October 10, 2008 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

Presently, the third quarter school break is coming to a closure.  Break began for all teachers and students of Pudulogo Primary School on Saturday, September 27, 2008.  I hadn’t set aside much to do for that first week of break.  Knowing full well that the village can become insanely boring when you have nothing to occupy yourself with, I chose to host a four day camp at the school for the grade 6 and 7 learners.  The itinerary for the week would include science labs, computer classes and a chess tournament.  Fun, right? The Thursday before schools were out, I handed the kids invitations to attend and I stood back and waited to see what would happen.


Monday morning rolled around quickly.  I had prepared five lab stations pertaining to magnets and electricity.  My intention was to have science class in the morning, break for lunch over the noon hour, and return for an afternoon session studying how to use computers.  I arrived at school around 7:30am and was soon met by a group of kids, 30 minutes before camp was to start.  I knew then and there how the camp was going to be received.  By 8:00am, I had 48 kids anxiously waiting to get started.  I realized just how in trouble I was.  I hadn’t asked a soul to help me because I had only anticipated 20-25 children. 


What was I going to do? Oh yeah, how could I forget? God. 


Just when I started to think of how I could use my B.A. in Biology to clone myself three or four times, Agnes, a girl in the village who just took a course in computers, popped her head in the room. 


“Can I help?” she asked.

“Well, if you really want to…YES!!” I said, so loud I even surprised myself. 


(I swear I saw a halo around her head and wings on her back…an angel from heaven sent to save me from certain death by the hands of 48 village kids.) 


From that point on things went smoothly.  I took half of the kids in the morning for science while Agnes taught computers.  In the afternoon I took the other group in science and she taught computers again. 


The kids kept coming day after day.  I think we climbed up to 60 kids, when I include other grades that came just to help or watch.  I quickly realized why so many kids had shown such an interest in the camp.  It wasn’t my awesome science lab stations.  (What?)  It wasn’t my novelty as a white foreigner from the USA (Yeah, that’s worn off).  It WAS the 15 new computers that we got donated from DELL. 


A week prior to the closing of schools, the computer tables were completed. 


I quickly made arrangements for getting the wiring and within a good day’s work I had all 15 computers up and running.  Instead of letting them collect dust in their first week of existence at Pudulogo Primary School, I decided to let them collect tiny little kid finger prints.  The children couldn’t keep their hands off them.  They were in heaven.


The days went by like this:


Day 1. Monday:

A. Science –  Magnets and Electricity

B. Computers – An introduction to computers and typing

Day 2. Tuesday:

            A. Science – Archimedes and Density

            B. Computers – Educational games and typing

Day 3. Wednesday:

            A. Science – Chemistry and Mystery Powders

            B. Computers – Drawing your house and learning chess

Day 4. Thursday:

            A. Science – The Five Senses

            B. Computers – The Chess Tournament


On the last day of camp, I gave the learners certificates.  They received certificates for good behavior, good academic performance on their lab notebooks and research, and for attending all four days of camp.  I also gave the two chess champions prizes and awards. 


When all was said and done, I was exhausted. The camp took a great deal of time and mental and physical energy to prepare and run.  I can’t thank Agnes enough for her help…without her I couldn’t have done it.  It just proved to me once and again, that as a Peace Corps Volunteer, when you try to stand on your own you’ll fall.  I am very glad that I did the camp, but also very glad to be done.  I feel like my school break is just starting now.


Although not one child told me thank you after the camp was over, I have a good feeling that they appreciated the camp; if not to play on computers, at the very least, to have something to do in the village during school break.  The problem with rural areas, not just in South Africa, is that the youth typically suffer from boredom (although I think being a rural child in SA would be far more boring than being a bored child in rural USA).  This camp gave the kids something to spend their time on that was fun, yet educational and supervised.  I only wish that I would have been able to plan something that could have accommodated even more kids in the village, those younger and older. 


Okay, picture time!!  Sorry I have no pictures of “yours truly” but I was busy taking the pictures not posing.  Besides, would you really want to see my ugly mug when you can see all these beautiful, smiling, young faces?  I didn’t think so.  J    


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