As a career educator in California, there was a very specific line between church and state. At no point in my career did I every step over that line to give any voice to my religious beliefs, knowing that it would be a career ending decision. So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago, when we were invited to attend a school to teach gospel scriptures stories and offer a prayer for the children. Recently, while visiting a Sister in the ward I discovered that she was a teacher, so from that point we chatted in "teacher-talk." That lead to the blessed opportunity to visit the Phakamile Junior Primary School (K-4grades) in Mdantsane, South Africa to teach and pray with the children.
| Welcome to Phakamile School|
|"Tell Me the Stories of Jesus..."|
|The Missionaries and the Children|
|Choir of Missionaries Singing Christmas Songs to the Children|
|461 Amazingly Well-Behaved Children|
|Presenting a picture of "Jesus and the Children" to Principal|
The week before our official visit, we went to the school to meet the Principal and to set an appointment and have a tour of the school. In the last few months we had driven by many schools (often they are so derelict that I wondered if they were abandoned), so I was very excited to see one from the inside. We found the Principal in a tidy little office with a small table with only an attendance ledger--No computer, no office staff or even a counter. After we chatted, she gave us a tour of her school, proudly showing us from class to class. It was humbling to see...extreme overcrowding (38-60 students per classroom), old chalkboards, few textbooks, narrow desks with benches that held 3-4 students each. Everything we saw would have been trashed in 1950's in the United States.
Yet, so many things were exactly what I had experienced in schools back home. The children were happy and excited, the rooms were colorful and decorated to invite learning, most children had uniforms and the teachers were enthusiastic and dedicated. We ended our time there with a song sung to us by the kids--"I Know Jesus Loves Me". I could hardly hold back the tears as they sang. It was a blessing to spent the day with the children!
|67 Third Grade Students in a Single Classroom|
|Early Morning 1st Grade Writing Practice|