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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

NEWSLETTER: CULTURAL EXCHANGE IN MPUMALANGA 2012 The “editor’s” INTRO: As a “composer” of this newsletter I feel the obligation to put YOU, THE READER, into the mood of reading it and actually take you out of it once You are done reading. The reason for doing this is on one hand very simple – I really hope that you can give all your attention to this compilation of emotions, experiences and thoughts, maybe challenging insights. I strongly believe that voicing our ideas is a straight way to better everyday. Moreover, carefully listening (in this case reading) to what young people have to say and how they see things can sometimes be an eye opener. On the other hand (the more complicated one) - some things that our students saw, heard and felt might be not so easily digestible (socially, morally etc.) But it all depends on how we look at it, isn’t it always? Being not far from all the 25 students during

those two weeks, I can promise You, that our students looked at it the “right” way, the experience made them richer, more insightful and for sure more excited and appreciative about the rainbow nation of South Africa! Luckily, the YFU community already knows the meaning of open ears, eyes, minds and homes, yet SKY IS THE LIMIT, eh? ☺ So let me present YOU the CULTURAL EXCHANGE NEWSLETTER – a very rich one, so don’t be greedy now and taste it little by little ☺ Yours, Gabriele Tervidyte, intern, Pretoria

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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

Dear Students, Families, Friends and Colleagues - what a big YFU family! This is a special edition of YFU South Africa newsletter in order to celebrate the 2 week cultural exchange programme, YFU South Africa’s “exchange within exchange”, which happened this year in Mpumalanga Feb 25 March 9 with 25 excellent exchange students, 6 high schools, 26 families and around 100 family members involved. Feast of cultures and colours! This has been the third year in a row that YFU has been sending the exchange students to the schools in Mpumalanga and there is a rumour going around that Mpumalanga will be hosting this wonderful project for many more years to come! Our students were full of excitement already before they left their permanent host families, so just imagine them right before they stepped out of the bus in Mpumalanga to greet their new, excited culture exchange host families! There was excitement in the air, eyes, ears, bus, brains and everything else among the students and for sure among their new host siblings, who were all there to meet, greet and

invite our students into their new homes for the next two weeks! About what happened after they left the bus you can read in this little newsletter – compilation of enriching experience, various emotions, lively pictures and touching words! From the perspective of the YFU South Africa and an intern who was so lucky to experience this cultural exchange while being on the field with the students – we all want to thank wholeheartedly the Mpumalanga Department of Education, especially Mr. Khoza, Ms. Mubi and Mr. Shabane, the principals, educators, staff and the students of these wonderful schools – Khumbula, Mbuyane, Mbambiso, Mbhudula, Camalaza and Mandlesive and the last but not least – the host families, who opened their doors, invited us in and took care of us like one of their own!

I, Gaby, the intern, want to add a big THANK YOU to my dear 25 students, who made me proud to be in the YFU family.

Guys, you ROCK!!! ☺

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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

The road that we go: As Rynette Scholtz – the YFU regional director of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo put it so nicely to the students just before they left: ”This is my baby, please take good care of it!” By this, she meant that this cultural exchange program is something very special and it opens many doors, many eyes and hearts. People, participating in it from both sides learn so much in such a short time. Surely, not everything is heavenly easy, but sky is the limit, eh?!

Take a quick look at the preparatory period leading up to this short programme: first, there was intensive communication between YFU office in Pretoria and Department of Education in Kanyamazane going on about the overall coordination and management of the programme, then, when the schools were found and the number of slots agreed upon (there are always more

students who want to go tan the slots available) – YFU started communicating with the exchange students – who wants to go! Third, packing lists and general information were gathered and communicated to all families involved (natural and host) as well as the students. Fourth, the prep visits to Mpumalanga schools were planned and carried out – we cannot let the students go somewhere where we haven’t been to! Fifth, the final information and countdown were sent to the students – it included even the names of their new future culture exchange host siblings! Sixth, people packed, buses and planes departed and arrived and the right amount of happy and excited faces sat on the bus on the way to Nelspruit!

Behind all of this, there were constant phone calls, emails, discussions and troubleshooting, however no one is perfect and we

always learn from what we did yesterday, last week, month or year!

