‘Head, Hand, Heart’ in Swaziland

Swaziland 2018

By Lucy Ellis in 6.2

Over October half term, a group of sixteen 6.2 students and four teachers flew out to Swaziland to work with Othandweni Primary School. In the months leading up to the trip, we each came up with fundraising activities – some were more adventurous than others (skydiving vs. ice cream selling), but we managed to raise the amount of money necessary to buy our supplies.

At Othandweni, we partnered with SKRUM, a charity working to improve schools throughout Swaziland. They helped us with our main project, which was the digging of a trench for water pipes. This trench ran for 250 meters through the school and connected to a newly installed solar powered water pump lifting water from 45 meters underground through a borehole – dug with the money we raised earlier in the year. Unfortunately, our final days working at the school were accompanied by clouds and persistent rain so we were unable to see the solar panel in action, but we have since received word that it is successfully pumping water throughout the school.

Our other large project was the painting of the five main school buildings. The colours of the school buildings had previously been red and yellow, but with Othandweni’s recent association with a local church, the colors were required to change to white and blue. In addition to these projects, we varnished, repainted and repaired around 100 desktops and frames. The loveliest part of these tasks was that the students from Othandweni volunteered alongside us and they obviously took pride in improving their school. They put us to shame, painting with precision and digging with a power none of us except maybe Maud could match!

On our last day at the school, they took part in a ceremony for us, which included traditional songs and dances. We were presented with small souvenirs as tokens of thanks, as well as a handmade card designed by a student.

Aside from our work at the school, we enjoyed waking up early to go on walks where we managed to see a family of hippos swimming together, a sight we didn’t realise until later was quite rare around those parts. We also had one free day at the end of the trip where we had the chance to go on a horseback ride or cycle through the game reserve, and later in the day we visited a local crafts market to pick up small handmade souvenirs.

It was truly amazing to feel we had made a difference at the school, and we were so lucky to have the unique chance to get to know the warm and welcoming children and adults in a culture so different to ours. The swarms of tiny high fives and hugs as we were leaving Othandweni were enough to make any of us return at the next possible opportunity.

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Apartheid experiences

By Annabel Smith, Head of Global Awareness

Last Thursday Lele Jones visited 6.1 historians to talk to them about her experience of growing up in South Africa under apartheid. It was an extraordinary privilege to hear first-hand about her family’s history in Sophiatown, and then, after their forced removal, in Soweto. Witness to both the outrages of daily life and such turning points as the uprising of Soweto school children in 1976 and the death of Steve Biko, Lele’s memories brought home the reality of a situation that’s often very hard for outsiders to understand.

Lele brought her pass with her for us to see – one of the hated passes that triggered the Sharpeville massacre and tyrannised the lives of millions of black South Africans. She also showed us her ‘Homelands’ travel document which was issued by the apartheid government in place of a South African passport, but this was not recognised by the international community, thus making foreign travel very difficult.

Perhaps the most important journey she ever made was to Botswana, to marry Bedales Maths teacher, Martin Jones. Because their marriage was illegal in South Africa, and different races were segregated into separate urban areas, they soon moved to England. Lele told of her panic on finding herself on the same bus as white people, forgetting momentarily that this was not illegal here. Because of stories such as this – powerfully bringing to life the words of the A level text books – and Lele’s quietly fierce appeal to never be bystanders in the face of injustice, we are already looking forward to her coming back to visit us again. Next time she is going to sing!

Click on the image below to read a news article published in The News, 1990:

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Bedales meets Swaziland

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By Lindsey Lithgow, Teacher of Chemistry

Swaziland is currently suffering from a wide spread drought and the lack of availability of water in rural areas is having a major effect on the people who live there. Over October half term, 25 6.2s went to Swaziland to work with the rural Ngwenyameni School to install a water system which allows the school to access the more reliable underground supplies of water.

dsc_0079The school was introduced to us by SKRUM, a local charity that works in sport and HIV education in over 800 schools in Swaziland. Bedales students raised money over ten months before the trip and saw this money being used to provide a solar powered water pump. Alongside pupils from Ngwenyameni School, Bedales students dug out the trenches for the new pipes and improved the environment in which the children learn by painting the classrooms and upcycling over 80 desks which were found in storage in an unusable state.

The new water supply will aid in the teaching of agriculture at the school, and a new field was ploughed and fruit trees planted – which the school was very keen to have. The Bedalians on the trip also spent time playing with and getting to know the children at Ngwneyameni. On our final day at the school, all of the pupils and teachers gathered outside to watch the Ngwenyameni vs Bedales football match. It was an intense game, ending with a 3-1 victory to Ngwneyameni. Football is very popular at the school and we paid for some new sports equipment from the monies raised. It was a very busy ten days in which the 6.2s enjoyed time in the beautiful country of Swaziland and were able to see the difference the money they had raised will make to Ngwenyameni School.

What we can learn from Sophiatown

Sophiatown

During Monday’s Assembly, I spoke about Sophiatown, an area of Johannesburg that by the 1930s had developed into a multi-ethnic community.

Through a mix of indigenous cultures and the influence of American jazz and cinema, Sophiatown became a hotbed of culture for three decades – music, journalism, literature, photography, theatre all flourished. Drum magazine, launched in the early 1950s and aimed at the Black urban population, was significant in encouraging these arts as well as documenting the injustices under apartheid. Musicians such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, composer and journalist Todd Matshikiza, writers, Can Themba and Es’kia Mphahlele, actor and short story writer Bloke Modisane all lived and worked in Sophiatown and were influenced by life there.

Es’kia Mphahlele and Bloke Modisane

Writer, Es’kia Mphahlele and writer / actor, Bloke Modisane

The ethnic mix of Sophiatown flew in the face of apartheid policies. In 1955, despite individual and mass protests, the authorities started the first forced removals, dismantling the township, relocating people to areas in and around Johannesburg – to areas designated by ethnicity. My wife’s family, parents and grandparents were part of this forced removal. Over the next few years, forced removals and the bulldozing of houses continued. Sophiatown was designated a ‘whites only’ area and renamed ‘Triomf’.

But the struggle against apartheid went on.  Although many artists had their work banned, through their influence, whether at home under the apartheid laws or overseas in exile, they shaped attitudes and worked for political change. In 1963 Miriam Makeba was invited to speak at the United Nations to explain how life was under apartheid. Subsequently banned from returning home, she continued to bring awareness about the situation in South Africa to audiences around the world through her performances.

Sophiatown - Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Over the next thirty and more years, international opinion and political conditions changed, domestic unrest increased and eventually the new democratic South Africa arrived. In the elections of 1994, Nelson Mandela was voted in as president and the principle of diversity was enshrined in the new constitution. Just as the rich cultural life of Sophiatown had an impact on shaping the new South Africa, so too the values we portray through art, photography, music, writing and drama – all accomplishments for which Bedales students are notable – can influence people and help bring about justice and change in the wider world.

By Martin Jones, Teacher of Maths