What a wonderful day!
This morning was full of anticipation as e all packed into the bus. Most talk was about the afternoon's performance and the meeting of the two schools. We had no idea what to expect and were hoping for a positive start to the day.
When we arrived at Amawushe Sophie and I went to reception class to help them draw houses and families. The teacher asked if I would draw some people and she seemed pretty impressed with my artistic skills, although I think maybe a stick man would have sufficed - I took it all a bit too seriously.
We helped the children draw their houses. When the books came out the teacher pored out the tiny remnants of crayon onto the table and the children dived on them trying to find their favourite colours. We could see why the felt tip pens and the masks went down so well yesterday.
Afterwards Mr Dlamini said we could work with small groups if we wanted. Again the choir were practising all day so we couldn't work with the oldest kids but we did manage to work up some pieces with the reception class, a small group of girls and boys from yesterday.
Again this was quite a frustrating time. Some of the boys we were working with weren't at the school today as they had gone to hospital for circumcision. Some of the people who said they wanted to be involved the previous day now had changed their mind or were nowhere to be seen. It's so easy for us to get frustrated, as we would back at the university if someone is late, absent or not engaged, but we forget what a struggle it is for these children to even get to school and the home lives they come from.
However, by the time we got to the end of the session we had a good few pieces ready for performance and things that the learners could be proud of. We many not have taught them all completely new things, or got into the most in-depth or serious of Drama, but we did empower the children to perform things they previously hadn't - drama scenes about gangsters, showing a group of girls as possible models in their future, or to perform a rap that one girl had written herself. We had made them feel capable and able and that was the most inspiring thing of all.
The performance itself was a completely different experience and one none of us were really prepared for. It was great to be reconnected with our colleagues from the sister school and there was definitely safety in numbers. For the first time we got a glimpse of their learners who seemed to have exactly the same connection with the St Mary's group as we felt we had with ours.
The programme for the performance was being created throughout the whole day and it was really difficult to get anyone to tell you a straight answer until the last minute. We also had lots of performances as a school which we had no idea about and so they were all included. We had no idea what was going to happen next so we sat, and waited, and braced ourselves..........
What followed was 2 hours of song, dance, drama, poetry, music and more dance. The school were so keen to make sure we got to see all of their work at it's very best. We were treated to performances from the choir who sang in full costume and danced a traditional Zulu dance. All the rehearsal was clearly worth it. We also saw a traditional gumboot dance with our very own Tom making his South African gumboot debut. Some of the moves were so fast and so precise, it was a pleasure to watch it.
The drama pieces went well. You couldn't always hear all of it in such a large open space, but the ideas were lovely. Giving those learners an opportunity to live out a version of their lives as it could be, in real life or in fantasy. As one girl rapped with the help of Sarah and Natalie you could see she felt so honoured to be given the chance to do it - and she was a really good.
The singing also went down a treat and from the 'babies' all the way to the oldest performers music and rhythm couldn't be ignored as a primary source of communication - these children have music in their soul and this was a great way to get them involved.
And as for the other group? You could tell they'd employed similar tactics with their younger children opting for large group songs which worked really well. And their translation (through language and Drama) of 'Little Red Riding Hood' showed real creativity and, again, used rhythm as the core of their storytelling to great affect
We left the school a little sad, but also feeling like we had achieved good things. We came here to do something and we felt like we had achieved it. But I think we all felt that there was so much more to do and that's what made leaving so hard - imagine if the children had this everyday?
We felt very blessed and very privelaged - not only for our experiences here but also with a greater respect and appreciation of what we have at home too.
And as for our singing performance? I reckon we could sell out stadiums.