Monday, December 10, 2012

New Assignment - December 10, 2012

When we were in Cape Town President Wood asked us to attend church in Grahamstown yesterday.  As the Nyes are going home, yesterday (December 2nd) was their last Sunday.   I thought the Pres. wanted some senior couples on hand to see them off.  We left Port Elizabeth early, thinking the road was still washed out but the bypass was opened Saturday so we arrived rather early.  Sister Nye invited me to go along with her to pick up Evelyn, a coloured woman and Romeo, her four-month old son.  On the way there I had the strongest impression that President Wood was going to call us to cover the branch until the next senior couple arrives.  When we returned I was escorted into an office where Pres. Wood was talking to Elder S.   He asked me how I liked Grahamstown?   "It's one of my favourite places,"  I replied.  "That makes this a lot easier," President Wood replied.  And then extended a call to have us move up to Grahamstown at least until the end of January and help lead the branch.

President Nye, Khaya, Elders Quorum President with Sister Nye
Grahamstown is a community steeped in history.  The English Settlers arrived there in 1820.  It's a college town and hosts a Fine Arts Festival.   He asked Elder Stokoe to assist the first counsellor until a new branch presidency can be called. For the next six week and perhaps beyond.  Gramstown Branch is a mostly black.  As far as I can tell only Alan Bamford and the Thomas family are white.  Alan is seventy-seven.   He a gifted guide and historian.   We have been planning to go up there sometime in the near future for a guided tour.  Ninety people--both members and non members attended the Nye's farewell party Saturday.  Most of this branch, like others in the mission is comprised of young unmarried adults. 

President Wood asked at the Couples Conference last week how things were going with PEF?  I said, “If we worked for a bank we would be fired!   We have generated only a few loans since we arrived.” We have found satisfaction working with our young Elders doing missionary work.   Elders Pack and Acton saved us when we arrived.  They invited us to everything.   President Wood said he had prayed about the matter of the Neys replacement and felt impressed to call us to this work.  However as we were assigned to PEF he had to get clearance from Elder Cook of the area presidency in order to extend the call. 

We are expected to help host Christmas Dinner for Zone Conference in P.E. on December 15th along with the Van Sickles and Shurberts.   We will drive back and forth to P.E. for the next two weeks and will continue to cover PEF from Grahamstown.  That will not take much time as we have had only had two loans application in November.  Luckily Janette Lake was able to help us scan and bundle paperwork for Jo Berg.   Before those application our last loans were in July July and Elder Taylor was able to help.  We are still having trouble with the PEF software.

As for the PEF program itself our experience here has not been very good.  We have discovered that PEF is not really a good fit here.  We met with President Malvern Cedras when we were in Cape Town.  The information he gave us was similar to what we heard when we arrived in P.E. and also Bishop Bray's advice.  President Cedras said that until the local leadership buys into the program we are spinning our wheels and will not be able to make much of a difference.   The home teachers and visiting teachers should be assessing the needs and reporting to the ward council.  That rather than providing welfare the leadership should focus should be on self reliance.  That this should be a ground roots program.  This information squares with Elder Suarez's recent message to the youth.   

Last night P.E.'s three senior couples met to discuss assignments for the Elder's Christmas Party.  We learned from Elder Van Sickles that our project, getting Michael and Charlene Toies PEF loans is doomed.  Michael has been given many opportunities for employment but always fails to follows through. Bishop Mahaluba bought him a weed eater so he could mow lawns to support his wife and two young daughters but he returned it.  Elder V. got him a job interview.  He failed to show.  PEF requires that the applicant make 50 rand a month.  Elder Stokoe drove them all over Port Elizabeth to collect documentations but neither has submitted applications.  We had hoped that PEF could help this family but it's not happening.    

 Johannesburg has finally approved Headman’s daughter Sanililsiwe's loan  even thought the requirements have changed and the church no longer funds four year program.  Only short term loans are granted for certificates that will result in a job.   We almost missed a conference call with Johannesburg while waiting at the church for Sanililsiwe to bring the list of classes she will be taking next year.     She gave us a packet on Sunday but included a bill for last years tuition rather than a quote for 2013.  It's constant frustration trying to help.  (Sanililsiwe's PEF loan was later approved.  However she got word that her application for a government loan was also approved so she will use that instead.)

