Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fame-the Musical & Education in S.A.


 We enjoyed “Fame” last night. It’s a musical I once considered doing but opted for Grease” instead. The directors did a good job. The show was effectively staged and tuned up. It featured a cast of around forty. The hall in which it was presented was beautifully decorated by a professional company. The lighting was very good and they ran 20 wireless mikes which is challenging to do. I asked the director several questions and got answers. They don’t have a drama teacher, nor a dance teacher, just a music teacher who directed the musical. He has had theater experience and directed a lot of revues and assorted shows. They don’t have a costume room, no workshop to build scenery, no lights and no wireless mikes so they rent. For the few lights they had they certainly did a good job lighting the show. The school owned one spotlight and they rented a second. They had a backdrop and it looked good with the word “FAME” up high in the center. Scenery was wheeled in and out. Upstage they had a platform that went across the entire back of the stage with a couple of stairs left and right leading down to the stage. It was practical and worked well for them.

The acting was good, choreography good, and singing fine. The majority of the cast were Afrikaans with a few Colored and Blacks. We were pleased to see a high school show. The director said high schools do a musical every two years (whether all of them do a musical I don’t know) and directors from different schools share props etc. which is what we do back home.

 I sat next to an 8th grade boy and asked him a lot of questions about school. They have 4 quarters a year with a 2-3 week break in between. There is no summer break like in the U.S. It’s year-round-school. Their school had a studentbody of 1,000. Each grade has 5 student leaders with one selected to be the Executive Leader and one an Associate Leader plus a faculty advisor. A Faculty Executive is in charge of all the leaders of grades and is very strict according to this boy. They have 2 assemblies per week, one on Monday and the other on Friday. Each is 45 minutes long. They commence each assembly with a hymn followed by prayer. The boy showed me his hymn book. “Onward Christian Soldiers” was one of the hymns. Then the students split to different sites according to their religion. The Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and one other group go to their respective locations for religious study. I found this information very interesting.

The students are impeccably dressed and are well behaved. In fact, the director didn’t even have to address the audience prior to curtain to turn off all cell phones and no texting allowed. It’s an automatic accepted protocol. In the U.S. directors start with an announcement to turn off all cell phones and no texting during the show and students still don’t obey. There are those who text regardless; you can see the lit phones. I noticed the same thing at the movies in the U.S. even with adults. The 8th grader told me about class projects and that all tests are written essays. There’s no multiple choice, matching, fill in the blanks, and true or false. I’ve heard the same from Black students at their schools. In preparation for a test a review is conducted. The same as the U.S. Then the teacher will write on the board around 15 essay questions and say,” Five of these essay questions will constitute the test. So in order to do well each student must prepare to answer all 15 essay questions. Each essay is worth 20 points. At the end of the school year there is a comprehensive test covering everything studied during the school year, a comprehensive test for each subject. They have seven subjects so seven comprehensive tests. They are given 2 hours to complete a test. If they fail one out of seven tests, they have to repeat the entire school year. So someone could be an 8th grader or an 11th grader for 2-3 years in a row until they can pass 7/7 subjects and move up to the next grade. I had the same system in Samoa.

 The news lately has featured corruption in education. Television and newspapers have pinpointed this as a major problem. There are schools in South Africa who have not received any textbooks for students. There are thousands of students who have had no text books for 8 months. The higher ups in the Education Department ripped off funds. Two weeks ago an allotment of text books were discovered in a warehouse. They had been sitting there for who knows how long. They were mixed in with illegal contraband, theft, and smuggling items ripped off from somewhere. There are teachers who have not been paid for six months but are still teaching out of loyalty to students. Funds were allotted to upgrade certain schools but the upgrading has not occurred and the funds have disappeared. Yesterday in the newspaper, a school was closed down as being unsafe with the roof on the verge of collapsing and classrooms being canvas covering a few poles. Education here in S.A. is based on the English System.

 Elder S.

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