The marathon of 14 days: Try to read it out loud in one breath ☺ 6 schools, 25 students, 1 intern, 26 families, more than 300 people involved in a direct interaction with one another, couple of songs written by the students, couple of tears, misunderstandings, weird looks, sleepless hours, wishful thinking, eaten worms and chicken feet, questions, answers, dance, songs, presentations, worries about malaria, burned skin, churches, dozens of kilometres walked on the dirt roads, a few jointly baked cakes, kilos of pap, MopaneWorms, chicken feet – what did I forget? Make a list of your own! ☺ 3

Youth For Understanding South Africa Newsletter Cultural Exchange


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

LET’S GET TO KNOW “OUR” STUDENTS AND THEIR NEW FRIENDS: quotes, profiles, pictures, presentations and comparisons 10 countries were represented in Mpumalanga: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, France, The Netherlands, Germany (and the intern from Lithuania, yes yes, this country does exist and it is in the North East Europe ☺).

Upon arrival to Mandlesive school – Annika, Tobi, Katharina, Paul

The students are spending their exchange years in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, George, Cape Town, Middelburg, Lydenburg, Nelspruit etc.; hence this short Youth For Understanding South Africa Newsletter Cultural Exchange

opportunity was something really special, as Gesine (Sweden) told us: “Many things were different and it was nice to see that I have actually grown during the last 7 months I spent in South Africa!” One of the tasks the students were asked to do, was to make profiles of one student from their new culture exchange project school. They were given the freedom to choose whoever they wanted, whoever caught their interest the most. As it turned out it was difficult to choose only one, because one and all had a breath taking story: “The amazing people with their unique life stories whom I met, definitely made my whole stay worth it”, wrote Gesine.

NB: All the names in the profiles have been changed. The reasons for choosing someone to write a profile on, varied: “I chose Sammy, because he really tried to talk to me and tried to get others to speak English. When I needed help, he tried his best”, said Fenja (Germany). Lara (Germany) chose a happy and strong person: “Cindy is the happiest person I’ve ever met, even if she had some really bad things happening in her life that she didn’t deserve”. Eileen from Germany was surprised when she heard her new friend wondering if he was born in the right place in terms of culture, traditions and every day life, so she chose to make an Henri, Silvio, Eileen and Allison

interview with him and find out more about his divergent perspective (for the full interview see bellow). Emma (Norway) spoke to a girl who 4


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

fascinated her with her tough life story: “Dolores’s life hasn’t always been easy, but she still is a strong girl that wants the best for everyone. She doesn’t give up and she works as hard as she can to achieve her goals”. Allison (Germany) spoke to Cooper, who captivated her with his determination to improve life: “He wasn’t like most teenagers in the village. Almost everyone in his village had a story to tell but he could really learn from his life experiences and move on <…>. Many people can look up to him”. Dominik (Switzerland) admits: “What astonishes me about him (new friend Adam) – he never thinks about himself first, but always tries to help others – it doesn’t matter if it’s a wounded cow or a classmate who is struggling with a subject”.

Tobias, Lara and Laura with their new friends

Tobias, Lara and Laura with their new friends

Youth For Understanding South Africa Newsletter Cultural Exchange

COPMARISONS: Apart from the individual profiles, 6 students prepared serious comparisons between their 2 schools: their culture exchange project school in Mpumalanga and their exchange year schools in the larger towns and cities; the second type of comparison was made between their families – their culture exchange host families and their long term exchange year host families. The aim for these tasks was to not only uncover the obvious differences, but also to see how much do we know about the two different realities of the same country. 5


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

Lieselotte (Germany) did a thorough research on her two schools – her permanent exchange year school in Gauteng and her culture exchange project school in (find the text bellow), where she found that people from both schools

Lieselotte, Anais, Emma and Fenja in the traditional clothes at Khumbula High School

– educators and learners have misconceptions about each other and there is space for more knowledge and understanding.

