Showing posts from March, 2014

Robins are building a nest in our yucca tree

Our new neighbours, Mr and Ms Robin have moved into the top storey of our Yucca tree. We could probably call them squatters, but they are far too decent to be labelled as such. After all, nobody was occupying that space in the Yucca tree in our garden. The yucca was never viewed as prime property by birds before. Our hibiscus tree was used for nesting over the years, but never the yucca tree. In fact, I didn't think that the Yucca tree was the kind of tree that any bird would choose as its nesting ground. The Yucca tree has a straight trunk with sword-like elongated leaves that are spaced fairly far apart. This tree, donated to us by Desiree, my eldest sister, was not even 50cm high when we received it. Now our majestic Yucca is already roof height and competes with the eaves for space. And this year, the yucca has become the chosen one for our robin pair. How interesting! I am fascinated by the nest -building process. I can see from my kitchen window, how the building is progres…

Knitting jerseys for needy children is a Johnson Family Affair

I spoke to Gwynn Valentine, a retired teacher, about her family's knitting project. Gwynn, her daughter and her sisters have started knitting jerseys for children last year. Let's hear what the chief knitter had to say about their voluntary community project.How did your family's knitting project start?
We started last year. It was the idea of my niece, the daughter of my eldest sister. She is a doctor (nutrition) at Potch University. She told us our mother (her grandmother ) was a very crafty person and she taught us to knit, crochet, sew and darn. Her words were : " Ouma draai in haar graf om as sy sien haar dogters sit en doen niks vir die gemeenskap nie"... This reminder of helping the community gave birth to our Jerseys For the Children project.
Who pays for the wool and otter materials you need for the knitting? Tell us also how you select the organisation that will be given the sets of jerseys.
.We buy our own materials. Each one of us gets to choose a b…

Classroom libraries and other school business at Harmony Primary School

Impromptu visit to Harmony Primary School at the request of the Principal

I visited Harmony Primary School today at the request of the principal, Ernst Esau. We had spoken on the telephone earlier and our conversation centred on Ernst's frustrations with their "plankie" school building and the high maintenance bill the school had to foot. Ernst has also been watching the renovations at other schools and our apparent disregard for their plight dominated our discussion. I listened patiently and offered advice as best I could. Then Ernst said, if I had time, could I please pop in at the school because he had a few documents he needed to process.

I know our principals fairly well by now and I know the narratives behind such requests. It is the end of term one and the pace at schools is demanding. Throw in budgetary constraints, social issues, teacher fatigue and systems demands, and you know that you have to create space to accede to these invitations. Add in unforeseen main…

Ashton Whiteboy, a professional lightweight boxer from Mitchell's Plain

I enjoy meeting young people. This week I met a professional boxer, Ashton Whiteboy. Ashton came to our offices to help resolve the internet problems we were experiencing. He struggled to find the problem for a while so I made small talk to pass the time.Ashton attended Westridge High school in Mitchell's Plain. After sharing some experiences about his school and the Mitchell's Plain area, our conversation shifted to his plans for the future. "I want to become a professional boxer," Ashton said. This response came as quite a surprise to me. Of all the possible career paths out there, this young man has chosen to be a boxer. In my head, I just saw mashed faces and jabs flying all over the place. Why has he decided to become a boxer, I asked. " I come from a family of boxers. My dad who is now my coach, used to be a boxer. I used to go to the gym with him when he used to train. When I was about fourteen, I became interested in becoming a boxer. I was also the box…

Cassy Dick and her business partner, Louis talk about their community-building journey

We are sitting in the Santam auditorium in Tygervalley. Cassy invited a few of her peers, colleagues and her son, Lee, to her presentation. Cassy and her business partner, Louis, an actuary were going to share how their partnership benefitted themselves and especially the school community.

They identified four issues to focus on: discipline, staff development, finance management support, actioning the vision and mission of the school and parent involvement at the school.
Louis was the first speaker. He explained how he and Cassy had to developed their relationship and the amazing shifts that the two of them experienced.

"As we worked together over a period of one year, the communication became more focused on the human being behind the generic labels of principal, actuary, learner and parent. " I gained far more than I expected," said Louis.

