Monday, February 24, 2014

Life is Sweet in Swaziland

The children at New Life Homes learn many practical skills around the farm. In fact, on any given Saturday, you can find the children cleaning pig pens, feeding chickens, harvesting beans, or even sprucing up their homestead gardens. Even if these kids aren’t successful within the current education system, at least they will have some skills and may be able to create their own jobs in the future. 

Recently we worked with a few of the teens to harvest some honey. We keep three hives in the farm, and the bees are useful in pollinating everything from veg crops to mango trees. Honey harvesting time is quite a celebration, and the kids LOVE honey. Mlandvo, Donald, and Ritta helped with the harvest. Mlandvo has become very proficient in his role as head harvester, so the rest of us stayed inside to help receive the frames, cut the comb, and minimize the stickiness of the floors.

Afterward, we packaged the honey and delivered it to the homes, shared it with workers, and enjoyed some ourselves. Despite a few stings, the labor was well worth the sweet reward!

Please continue to pray for our work here. We are excited to be receiving a few short term teams this summer. Pray with us that they would arrive spiritually prepared, physically equipped, and ready to jump in. We are still praying for one or two teachers to join us!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Wanted: A Few Good Teachers

A new school year has begun! Our small school, located on the farm, provides education for all of our preschool and elementary-aged students and approximately 35 children from the community. This year I will continue to teach a third and fourth grade combination class. Let me introduce my students.

I am really enjoying my class this year. The fourth graders are an exceptionally gifted group, and the third graders are eager to learn. The students enjoy coming to school and are enthusiastic about most subjects.

Four days into the new term I received disappointing news. The young woman who had served as my classroom helper last year, Zanande, would be transferred by the government to school in a different community. I had spent a substantial amount of time and energy training Zanande last year. Our hope was that Zanande would be my replacement when our term here is complete. This was a significant setback.

The past two weeks have also been disappointing in another way. The vision for the school has always been for missionary and Swazis teachers to work side-by-side. The educational culture in Swaziland (generally speaking) is not excellent. Teachers may show up five minutes before school starts and they leave five minutes after. Sometimes they don’t show up at all. At some schools students are beaten regularly for minor infractions, such as not completing an assignment quickly enough or having their shirt untucked. Teachers aren’t committed to pushing their students. They teach the government issued textbooks, period.

Currently we have one missionary (me) teaching at the school with four Swazis. Two of these teachers are not credentialed. Our head teacher (principal) is also a Swazi. Since the school year started several weeks ago, I’ve noticed a big change in the attitudes of our teachers. I’m wondering if we’ve lost enough critical mass (two missionary teachers and Peace Corps volunteer are no longer teaching) that the culture of the school has shifted. The commitment to excellence seems to be fading. It has been a very discouraging few weeks.

Please pray for New Life Primary School. We need guidance and direction. We need wisdom to know when to push and when to let go. We also need help. 

Are you an experienced teacher that would be willing to join us in Swaziland? We need you.

Please pray that God would send the reinforcements we need to provide a quality education to the children at New Life Primary School.