Kids Are Kids, By: Lauren Drake, English Teacher
Cape Town, South Africa’s miles of breathtaking views, abundant vegetation, and precocious wildlife appeal to any traveler. However, behind every gleaming and enchanting appearance are grim and sober realities. The same is true for South Africa.
Several teachers at Clarksville Academy have been blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime: visit South Africa’s cultural landmarks… and learn about the grim and sobering realities of township schools.
Perhaps some of us ventured into this expedition images of starvation and poverty pervasive in the school yard. Others came in with a take-charge and can-do attitude; whatever challenge faced us in a township school, we would fix. Yet, only half an hour inside Langa LEAP school and the students and teachers shattered every preconceived notion.
Pull back from South Africa for a moment and imagine your favorite campus spot; mine is a bench just outside the Academic Building. I can see and wave to every passerby; I can work on grades and planning or simply eat my lunch in the sun. It is refreshing and serene.
This is not the case at Langa LEAP schools. Students have the same breathtaking views as the tourists– Table Mountain is practically in their backyard. Yet, they cannot see the mountain without the sight of razor wire around their school buildings in the forefront. Still, the students and the school has such a mood of hope and optimism that arises from more than the bright, cheery orange paint on every window and door trim.
In fact, that hope and optimism may face and overcome poverty and other obstacles but it is the same hope and optimism that I see in our students. In just half an hour of interacting with the faculty and staff of LEAP, we all saw that their kids are the same as our kids. We are separated by income, opportunities, and a giant ocean. Yet, they hold doors and demonstrate the same level of respect and integrity as our students. They have goals to become doctors and lawyers, just like our students. And, just like our students, they occasionally bend the rules about food and cell phones in class.
This trip is full of promise for Clarksville Academy teachers, but in the end, Langa and LEAP schools will likely teach us much more about the craft of educating the whole child than we could teach them.