After assembly I joined the Grade 6 children.  One class were doing music, they were learning to sing in a canon (in a round) and also to sing in unison.  This was great fun and the children clearly loved singing and dancing for a visitor.  After this lesson was over, I was asked to tell them about our school and they asked lots of questions - they wanted to know if we had McDonalds and KFC!  In the next class we studied English and the children talked about what being a family meant to them.  It was lovely to hear the children explain the importance of family and love: it made me realise how much I miss my own family.  Again the children asked me lots of questions about life in the UK - this class wanted to know about the weather, so I showed them a video of the snow we had a few weeks ago.  My final class was another grade 6, but they were learning about food chains, predators and producers.  It made me smile because when they had to think of an animal that ate only grass, the answer was a zebra, at home I would think of a sheep or a cow.  As today was my last day all the children came out to say goodbye, I think I hugged all 1400 children at the school or if they didn't get a hug, it was a high five or a thumb click (I will teach you this next week).  The tears started to fall as soon as all this started, the affection given to me by all this people I barely know was very powerful.

As the children were leaving all the staff in their wonderful outfits gathered in the yard and started singing to me - this singing was so beautiful and made me feel like I was part of something very special.  This singing was the start of a ceremony, during which the Head teacher, Mr Dire, thanked me for my visit and all the things I had done during my visit.  Then it was my turn to speak, I cried AGAIN! All the things I had planned to say flew out of my head as I thanked the for their generosity and kindness, their hospitality and above all for letting me join their community.  I was presented with gifts to bring to our school and a personal gift - I was given the traditional costume of a Sepedi woman because I had tried so hard to learn the language.  It is a beautiful costume, and if Mr Jones will let me, I will wear it for school one day. Then it was time for the thing I had been dreading for a whole week - traditional food!  Chicken feet, heads and heart were served, along with cows stomach and mopane worms!!!!! I couldn't eat it and my new friends laughed at me.  I ate the other 'normal' parts of the chicken, some pumpkin and tried some pap.  The pap didn't taste of very much, but it felt funny on my tongue.

Eventually it was time to say goodbye for the last time, more hugs and handshakes, endless photos and promises to write.  Mr Dire drove me back to the hotel and I was so tired I could barely speak.

Tomorrow I have to go to a meeting all day to discuss what I have learned and then I start the long journey home.  There may not be another post here unless I can find some internet.

I have had the most amazing time, my head and my heart are bursting with memories that I will have for the rest of my life.



Wednesday 11th

It has been a very busy week and I didn't think it would be possible to cram any more adventures into the remaining time - I was wrong !  This morning, first thing I taught a class of 52 Grade 7 children for maths.  We had an hour long revision lesson prior to them doing their exam.  We revised place value, odd, even and prime numbers, triangles, quadrilaterals and angles: I had a great time and the children seemed to enjoy it.  I was lucky enough to teach in one of the new classrooms with fancy TV-type screens - Mr Jones watch out, we need these at Bruche !!  While I was teaching I was unable to take photographs so I will try and take some tomorrow (but I hope I can teach again as well). After this lesson finished, the tests began in all the classes so I went to join Grade  R for their outdoor PE/play session.  This involved lots of games and singing on some ground outside their room because the play area is still being built. 

After lunch, I was taken to meet other teachers from Warrington who are here on the visit and we were taken to the Lion Park.  Here I was taken in a lorry round a park FULL of lions, the roars were defeating, quite unlike anything I have heard before.  The lions were very close to the vehicle and my heart was pounding as they passed so close to me.  Sally, the deputy headteacher from Tlamatlama was with me, she also thought it was very exciting.  When we returned from the drive I was taken into a small compound where I was allowed to play with and stroke the lion cubs.  It was unbelievable.  My head was ready to explode with all the wonderful things that I had seen and experienced. Of all the animals in Africa, my favourite is the giraffe, they amaze me and I never tire of looking at them.  It has been astounding to see them in their natural habitat instead of in the zoo.  The park today was a little bit like a safari park but some of the animals are just wandering around.  One of the animals wandering freely was a giraffe and I was able to climb up on to a platform to stroke the giraffe and let it eat from my hand.  It is such a beautiful creature, so graceful, quiet and gentle.  It was another day that I will never, ever forget. 


Tuesday 10th (Evening)

Watch this video - do you notice anything different about it? ( hint - watch the soap bubbles) 

Tuesday 10th

Today I spent the morning with Grade 2 children.  They began the day by marching and singing from an assembly which was held on the school yard.  There is no school hall here, assemblies are taken outside and food is delivered to the classroom.  Children eat their lunch in the classroom or outside.  There are no teaching assistants and classes usually have about 50 children and just one teacher.  The children are very well behaved and always work quietly, they know they are very lucky to go to such a good school.  We began the day with a phonics and handwriting lesson; the children were learning a new sound and had to think of words that contained the sound.  It reminded me a lot of our phonics lessons - except that we usually work with groups of about 10 and not 50!  After a short break, we began the maths lesson, we were learning about days of the week and months of the year.  The children all had a copy of a calendar and had to answer questions that the teacher wrote on the blackboard.  When the children gave good answers the teacher gave them stickers. 