We spent Saturday morning inspecting the elders flats.  We have not done this for a couple of months as we’ve been in East London during October and November doing firesides and PEF training.  We discovered mold at the Elder's flat on Nugget so we bought Mold and Mildew cleaner and told them to take care it.   Hopefully that will be done before transfers on Wednesday when all flats and cars must must be cleaned and in good condition.  

We three senior couples met last night to discuss what we will be serving for Christmas dinner after their training at 1:30 on Dec. 14th.  We decided on roast, ham, potatoes and gravy.  There will be a movie in the afternoon and games then pizza, soft drinks, brownies and ice cream.  We are serving 48 and the mission pays for everything,  but we must prepare and/or order the food.  I do not know what East London is doing for our Grahamstown Elders but I know we will also be hosting our four elders on Christmas Day.

Next Saturday and Sunday we will be back in Grahamstown to cover our assignment.  We will be staying in Alan's retirement community on Dec. 8th and 11th until the Grahamstown flat is ready on the 15th.  We have been asked to drive a car to East London tomorrow and will need to be back in Grahamstown for a Branch Presidency meeting at 5:30 p.m.

The car we are delivering replaces one that was hit head on between Queenstown and East London in an accident with the Kings security guard last month.  (There is a king for every tribe in S.A. and each normally travels with an entourage.)  Evidently the guards ignored the white caution lines, and speeded over the hill in a Mercedes.  He hit three cars—including one that the one that our elders were in.  They were returning from a district conference in East London.   Elder Romney had just put a pillow behind his head.   His companion had adjusted his seat moving it forward.  This protected his legs.  Neither sustained serious injury.  However, all four cars were totalled.   The two elders were laid up at the Fowers flat for a couple of weeks.  Elder Romney had to have dental work done when he returned home.  He left on schedule the week after the accident.  They are both doing well now.    By the way,  our cousin Elder Kevin Farley will be released this Wednesday.  No word yet if John and Nancy are coming to collect him.  I guess my cousin John Farley can't get away from his dental practice.

Elder Van Sickle has struggled with hives for months now.   As the employment specialists for the area he is under a lots of stress but has been able to get a lot of young men on missions.    Elder Sherbert thinks Elder V's problem is stress related.  He just arrived in the car we are driving to East London tomorrow so I will close.  This will be the longest drive I have I have made since arriving in South Africa -- about four hours.  We will leave early to avoid the heavy morning traffic. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sunday, November 18th

    It’s nice to be back in P.E.  Last Sunday at this time we were driving back from Queenstown.  We were supposed to do PEF training for three teachers but only two showed up.  We attended the ward there at 9:00 a.m. and were finished at 12:00.  So went to the gas station and bought sandwiches to eat at a picnic table outside until our cell phone rang and we hurried back to church.  We ran into Sister Ganca our PEF teacher in Queenstown.  We found a room and went ahead with the training since she had two young children with her.    Sister Ganca  was very enthusiastic about the career workshop.  She said she the training to to start her catering business.  About the time that class ended, Brother Simanga arrived in a taxi with the other people from Sada.  That group were an hour late for the meetings.  Brother S.  joined the church a year ago.  He  has been called to be the Planning for Success teacher in Sada.  He is about 40 and unemployed.  He began working on a IT program but ran out of money so did not continue.  Brother Simange is unmarried but has two children who live with their mother.  He wondered if he might qualify for PEF to become an Internet Technician.  I told him that the we heard that PEF would soon be available to all worthy adults in Africa.  The teacher from Ilinge Branch never showed.   We don’t know if one has been called yet. 

 While we were in East London we attended District Meeting with the Young Elders on Friday and I borrowed a history from Gary Human to transcribe .  I'm trying to locate all the material I can find on the LDS Mission in South Africa.  I called Alan Bamford in Grahamstown before we left Gonubie to ask if he had anything I might be interested in.  Alan joined the church in 1987 and has been collecting church books ever since.  He said he had one so we stopped by on our way home.  Brother Bamford is 87 and as his only son is not a member, he is offering his entire collection for sale on the Internet.  I bought  Cumorah’s Souther Messenger – 1948-1951 for  L 60, British pounds and we had lunch in Grahamstown.  We could not get the car started so had to have it jumped  so we could get home.  We drove straight to Port Elizabeth and bought a new battery.