IMPRESSIONS: Annemarie (Germany) shared her lively impressions from the arrival moment to the daily experience with children of the neighbourhood. Prepare yourselves for some bubbling emotions! ☺ “When I came out of the bus, sweating in the heat, standing there pretty lost, not knowing what to do or where to go I wasn't really sure if I should be happy or scared. Not knowing what to expect I was quite nervous if I may be honest.. But when my two host sisters as well as my host mum showed up, every single thought of this time not being good just disappeared. With a warm smile and a big hug they introduced themselves as Mpendu, Lesedi and 'Mum". With the neighbours “bakkie” (Afrikaans for pick-up truck) we went home and the whole family was so happy and excited to see me. From that moment on I knew this is going to be good! My two other host sisters Christina and Lebogang were busy cooking food (chicken feet aren't even as bad as I thought they would be - still not my favourite food though!;)) and everyone was sitting together - asking one question after the other. Christina just moved to South Africa, from Mozambique. She's actually my Host dad's sister, therefore my host aunt. Communication was a bit

difficult because her English was not that good and I did not understand a word of Siswati, obviously. This fact made us laugh a lot of times though. My Host dad is a priest and my host mum a secretary at the school my host sisters and I were attending. In school I met another host sister, which is living on her own already. She's busy doing her matric (final high school year in South Africa). At home I just loved being around everyone, going to the little shop with thousands of neighbours, buying sweets and playing on the street. As a white person, you attract quite a lot of attention in a black township. Little children trying to hold your hand desperately to feel if my skin

feels different to theirs. People grabbing my hair - being so weird, so straight and soft. But I guess that's just how it is and you can't do anything about it anyways. School was so much fun! As one of the four white people in

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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

the entire school everyone wants to be friends with you and know everything about what life in Germany is like. Conversation don't get very deep because lives are just simply too different and you have to be a bit careful with what your saying and what you'd rather not say. Taking out the camera in class always ended up in a huge photo shooting session with people dancing, posing and screaming 'shoot me!' Church was the most daunting yet interesting experience I've ever made. I'm definitely not used to people falling over, screaming, laughing, singing and dancing in church but it was nice to see how different people can live their religions. So yes, I enjoyed every single second of these 2 weeks, not regretting anything and looking back with a big smile on my face and having made a few more friends. I'd definitely do it again and I'm glad I made the decision to go because it's totally worth it! Thanks to YFU for making it possible!”

The interviewers message (SB): Although Thobego is just a teenager, he was interested in hearing and learning about my life, culture and country. He was willing and motivated to show me how he is living. He wanted us to have some idea about each other’s lives and culture, and learn and grow from the experience. I felt inspired that someone who’s life was so difficult and disadvantaged hadn’t given up hope. He has dreams of building a better life which would allow him to assist his family and community. Thobego is working very hard to realize his dreams. I hope that we will remember Thobego’s struggle for survival before we complain about the insignificant hurdles we face in our comfortable lives. The interview with Thobego (told in first person): My Family I am very fortunate to have both my parents still with me. Many children in my country are orphans or have single parent homes. My parents are good people who have encouraged us to be the best we possibly can be. I have a father, mother, four brothers and two sisters. My Life My father worked in a mine in South Africa since 1975. Later he worked as a cook. In 1989 he fell in love with my mother. We then moved to Swaziland and lived there from 1989 to 1994. My father however, worked part-time in SA and we only saw him once a month. In 1992 he became unemployed and manufactured baskets and sold them but he earned very little money for them. Times were very difficult and we were extremely poor. In 1994 he found a job as a sugar cane cutter working in the fields for a South African company which manufactures sugar. We then had to move back to SA to live with my grandmother. The sugar company didn’t need my father’s services anymore in 1997 and he was again unemployed. Six months later, he found a job as an avocado picker. The rest of the family went back to Swaziland. I started school in Swaziland in 2002 and continued until grade 5. My father realized that schooling in Swaziland was too expensive and moved us back to SA where I started grade 6 at the local primary school. From 1999 to 2006 my father had been changing jobs a lot as his employment was always temporary and jobs were scarce. In 2007 my father’s luck changed and he was employed as a gardener in a landscaping company. In grade 7, which was the end of primary schooling, I was presented with 5 certificates for achievement. To celebrate the achievements of grade 7 students and bid us farewell our teachers rewarded us with a visit to the Kruger National Park. Now I am doing grade 11 and I aim to pass grade 12 with very good results so that I may study further to have a brighter future. Continue in the next page à