"We have travelled together as a partnership. During this year, I met so many people who have influenced my development, trem…

Human Rights Day highlights our failure to provide food security for the masses

How is it possible that after 20 years of being a democracy, half of our people still go to bed hungry every night? Can we seriously claim that people enjoy basic human rights if more than 50% of our nation is starving? According to a UCT study on access to food security, one of the key basic human rights, more than 50% of South Africans lack food security. Even more startling is the fact that more than 70% of the people in the poorer parts of the Western Cape, don't have access to food - zilch, nada, nothing. Listen to this information. According to UNICEF, we have regressed over the past 20 years in terms of providing access to food security in our country. UNICEF reports that over 70% of our children are stunted physically and cognitively as a result of food insecurity. In other words, these children cannot grow properly or learn optimally because they are in starvation mode all the time. Sadly, these children are our nation's most precious assets. They are our future lea…

Brain-based exercises to help Grade 12 learners at Lavender Hill


Grade 12 learners have been learning how to switch on their brains today. Levona, a physiotherapist, has volunteered to demonstrate how learners can improve their concentration.
Simple exercises were done with the enthusiastic learners. They were showed how to march and do crossovers to activate their brains. Learners were surprised to hear that sipping water regularly helps keep the brain alert. 
When the learners did the deep breathing exercises, they found the leg and hand crossovers fascinating. Loud breathing could be heard in the school's makeshift hall.
"The brain is our engine. We are learning to develop new habits. We have to learn how to eat properly, learn how to relax and how to concentrate. You are as gifted and as talented as any other learner at other schools. All we have to do is harness our energies and make the commitment to retrain our brains. That is the secret,"said Levona.
The group of learners were amazingly attentive and willing to try the exercises.…

Bullets fly and a veld fire rages while Prince George Primary has their Food Fair

On Saturday, Prince George Primary school hosted their fundraiser, an International food fair. When I arrived there just after lunchtime, I was told that the food fair was brought to a halt about a half hour before my arrival. There was shooting in Lavender Hill, a stone's throw away from the school.Apparently, when the gunshots went off, panic set in. The crowd dropped to the ground instantly and the principal, Lameez Rabbaney and the school chairperson, Adele Campbell, threw themselves on top of the folk, trying to act as shields. " We tried to calm the people, but they were scared, " said Fernall van Aswegen, a Head of Department at Prince George. "There was a stampede as people tried to run off and a little boy got badly injured when he fell."" We thought our food fair was going to end on a bad note,"said Adele, the SGB chairperson. But here they are returning again and the crowd has begun to swell. Now we can have the "Best dressed food st…

From Pick 'n Pay trolley pusher to Sushi chef

Imagine my surprise when I saw Grant, one of my past students at Grassy Park High, preparing sushi! Grant a reserved young man - as he was at school as well - looked bemused and slightly taken aback by the flood of questions I asked him. Never in my wildest dreams did I picture Grant as a chef in the first place.Grant's colleague, Marwaan, was equally amused by the conversation which centred on Grant's occupation. My head was already well over the sushi bar counter at Pick 'n Pay. I wanted to see how Grant was preparing the California rolls and other sushi delicacies that have names I can never remember. He was preparing the shape of a hotdog length- sized California roll, to be cut into the bite sizes. How did both of them become Sushi chefs, I asked? Wasn't it difficult to learn how to make sushi?. I noticed even the cashier was hovering around to follow this conversation. Marwaan responded first."I used to work in the bakery at Pick 'n Pay before then I aske…

I met a desktop engineer today

Our education district is in the process of migrating to a different mail client service provider. That means all our computers have to be reconfigured. Today it is the turn of our satellite office to be set up for the new mail client, Outlook, which is a Microsoft mail service.

I received all this information from Faeez, the desktop technician, who is overseeing this migration process in my office. Faeez is a alumnus of Spine High School, in Mitchell's Plain.
I wanted to know why Faeez had chosen this occupation.
"They say you normally follow in your father's footsteps and that is true in my case. My father is in the IT industry and I was always exposed to computers. That is where my interest started.