 Tuesday Tom drove the Toise’s around to finish up the paperwork for their PEF loans.  He discovered that neither had interviews with their bishop and stake presidents which will hold up the process so they may not be able to start school in January.  I spent the day updating my blog and now I'm current through Nov. 14th.  I have know idea why I can't post anything using Tom's lap top.  Perhaps it has a virus.    I felt so empowered  that I visited Incredible Connections where I bought my Apple and had an IT show me how to post photos.   

Tom went to Telcom to sort out phone bill problems.    Since arriving in P.E. eight months ago we have been getting mail addressed to Gary Human at the Senior Couple's Post Office box in Sunridge.   The night before we left for East London, Sister Shurbert collected the mail and brought over a letter addressed to Gary Human in East London.  When he opened it he was shocked to learn that he owed Telcom 1,000 rand for a land line with the same phone number  we had used when we lived at Turnburry.   Evidently the church set up the line for S & I several years ago in Gary's name.  1,000 rand is a lot of money for a South African and not paying the bill could destroy his credit.  The church is not responsible as he now has another line  So this matter, which is common here, had to be taken care of.

    Luckily the manager at Telcom is a recent convert so Tom went to him.  Turns out that Telcom has been billing Brother Human, Brother Van Sickles and us for the same Internet land line for many months.  Brother S. and V. each have their own line. Both have been paying their bills monthly.   While Brother H., who  lnow lives in East London, has not used that number for many years.  Yet records show it has never been cancelled and the bill continues to increase which is interesting since they cut our Internet if we are late with payments.

  Brother  Muchumo was able to get Gary Human’s line cut and his 1,000 rand bill cancelled.   Elders Stokoe and Van Sickle each paid a 700 Rand deposit to set up their separate land lines.  However, since then the only way we can access Internet is by connecting Tom's HP directly to the router and even then our Internet service is sporadic at best.   Our wireless system is completely gone.  Internet is an off again on again proposition.   Since we are going to Cape Town tomorrow, we hope it will be working when we return.  

  The best and worst thing about this mission is the technology.  We could not function without a GPS and a cell phone and we need the Internet to communicate with Jo Berge and to process PEF loans.  Given our limited ability to function in a technology drive world, we feel a lot of frustration.  But we are learning and the Lord continues to bless our efforts.   Somehow things seem to be working out.  But it's frustrating.

 Saturday was Stake Conference.   The Fowers drove here from East London to present their “Finding the Lost Sheep" Program to the priesthood leaders.   Tom set up our Eiki projector for their power point presentation while I was in the library typing up historical information.  Stake Conference began at 4;00 p.m. under the direction of our new Stake  President, a black brother from Kwa Magxaki Ward.  The theme was Faith.  President Neku said he felt very inadequate in this calling until he returned from training in Johannesburg and realised that the Lord had called him to the position.  President Neku followed President Palmer, a white Afrikanner, who had led Lorraine ward  for over 13 years.  

President Parker, who is a white Afrikanner, is his first counselor.  He talked about applying the scientific method in developing faith.  Just put the Lord to the test.  Live the commandments and you will be blessed.  President Wildskut, of Indian descent, talked about a movement among some Christians here in P.E. to discount the divinity of  Christ.  He encouraged us to stand up for our beliefs.

  Today we enjoyed the African Area Quarterly  Conference which was broadcast to 66 stakes and 59 district from SLC.  Craig A. Cardon of the Seventies encouraged the young Africans to get married.  He discouraged  parents from insisting on Lobolo or “bride price.”   THis discourages the young people from getting married as young men simply cannot come up with that kind of money.  Consequently many young couples just live together.  Young women have child out of wedlock with young men without jobs who often abandon them.

