My experience in South Africa has taught me a valuable lesson on how to appreciate one’s own space and making the most of little. I had to make a home visit this week and the residence was not in the best of shape. I do not know why, but I immediately thought of the homes I viewed in Port Elizabeth, especially in the townships. Before any judgment could enter my mind, Coombes (2003) entered my mind with understanding and seeing the

creative ways in which individuals extend the limited means at their disposal
for expressing individuality (limited through either restrictions of social control or economic constraints) by projecting an ideal personality via the small spaces that do remain in their control (p. 189).

The parent of the learner was already nervous, but my comments about the décor and how it gave me insight to what the family was interested in and wanted out of life put the parent at ease. With the parent not worried, or defensive, the parent and I started to discuss shared concerns and plans for the success of the learner. What I thought was going to be a very contentious interaction was in fact an enjoyable one. My experiences in South Africa have not only made me a better administrator, but a better human being. We all need to understand that our environments tell a story about our life and our dreams.

Coombes, A. E. (2003). History after apartheid: visual culture and public memory in a democratic South Africa. Durham: Duke University Press.

Coming home to two teaching vacancies at Wagram Elementary School brought me back to the reality of work quickly. I called two local University professors to inquire about any student teachers that have not already accepted a teaching position. After those calls, I began to think of how fortunate we are in regards to the relationship basic and higher education has compared to South Africa. The words of administrators at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) just drove home the idea that they do not have as strong of a relationship with their local school districts. How can an institution prepare students to enter the world of education if they do not have first-hand experiences with local educational efforts? From my experiences, the Education Departments at South African Universities are more concerned with the world of academia and are not clearly focused on the practical aspect of education.

According to Malan (2001), current initiatives for institutions of higher learning are more concerned with facilitating intellectual mobility among South Africa and other nations in Africa in order to realize an African Renaissance. These initiatives sound promising, yet lack vision and communication among stakeholders. The goal of any educational institution is to “import and value-added export of human capital” (Malan, 2001, p. 513). The world of higher education must have a strong connection to the local municipalities and townships that they serve in order to ensure that the universities are actually increasing the value of the export they are producing. As South Africa continues to work toward healing the wounds of apartheid, one will hope that more opportunities for all learners to attend University will increase. In the meantime, South African Universities should first look at the teachers that they are producing and if they are actually meeting the needs of post-apartheid modern South Africa. Sometimes in order to deal with a challenging situation, one must start small, and then build on successes. In my opinion, as the nation of South African continues to work through the struggles and division of apartheid, more equality among all learners will exist and the African Renaissance will be born and thrive.

Malan, S. (2001). Contributing to the African Renaissance vision: The role of South African higher education institutions. Development Southern Africa, 18(4), 513-523.

While in Cape Town we took a bus tour of the city. After reading Coombes (2013) and learning about District Six, I wanted to see this area of the town. Time did not permit us the ability to view the District Six Museum. However as a tourist if I had not already known and read about District Six, I would not have understood its importance to the history of the struggle of apartheid. After visiting Robben Island the day before, I would have to agree with Coombes that “the Robben Island version of “community” is allowed to stand for the “nation”, while the District Six version is systematically relegated to an idea of “community” that remains intractably local” (p. 120-121). It is amazing to see how a once vibrant area that once embodied the idea of the “rainbow nation” was leveled and relegated to the open areas pictured above.

Coombes, A. E. (2003). History after apartheid: visual culture and public memory in a democratic South Africa. Durham: Duke University Press.

Before leaving Cape Town I was able to go to the Robben Island Museum. I thought that I was prepared for this experience, but I was not. The tour guide for our tour was incarcerated at Robben Island. His story and presence “graphically and viscerally embodies the horrors of political repression and the victory of surviving against the odds” (Coombes, 2003, p. 69).

Coombes, A. E. (2003). History after apartheid: visual culture and public memory in a democratic South Africa. Durham: Duke University Press.

As an American, the cultural debate regarding the East v. West coast polarized a generation during the 1990s.  In South Africa, I have been able to experience a difference among the people, speed of life, and overall feeling within the cities of Port Elizabeth (PE) and Cape Town.   PE, located in the Eastern Province, has drawn unfair criticism of its educational system and its people compared to Cape Town, located in the Western Province.   What I have experienced is that the people of PE are friendlier and build strong personal relationships, while the Western Province is in fact westernized and marches to a different beat.  

I do not know if my perception is skewed by my position as a rural elementary school principal, or if I just prefer the lifestyle and way of life in the Eastern Province.   This experience has made me think of the debate among rural v. urban, or even East v. West coast life.  In South Africa one must be reminded that there are 11 different languages and different racial classifications (black, colored, Afrikaners, and white).  With all of these factors, is South Africa really united?

