Monday, September 17, 2012

Schools & PEF in East London

Sent: Saturday, September 15, 2012 10:09:39 AM

     Bernie, the caretaker here, does not work on Saturdays, so no Zumba this morning for me.  We went for a stroll along the Board Walk which fronts the Ocean and collected shells along the beach.  Genobie is a retirement town located at the end of a peninsula.  The main road ends at the beach front.  We haven't done this since we were in Mazatlan.  When it started to rain we went shopping and bought papaya for breakfast.  After breakfast I had my hair done as we are presenting a PEF fireside for six wards before the world- wide young adult fireside tomorrow.    It's a blessing to be able to cover all East London's wards and branches before the end of the month.  
     I'm able to access the Internet today because Tom purchased yet another 3G card which seems to working.  He's delighted as we need the internet to do our PEF work and he hopes to catch the BYU/Utah game at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.  The Fowers took us to a government primary school yesterday.  Sister Luci is a gifted administrator who set up three Charter schools in California before she retired.  Now she is helping Phakamile School in NU 18 set up a computer lap.  There are over 600 students in the school and at least 45 children in every class.  The kids are so starved for affection that they just mob you when you show them any attention.  The teachers here are underpaid and overwhelmed.  In some schools they have not been paid since January.  Textbooks often do not arrive until months after school has started and supplies are practically non existent. 

      Brother and Sister Fowers volunteered and taught English at Phakamile when they first arrived in East London.  They believed they could help the teachers by modeling good teaching practices.  But the teachers just disappeared when they took over the classes so the Fowers became discouraged and looked for other ways to help schools.  Now they spend most of their time here doing missionary support and helping people in the townships upgrade homes. 

     Visiting an elementary school was quite an experience. What we found was that this is not education, it's warehousing kids.  There is probably 3 hours a day of instruction, if that.   
There are so many kids in every class that not much learning can take place.  Yet the children are expected to pass state tests in order to Matric.  Most white kids attend private schools and do fine but the Blacks often drop out before they graduate.  This prevents them from getting a good job.  The youth here feel hopeless and helpless and many turn to crime.

     We met a a 33-year old returned missionary when we presented a fireside in Sada who qualifies for a PEF loan to get a driver's license which he can get in a few weeks. But instead he returned to this rural community and has since been unemployed.  Gary Human feels that PEF can be a blessing.  
But the young adults here must understand the program, explore their options and apply for a loan.  That's our job -- actually it's our only job.  We are busy on weekends but  Monday through Friday there is lots of down time.  Still we have come to realize that nothing happens here in Africa until the PEF couple arrives, conducts firesides, prompts leaders to call the work shop teachers, and help the students to apply.  Most of priesthood leaders, like Everett Young,  are so busy with their many responsibilities, they put PEF on the back burner.  

     On a more positive note we love supporting  the young missionaries by inspecting their flats, and attending their Zone and District Conferences. Which is why Kevin Frere in Port Elizabeth Ward, said that the LaPray's served two "Golf Missions."   It's a good thing I like to read and usually finish one book each week.  Meanwhile I've come to realize that nothing would happen in Africa without a senior couple specifically assigned to PEF.  When we finally have a student apply it takes a lot of time and effort just to get their paper work in so their loan can be approved.

      In an effort to find things to do we have found Hemmingway's Mall, a very upscale mall here in East London where we have seen a couple of good movies.  Tom is able to keep up with high school football with our on again, off again, internet service.  The weather changes every day.  It was very hot a couple of days ago, then it started to rain and there has been lots of wind.  I keep thinking that spring is around the corner and the weather will clear up but that's not the case.

     Meanwhile we have gone to the East London Museum twice and seen a museum with farm equipment which reminded me of what dad used to use.  There was also a gypsy caravan, some old buggies and oxen drawn wagons there.  We drove to King Edward Town to see a Missionary Museum which was advertised as being open.  However it was locked up tight.  The gate was padlocked and no one answered when we called the number posted on the gate. 
You cannot function in South Africa without a cell phone as you must call to access homes and businesses in gated communities

    Saturday night we attended Sterling High School's Vocal Celebration at the Guild Theater. This production restored my faith in public education here in South Africa.  I sat by a Black math teacher whose daughter was in the performance.  She said that Sterling is a public high school that has achieved high marks in both academics and athletics.  Black, White and Colored students attend without cost and many participated in this production.  The choirs were led by a young White African woman. The white male drama teacher sang a number from Les Miserables.  This is the third high school production we have seen and all of them were very good.

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