In the afternoon I moved to a Grade 3 class and we had a comprehension lesson. Just like at home the children were reminded that to find the answers they should USE THE TEXT! If you have been in my class you know I say this all the time.  Today I tried to say it in Sepedi.  Following the comprehension the children began their life studies lesson. Today they were continuing to learn about their own African culture and the different tribes that make up South Africa and also about the religions that are practised here. We learned about Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and about being a Christian.  The children here all attend different places of worship and we all talked about how we prayed - I am 'Bokriste' ( a Christian) and I had to join in as well and describe how I celebrate Christmas. The we played a game - the teacher put pictures on the board of all the different African peoples and the children had to dance or sing in their culture. Then we all made hats with the different religious symbols side by side.  It was a lovely lesson, great fun, everyone took part and we all learned about each other.

The children are all doing assessments in their subjects over this week: they do not last as long as ours - usually about 30 minutes.  They only have 4 lessons Sepedi, Maths, English and Life Skills.  Life skills seems to include all sorts of things but is designed so that the children can keep themselves safe and be independent. 

Monday 9th
I was up bright and early this morning, my school bag was packed and ready by the door.  Fortunately, breakfast is served from 6.00am, so I was able to eat before I left for school at 7.00am.  Sadly, the traffic was terrible and although the head teacher collected me on time we were late for school.
Assembly was just finishing as we arrived so I didn't hear the children sing today. I was given a guided tour of the school - there are 28 classes at the school: four classes of seven grades.  Children start here aged 6 or 7 and stay until they are 13 or 14.  It is a big school which, like ours, is getting better all the time.  They are developing new outdoor areas (which are much smaller than ours) and replacing old classrooms.  It is an exciting time at Tlamatlama because they have new computers, fancy new tv-type screens and tablets for the children! At the moment the older children are working in the new classrooms but new ones are being built for the younger children as well.  Today I worked with the grade 1 children, we had a maths lesson where we were adding one more and making one less and then we did a literacy lesson were the children learned a new sound.  It was very similar to how we learn and I was able to join in - even though the language they were using was Sepedi and not English!

Children here learn Sepedi and English and some lessons are taught in both languages.  We sang 'heads, shoulders, knees and toes', learned about keeping healthy and shared a story about keeping safe. It was a very busy day.  The children thought it was very funny that I learned to count to 5 and introduce myself in their language.  After school I watched the children in a netball club and a volleyball club, they are practising ready to play matches against nearby schools.

It was a fantastic day and I can't wait to go back in the morning.  Oh I almost forgot, I gave Mr Dire our book before I share it with the children; he loves it and says they will build a big display all about Warrington. The children here are going to make a book for Mr Dire to bring to us in June. 

Off for a well earned cup of tea and pack my things for tomorrow.


Sunday 8th (Evening)

Tonight, it is an early night because I have to be ready for school at 7.00am! I am looking forward to meeting the children, Mr Dire and his staff say they are also very excited to start learning all about Bruche.  Mr Dire and I hope that this will be the start of an exciting partnership, where our children and teachers work together to help each other learn.


Sunday 8th

After a good night sleep, dreaming about hippos, we set off to visit Pretoria today. Yesterday was devoted to wildlife and the environment, today was dedicated to history.  We visited Freedom Park which is a memorial to the people who have shaped the history of South Africa, it is a truly awe inspiring place and I am not ashamed to say I cried as I walked around this historic place.  South Africa has had a difficult past and I remember watching it on the news when I was a little girl - this is a place I never thought I would visit, yet here I am.

The South African people have chosen to reflect about their past and move forward to a new future.  Rather than talk about who is to blame they have decided to make sure future generations never repeat the bad things that have happened here.  It is a good example for us all to follow.  Lots of people are responsible for this change but a special man called Nelson Mandela is usually associated with making it happen.  We also visited the Parliament building and this amazing statute of a remarkable man.




Saturday 7th

It was a very early start for our adventure - an African safari !!! We all met for breakfast in the hotel and then boarded the coach for a 3 hour drive out into the African Bush.  There was a quick stop for ice cream as we drove to the Limpopo province to a game reserve: this is where the animals can live in the wild but be protected.

We drove through a town called Bela Bela which means 'boil boil' and is a town/resort centred around hot springs - the camp site is called 'Warm Bath'.

On the final leg of our journey we passed a reserve that was specially for elephants - we saw them being watered and cooled in a compound by the road. Then arrived at Mabula Game Reserve.  We went on a safari in a jeep and I couldn't believe all the animals I saw. There are too many pictures to show here but we saw crocodiles, zebras, giraffes, hippos, Impala, springbok, buffalo, wildebeest, oryx, warthog, rhino and a jackal.  It was so exciting.

It was a long drive back to the hotel but I had a lot of exciting things to dream about.

Friday 6th
It was a very long flight and sadly I didn't get a lot of sleep! But we were met at the airport by teachers from our partner school with big smiles and a very warm welcome.  We went to a place called the Emperor's Palace for a welcome lunch - it was a buffet of lots of different foods (no bugs!). Early night tonight because tomorrow we are going on safari: I am so excited!
Will take lots of photographs and try to share them here.