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Youth For Understanding South Africa Newsletter Cultural Exchange


Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

1. What are your goals/dreams in life? I am very disciplined and hard working. The subjects I pursue are physical science, mathematics, life sciences, geography as well as the compulsory ones. My dream is a challenging one in which I hope to change the situation I live in. I also want to have good habits and be a good role model to the people around me. I’ve found that I have a talent for swimming and singing. I have already made a demo tape in which I recorded 3 tracks of music using a friend’s equipment. Since I can remember, my family and I have just been fighting to survive so I do not have the means to get somebody with experience to advise me and take this further and become an artist, if I’m good enough. I am also seeking assistance to study further after matric. I hope that there are some kind people out there who will help me to make my dreams come true. It is so hard to live the way I live now. Somehow I will rise from dust to gold. 2. What would you do with your money when you one day have a good job that pays a good salary? I will first help my family with food and clothing and then start building us a proper house made of bricks with a proper roof instead of the thatched roof one made with mud and wood that has a dirt floor covered with cow dung. I will help the poor and orphans by starting feeding schemes. I will do whatever I can to help improve my community. This will benefit all members in my community. 3. Tell me the things that you like and dislike about your culture. In my Swazi culture we have to obey all our ancestor’s beliefs and live the way they lived. I like the way we dress and dance. Our traditional food is wonderful. I also like our customs and how we handle certain situations. I think that paying a dowry (lobola) to your future bride’s father is good and proper but I dislike the rules and regulations about it. 4. Are you happy with the life you have now? No, I’m not. We are poverty stricken and lack the means to venture forward and bear fruit in life. The only way forward is through education and I really, really hope and pray that someone will help me.

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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

Born in the wrong culture, by ES His name is Nick (the name is changed), he was born in 1994 in a small village on the outskirts of Mpumalanga. Nick is staying with his father, 2 sisters and 3 brothers on a small plot without electricity and running water. His mother passed away when he was still a little child, no one knows why. Originally they are Zulus. He speaks Siswati, Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa and English. The boy attends a high school in the same village that he was born in and still lives in. During my stay in this high school and village I tried to learn as much as possible about the culture and the traditions, thereby I noticed that Nick has got a really different opinion about his culture and country than most of the other inhabitants of the same village. First of all I asked him what do you like about your culture and your country? He answered that he likes that the old people get free grants from the government in order to feed their families, everyone is giving a portion of land to plough and harvest. Equality is really important since he is a little boy, Nick told me afterwards. In his culture he appreciates the traditional dresses and dances, all the different colors and dance styles. But when I asked him what he likes about his traditions, he couldn’t give me an answer. He told me the traditions and big parts of the culture are full of discrimination. He said when he was a little boy the elders always got most of the food and the best part of the chicken, children and women only got a little amount of food. Also the fact that a man can have as many wives as he wants to have is very wrong in his opinion. “Certain traditions and parts of the culture are against what I believe in, I believe in equality, everyone is supposed to have the same rights!”He also disagrees that when his brother dies he must take his wife as his own, that is compulsory. When he finishes school Nick only wants 1 wife and 2 children. I asked him why only 2 children, in your culture it is so common that you’ve got a big family. He explained that in case something happens to him or he looses his job, he can’t take care of the big family and he doesn’t want under any circumstances that his children suffer as a result. Education plays a very important role in his life. When I asked him what was the best thing that ever happened to him, he began to smile and told me that he once got an award in the primary school for the best learner in the whole school. He wants to finish school in a high level to become a dietician to help other people and to take care of his family with that money. He said I don’t want to become rich, I just don’t want to worry about money. He likes to go to school but just as many other teenagers have his own view on the educational system. Nick surprised me with a lot of his answers, because I didn’t meet lot of people with these opinions, especially not men. At the end I just asked a general question, what would you change if you would be a king? He replied: ”If I would be the king I would change the way people are treated in my culture. I would improve the village environment and education. I would stop the men from marring more than 1 wife and they should not have more than 4 children, so they could take care well of each child.” The days and conversations were really interesting for me, especially because I expected completely different answers, because most of the people make such a happy impression. But still one sentence will maybe stay forever in my mind, when he looked a bit sad to my face and said: “Listen, sometimes it seems like I’m born in the wrong place, when I am done with school I want to go to Port Elizabeth and study there, I want to leave this place and only come back to visit my family.”

