Service Learning – Day 2

I basically have two types of days. The first type closely resembles a vacation. I go to class, hike mountains, run on the beach, or do something else that allows me to soak up the beauty that is South Africa.  (Yes, classes are included into the vacation category, but you’ll understand why once you hear what my second type of day is like.)

The second type of day is very different. In fact, it is on the other side of the spectrum. These are days where I gain a greater understanding of reality for most South Africans.  Today, for example, I worked with two social workers in Lwazi Public Primary School in the township called Guguletu.  I observed social workers teaching first and third graders about sexual harassment and rape.  Then I was given the opportunity to teach sixth graders on the subject.  Back in America I discuss the same topics through the V.O.I.C.E. program, but the class is full of Marquette students, not sixth graders. The realities hit me halfway through the class period when a third grade boy raised his hand and disclosed the fact that he had been raped.  In the next class, a girl is pointed and laughed at because it is common knowledge that she was raped.

These are first graders and third graders and sixth graders. These are children that are not aware that sexual assault is wrong.  They are abused and often left unnoticed by their teachers even though there are physical signs of abuse clearly shown by the bruises and scratches on their necks.

Between classes Shona, one of the social workers from Ilitha Labantu, explains to me that the children do not know whom to trust. They hear us talk about sexual violence, but go home to their stepfather who is abusing them because they trust and know him.  He is their provider.

Shona is a South African woman working to educate children and high school students on life orientation subjects such as sexual assault.  We sit together talking about the seriousness of the situation waiting for the next class. She looks at me and says, “When I see the troubles in the children I become drained. I think about my own children.”

There is something about the second type of day where I find myself thinking about the one’s I love as well.  As I sat in the classrooms wiping sweat off my forehead and listening to the first graders talk about rape I try and figure out how big of an impact this experience is having on me.  I look at the Coca Cola calendar on the wall and realize it’s going to be awhile before I am with the closest people in my life.  But, for now, I get back to the house, share my day with my friends and listen to how their day went.  I make myself a kitti cocktail, listen to some music, and call it a day.

That’s life here in South Africa. I don’t enjoy the first type of day more than the second, but the second day sure makes me appreciate the first.

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~ by Austin on February 9, 2010.

2 Responses to “Service Learning – Day 2”

  1. Austin,
    It is sooooo good to hear from you! I can feel this experience transforming you from across the continent. Know that I am so impressed with your courage and honored to be witness to your experience. With much admiration, Lynn

  2. Austin,
    Sounds like you are seeing the good, the bad and the ugly! Nice to hear from you, Larry

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