Kimberley is approximately six hours drive south west of Johannesburg. It is the capital city of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province. It is known for its 19th Century diamond mines.
St Boniface is a great school, led by the Principal, Nomvula Dondolo who was once a student at the school. The staff and students were very welcoming, ensuring that my colleague and I thoroughly enjoyed our immersion.
St Boniface is a Co-educational school of 900 students. The students speak three languages; English, Africaan and their native language Tswana (there are 11 national languages). The school lacks many of the resources that we are so lucky to have at St Edward’s. The learning environment makes use of the whiteboard, a limited amount of text books and a sound student work ethic. Often it is difficult to access the internet in the school. Many classrooms had 40 plus students with some having to sit three to a two seated desk. There was no complaining, everyone just got on with their learning.
My colleague and I taught several classes in Grades 8 to 10 and had a brilliant experience talking with the Matric Grade (Year 12) at an assembly about goal setting and life experiences. The students are very proud of their uniform, very polite, respectful and produce excellent book work. For many, education and attending university is of the utmost importance. Approximately 50% of the students will attend university.
Next door to St Boniface is a very poor school; Thutong Ya Bana, that caters for children who really can not afford any school fees and struggle in the outside community. They are picked up each morning from specific spots around the region and dropped off after school by a marvellous man named Br Liam. He has dedicated his life to helping those who are hungry and homeless. His work has helped improve the educational opportunities for many young people. There are three Christian Brothers who live and work in the community. Several ladies work in Thutong Ya Bana on low wages helping the children. The children are given a hot meal at school which may very well be the only meal they receive that day.
In Cape Town we visited a place called The Justice Desk. Two amazing young women, Jessica Dewhurst and Kayla Brittan dedicate each day focusing on issues that will help communities lead their own change. Jessica is the Executive Director of The Edmund Rice Justice Desk. She is a Human Rights Defender and The United Nations Youth Ambassador from South Africa. She was the 2016 Queen’s Young Leader. Jessica and her team work in Township areas and vulnerable communities. They have trained thousands of men, women and children.
The South African Immersion was a brilliant experience that will stay with me forever. The time spent at St Boniface and in South Africa has and will have a life long affect on me. Thank you to Principal Mark Bonnici and Brian Garrone of EREA for the support to help make this trip happen.
Br Mike De Klerk is the Provincial of the Christian Brothers in Africa. He is an amazing man based in Joannesburg and leading the Social Justice work being accomplished in several African countries. Br Mike took us to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and through the Soweto Township where we visited a family. He drove us to St Boniface in Kimberley and later met us in Cape Town. In Cape Town Br Mike drove us to the Stellenbosch region where we visited Br Terry who runs a Christian Brothers Centre for Retreats, Camps and Conferences. Br Terry has helped design and build environmentally friendly buildings for accommodation called ‘Earthships’. We also had the opportunity to visit the Edmund Rice Community Retreat in Greenpoint Cape Town. Finally we visited Christian Brothers College Parklands, Cape Town where we spent the morning with the Principal, Sharon Van Vuren. We were very fortunate to walk around the college and speak with some of the students and teachers. There is no doubt that the work of Edmund Rice is very evident in South Africa. It is an outstanding Social Justice Organisation.