In our last meeting before departing for Cape Town, we were each given the internship sites we will be working at during our time in South Africa. I will be working at Education Without Borders, a non-profit organization that focuses on educational opportunities and youth development through after school tutoring and programming. According to their website, Education without Borders believes that providing youth with educational development, knowledge and skills provides greater control over their lives and creates more opportunities and choices for their future. Education without Borders lists the following challenges and issues that currently plague the education system in South Africa:
• Schools are located in an impoverished overcrowded shanty town, crime and violence are rife.
• The combined total of 1,340 students means classes are hopelessly overcrowded with approximately 40 children per classroom;
• A significantly high drop-out rate between Grades 11 (445 students) and 12 (100 students) means many students do not complete their schooling. Reasons for dropping out include their need to earn a living and support their families;
• There is a lack of jobs (60% unemployment) and many formerly good students are forced to turn to drugs and/or crime;
• 44 teachers share a tiny staff room;
• Not only are black schools like Fezeka struggling with inadequate facilities and social problems, they exist in an education system that for years excluded them. During the apartheid era, very few blacks had the opportunity to graduate from high school. Some of the teachers in township schools like Fezeka are still suffering from the effects of this discrimination.
Having taught English abroad in Thailand, I am familiar with the systemic issues that plague many countries’ educational institutions and facilities. While access to education has been on the rise in South Africa over the last few decades, the country still faces many issues in bringing opportunities to disadvantaged youth. According to Makiwane and Kwizera (2009), “Little advancement has been made in reducing the number of young people with little or no education. It is these young people who are particularly vulnerable to unemployment and economic marginalization. The majority of young people aspire towards education but race and gender inequalities determine who continues to higher levels of education” (227). While the lack of access to education is not unique to South Africa, it will be interesting to see the differences and obstacles they face in comparison to the problems experienced in the United States educational system.
Given my interest in community development and policy, I am hoping that my experience here will not just be on a clinical, individual level but also incorporate the work Education Without Borders is doing on a macro/community level. I am very interested to see the ways in which Education Without Borders receives its funding and spreads it’s mission. More importantly, however, I am excited to be an observer and learner while working there, and hope to remain open to all aspects of the organization and its people throughout this experience.