When Mweb advertised for interns, I was accepted and worked there in the call centre. I worked there for a year and then  moved to my present company,"said Faeez. 
We discussed his high school. I asked whether he had ever gone back to Spine High School to share his experien…

I am a victim of Matric Ball mania for the third time!

Look, I am risking my motherhood by writing this post about matric balls. But I need an outlet and you are my best confidant now. You see, my daughter, Sasha, is rather ambivalent about her relationship with me during this period. And it is all about this MBM ( Matric Ball Mania) fever that has struck our home.

Only two weeks ago I was still the 'fun Mom'. Now I am more the grouch in the closet and her dad is probably the hippest dad on planet earth. I can't recall having a similar experience with Brett and Christo. They knew we had to hire a Tux, buy the shirt they identified and get the shoes. It was that easy. Not so with sister dearest, though.

Everything was pretty quiet at the beginning of this year. Sasha and I had agreed last year (December 2013) already that her Matric Ball was going to be relatively low key financially, but an historic event. We decided on a limited budget and got all the aunts to pledge their commitment to either pay for the hairdo, the shoes an…

The Chrysalis Academy Drill team provides lessons for leadership

Watching how the drill squad is taken through their pacesWhile I was at Chrysallis Academy, the venue for our RCL conference, I heard the drumbeat and the regular sound of marching coming from the other side of the hilly road. I stopped and waited for the drill group to appear. The drumming became louder and the marching clipped the air with its rhythmic heal beat. Then the blue column with their beige hats appeared on the hilltop. The marching column was being taken through their paces by two trainers. The one trainer was at the back and the other more animated one ran ahead of the drill team. The members of the column kept a stoic look while they were marching. Now and then I could hear the commands barked out by the trainers. Down the road the blue column came with remarkable bearing, posture, in unison. Even though the drill team was marching downhill, they kept their formation and stared straight ahead, as if the ground was level. When the marching column came closer to the bend …

Our school secretary at Sibelius High School has an Italian penpal for the past 20 years

I was fascinated to learn that Estelle, the secretary of Sibelius High School, still communicates with her penpal in Italy. The relationship has been going strong for the past 20 years! The two penfriends met when Estelle was about 14 years old. Estelle says she and her penfriend have been through all the normal experiences in life, together. They were there for each other as teenagers and now as adults, share the excitement and disappointments of love, family and career.

Estelle says they started off, solely communicating via letters. Nowadays we have other forms of communication like e-mails and the various social media platforms. The lifelong pen pals have now shifted mainly to sending e-mails and making the odd telephone call.

"We don't write letters anymore. We have also become more hip, moving with the times. We know each other so well. We know each other's writing style and we can chat forever when we phone. All we need now is to see each other face to face."


Young people want to flex their leadership muscles

I was part of a Leadership Camp for the Representative Council of learners (RCL) this weekend. Almost 100 students from the various high schools in our district participated in this leadership camp. Everybody was cheerful and in no time, the youngsters were bonding. Such spontaneity! Irigena, a Heathfield High school learner, and the two learners from Muizenberg High school, Stefan and Robin, were the first to arrive. I had met Stefan and Robin the previous week at our SGB Development and Training session. We chatted a bit and then we agreed that they would manage the registration of the learners who would be arriving by bus. Without any fanfare, these three Grade 12s started organizing themselves. They displayed such comraderie while performing their task. By the time they had completed the attendance registers, they could tell us exactly how many delegates we had and how many were substitutes. Even the most rebellious learner can become your best resource
The above illustrates how a…

"Passage" play is part of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival at the Baxter

The play "Passage" explores the conflicts that men experience in modern society. Gone are the days when a man could just lay claim to superiority and authority on the basis of his gender. In today's world the man is vulnerable as he grapples with his identity. The destructive power of cultural and structural arrangements of our society are conveyed through the trauma that each of the young men experience in their lives.

Each of the young actors deliver excellent performances. These young male actors who are the offspring of the macho, culturally divided society, were probably taken on their own journey of facing their own demons of macho ness, sexism, racism and cultural barriers. As the play unfolds, one can sense this ambivalence and can see their painful trauma as they try to transcend these divisive behaviours and thinking.

Even the sound effects were raw - so fitting for the issue that was portrayed. The barking dog sounds to portray the anger, the anguished screams …