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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange COMPARISSON OF THE SCHOOLS BY LIESELOTTE MAHRT: In this work I tried to compare a school in a big city with a school in a rural area. The schools I used therefore are my permanent exchange year school in Gauteng and in my culture exchange school in Mpumalanga. To get information and evidence I interviewed the principal, the English teacher, the school’s head prefect and another student from the opposite gender in each school and I created short profiles on both schools. My personal impression is, that the students in Mpumalanga school have more respect for the teachers. Even though some didn’t pay attention, the class was never loud. On the other hand studying is much easier for students in big cities and that is only due to the access to internet that is available for everyone. If students don’t have internet access at home they are always able to use the school computers. Providing of subjects such as CAT and IT (informational technologies) also prepares them for university, because registration and work are often done by computer. Students in my Gauteng school seem to have an easier matric. Not because they get easier papers, it is because they were well educated during their whole school life. In my Mpumalanga school serious studying only seems to start from grade 12, as is evident by lots of extra classes. The average age of students in matric also differs. While students in Grade 12 in my Gauteng schools are mostly 18 years old on average, there are quite a few students who only matriculate at the average of 23 years in the rural school which I attended. What was very conspicuous to me is the time people spend on the school ground after the end of the school day. Students in my Gauteng school leave school as soon as they can or attend sports after school and students in the rural area like to stay behind and just talk with friends. I think they enjoy it more because it’s their only opportunity to spend time with friends after school and there are no sport activities available. My Gauteng school is much stricter when it comes to punctuality. If students are late for assembly or classes they immediately get detention points. The rural school which I attended does not have a detention system, as far as my knowledge goes. By looking at the interviews, all students indicated that they want to go to university and they realise that school is their chance for a bright future. Sadly the dream of going to university stays a dream for most matriculants of in the rural school. The province of Mpumalanga doesn’t have an own university and the Tshwane Technical University satellite campus in Nelspruit only offers certain subjects. Finance is also a problem as most of the rural school students can’t afford the registration fees and the extra costs for moving to the university and transport. Teachers love the children in their classes and it is very important for them to give their students an opportunity or chance for life. Success to them is seeing their students leaving school with a good matric and make them understand what their subject is all about. In the end I think both schools give the best they can to educate their students. Sadly the schools in the different environment don’t really know or understand a lot about each other. I think it is important to tell and show especially the students what school life looks like in another school because people from a rural area think their matric is worth less than a matric done at a school in a larger town or city and students from a school in town sometimes even think that schools in a rural area don’t even have real buildings. I think students from larger towns or cities would also learn to appreciate their schools much more. It is impressive how grateful the students from rural school were just for being able to go to school and that would open the eyes of some students in the Gauteng school.

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Youth for Understanding South Africa International Youth Exchange

The “editor’s” OUTRO: Now you’ve read all (hopefully) the words that we put together for You and I bet Your head is buzzing with thoughts!? With some luck, I could hope that the thoughts are positive and You realistically see that our students learned some things for life during those two weeks. They took their tasks seriously and found stories and people that are not simply shallow or artificial, but analyze and learn from their mistakes. I personally, am very proud and happy to see this. I admit, I took the risk and challenged the adult audience of this newsletter to look straight into the eye of some tricky things that our students saw in the more rural areas of the country even though sometimes it is not so pleasant to hear those gloomy stories. I did it with a hope, that one more step could be taken towards the acknowledgement of all the sides of the same Rubik’s cube – the same beautiful country of South Africa. The final word is: the students are happy, we are happy that they are happy and the reality has been seen as well as learned from!

Henri (Finland) and Silvio (Switzerland) with their host brothers dressed in traditional clothes

Henri, Nele, Emma, Dominik – thank you for your colourful photos! Other photos were taken Gaby, the intern. 11 Youth For Understanding South Africa Newsletter Cultural Exchange

YFU South Africa Newsletter - Cultural Exchange  

Cultural Exchange Edition