The old adage "time flies when you're having fun" perfectly describes my 1st year working in Cape Winelands.
I am consistently asked by city dwellers what its like working in rural areas. Let me say it definitively...the challenges in rural environments are no different from those found in urban settings. You list them, we also have them. In the same way, the desire of young people living in rural towns are no different from their counterparts in the metro areas of the Western Cape. Young people are full-of-life and also carry dreams of changing the world. Sadly, like children in cities, too many adults don't encourage them to continue to dream big and help them define pathways to realize them.
So what's it been like in the countryside?
Firstly, get use to the notion of rising early and settling late. Distance is a vanguard of these environments. Traveling an hour or two to get to a school is the norm. In some settings, its three or more. Your car's odometer takes a beating. In my case, I have covered nearly 50 000 km this year. It wears you down even if you drive a comfortable vehicle. You are forced to rest and recuperate if you want to survive this punishing regime.
Secondly, the arteries of our economy are in-your-face on a daily basis. Road freight still play a large part in keeping our economy rolling forward. Hundreds of articulated vehicles traverse the national roads every day. I can only imagine what SANRAL makes at the tollgate given trucks pay R200 a trip through the Huguenot tunnel, not forgetting the compulsory weigh-bridge stop.
Thirdly, road safety needs to be taken seriously. I have driven past weird accident scenes this year. I'm sure much of the wrecks were related to speed and fatigue. Accident scenes are gruesome. Pedestrians involved almost never survive and are often dismembered. Life is too precious to be snuffed out in this way. We must be more responsible when traveling.
Fourthly, people living in rural settings are not overtly focussed on sophistication and social alienation. They are friendly and display humaneness without effort. It comes naturally, like it should! No airs or graces, no holier-than-thou attitudes, no snobbishness! There is a generosity of spirit and sense of community that often requires a "campaign framework" in metropoles.
Fifthly, English as a LOLT in schools is a huge challenge. There appears to be a reluctance to fully embrace the need to stimulate this requirement. This is ironic given the acknowledgement too that it must be addressed in our schools.
Staying with our schools, it has been enthralling to see that Arts and Culture is strongly supported and encouraged in schools. Right next to sports and academics. The many plays, musicals and co-curricular activity I've witnessed the last year, gives me hope for our country's future. We just need to keep believing in our children and provide them with diverse opportunities to develop themselves across cultural, social and economic divides.
Lastly (for this blog post anyway), GPS has been a wonderful success and failure. It has often gotten me to the right place and too many times to the wrong ones. But it has been an exciting experience. I was often reminded of the words of one of my mentors, i.e. that one is not lost but discovering new things when GPS fails you!
What does 2015 hold? I can't wait to resume my journey after the holiday break. To my colleagues, friends and supporters of teachingconnections.net, enjoy the break and be safe. Thank you for your many comments and encouragement both online and offline. It is highly valued. Let's reconnect in the third week of January 2015.