We visited former model C schools today. Under the apartheid system, model C schools would have had an all-white student population. Today, former model C schools are public schools with very high fees associated with the learners’ attendance of which any learner can theoretically have access to. One head master stated, “after 20 years nothing has changed except for now it’s along socioeconomic lines”. The head master is referring to the segregation of learners which has shifted from obvious racial lines during apartheid to the distorted economic status of modern times. This statement made me think of how the South African school system is preparing learners to become career and college ready. From the educational side, my experiences so far have confirmed the notion that even though opportunities may appear to exist, the same inequalities still are customary.

I look around PE and see various companies, industry and construction. According to the South African Country Monitor (2014), “the economic challenges facing the country include its ability to sustain economic growth in volatile global markets, broaden participation, strengthen industrial development and trade performance, and accelerate the pace of job creation” (p. 4). How can all of this be realized when the school system still has glass ceilings for the learners, especially learners of color as well as those of low socioeconomic status? Various manufacturing jobs are present in PE with major companies such as GM, VW, and Bridgestone/Firestone employing many residents. One local guide stated that 10% of the world’s catalytic converters are estimated to be manufactured in PE. What is disconcerting is the idea that businesses need highly skilled laborers that the schools are not providing which is compounded further by the fact that businesses are not demanding a curricular change for more career/technical education (CTE) courses at the secondary level. Even with a dominate service based industry in PE (the most cited CTE course program at the high schools we have visited), South Africa has an unemployment rate of 25.2% for the first quarter of 2014 (African Country Monitor, 2014). 21st Century global economic progress cannot occur in a country that has an uneducated or properly trained work force. If the economy of South Africa is to prosper, the curricular relationship between the education and business world must be addressed.

South African Country Monitor. (2014). Country report- South Africa: IHS economics and country risk. IHS Global Inc.

No one who has studied South Africa, lived there, or experienced its people can dismiss the impact that race and color has left on this nation. Maybe we need to take a moment from nature and look at the simple beauty that color adds to an environment. More importantly maybe we need to have a stronger understanding that color restores people’s dignity and plays a very important role in their lives (Coombes, 2003).

Coombes, A. E. (2003). History after apartheid: visual culture and public memory in a democratic South Africa. Durham: Duke University Press.

The love life center epitomizes the idea that through arts-based methods, the youth of South Africa will develop self-efficacy beliefs and become effective peer educators on gender issues (Wood, 2012). The center is tapping into artistic expression to reach and educate a specific community and population about making sound choices regarding HIV/Aids.

Wood, L. (2012). How youth picture gender injustice: Building skills for HIV prevention through participatory, arts-based approach. South African Journal of Education.

According to Stats SA (2013), HIV is prevalent in 10% of the population with “the total number of people living with HIV estimated at approximately 5.26 million in 2013” (p. 3). The report states that “for adults aged 15–49 years, an estimated 15.9% of the population is HIV positive” (Stats SA, 2013, p. 3). Efforts to provide HIV/AIDS education varies from simple informal talks and fliers to very detailed and focused programs. While on my internship to Port Elizabeth (PE), we (the other interns and I) toured the LoveLife Center in PE. The experience was life changing not only for the services that they provided for HIV/AIDS education, but their structure and programming is a model for every facet of an After-School Community Program.

Since 1999, the LoveLife Center is the largest youth, leadership, lifeskills and sexuality program in South Africa, and is funded by various National Departments, International Foundations, and businesses such as Volkswagen (Louw & McLean, 2014). The dynamics of this program in PE is amazing! At the center the learners in the area are able to get HIV/AIDS and pregnancy testing as well as counseling and other wrap-around services that may not be available within their townships or schools. LoveLife Center also actively engages the youth of the area by providing sports/team opportunities, entrepreneurship and craft/trade development, visual and performing arts expression, as well as an onsite radio station. Throughout all of these opportunities, the Center’s Director, Themba Maseti, and the staff use charismatic leadership and the resources and activities at their disposal to get the youth of South Africa to understand that life is always on play, never on pause (Louw & McLean, 2014). The leadership team of the center also ensures that the message of safe choices is always mentioned along with the dangers of HIV/AIDS.

This post serves as an introduction to several posts of pictures of the interactions we had at the LoveLife Center. This is truly an amazing program that can greatly influence the effectiveness of other afterschool community based programs. No one with direct experience with South Africa can deny that learners “with weak extended family links, a reasonable indicator of lower levels of social capital, may be particularly vulnerable to educational disadvantage and may have greater need for special support” (Schierhout, 2005, pp. 611-612) with HIV/AIDS education.


Louw, A. C. & McLean, N. (2014) Uncut, 90.

Schierhout, G. H. Education outcomes and household illness and death in the South African school setting. South African Journal of Economics, 73, 600-612.

Stats SA. (2013). Mid-year population estimates 2013. Retrieved from