Interesting that President Zuma’s 35 year old son Edward just had his BMW and other personal items auctioned off to  pay the balance of what he owed for his expensive wedding including entertaining 500 guests at a game reserve last year.  Edward Zuma  said he thought he would be receiving “foreign money” to pay for the festivities.    Guess his foreign guests did not come through.    Mary N. Cook of the Young Women’s Presidency, encouraged  young women to “Arise and shine forth."   I am impressed to say that as difficult as technology is to learn it has certainly blessed the Saints throughout the world to enjoy messages from our leaders often in real time as when we were able to watch some sessions of General Conference.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welding School & History

If you learn how to weld by reading books...., can you take a test to be certified as a welder?  Or does "certification" include attending a school???  (YES)  It's different anywhere you go.  Too bad.  Hope Brother Toises finds a reasonable and sensible solution to his dilemma.


On Wed, 14 Nov 2012 07:32:39 +0000 diane stokoe <> writes:

Thanks for your suggestions Everett.  However in order to get a job here in South Africa, you have to be certified.  This means attending a welding school.  Even then, you are one of many who apply for the same job.  If you are lucky, you might find a business willing to take you on as an intern.  But with no salary.  If you are certified, volunteer and they like you, you might eventually get hired.  Gary Human and his wife got their jobs by volunteering.  Then they were hired.  He advised young adults in East London to try that.  

Tom escorted the Toises around from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 and got most of the paper work together.  They are going to the church to apply for PEF on line today.  While driving them all over P.E.  Sister Toise's shoes fell apart. So Brother T. gave her his shoes to wear and he went barefoot.  Tom took her to a shoe store and she picked out shoes she liked.  However they did not have her size  so they had to be ordered.  Tom picked them up yesterday and will give them to her after Stake Conference on Sunday. 

Today Elder S. took the car in to be serviced as we leave for Cape Town next Monday.  It died twice while we were coming home from East London.  So I have had the time to e-mail the material I've wanted to save to the blog to my MacBook where I can download the information from my g-mail account.  No luck getting my account to show up on this apple so I've had to forward everything I want to post from Tom's P.C.  But I'm happy to finally be able to update the blog.  

I've decided to make a collection of information on the history of the South African Mission beginning with a book Tracy Banister gave me before she emigrated to Canada.  It's called, A History of the South African Mission, Period 1, 1852-1903, by Evan P Wright.    Gary Human allowed me to copy some of the articles he collected on Gogo Fandango, a black African, that came to Utah with Talbot family in 1865.   We stopped in Grahamstown on the way home and visited Alan P. Bamford, a man in his 80's who is selling his collection of LDS books as his only son is a non member.  They only book I had any interest in was Cummorah's Souther Messenger, Vols. 23-26, about the South African Mission from 1948 - 1951 which we paid a small fortune for it.  No matter.  He invited us back to Grahamstown for some tours as he is a retired tour guide and Grahamstown not only hosts the festival but it's the home of the 1820 Settlers.  He has a visitors flat in his compound similar to the one we stay in when we go to East London so will stay there next year when we attend the festival in July.

I'll check the Mission Home in Cape Town and the library in P.E. to see what other historical information I can find.  I'm fearful that some of this material may be lost if it's not transcribed and shared with the Family History Library in Salt Lake or posted on the Internet.  I have the time and I'm interested in this kind of service.

We had to buy a new battery when we reached P.E. Monday afternoon.  Luckily we did not have any problems until the morning we left Gonubie.   We are still waiting for official word about PEF changes.  We got an e-mail from Elder Webb yesterday rejecting Headman's daughter who wants to be a Social Worker.  Now PEF only pays for programs that take less than 30 months to complete. 

From Elder Stokoe to Corinne Young

Hi Corinne:

It has been 10 weeks and 2 days since Sister S. got her last haircut and it is finally beginning to look a bit like it did before she got it cut.  It’s not there yet but perhaps another 10 weeks and 2 days and the growth will look ok.  That’s how much she was “French Poodled” last time.   Since that “day of infamy” she has changed hair dressers and she is pleased with her new hair dresser.  She does a good job of combing her hair and Sister S.  looks quite cute.  Except the girl who washes her hair at the new place: She uses the edge of the wash basin like a chopping block, flounders searching for hot water while cold water drenches Sister S’s head, and the awkward angle at which her back is forced backward causes her pain.  Consequently,  I drive her home in pain and have to book a session for her with a Thailand Masseuse for recovery. 

Elder S.

South Africa's Response to the Election

   We just got the U.S. election results here in Gonubie.  It seems most of the people I’ve talked to in South Africa like Obama but dislike the Bush presidents whom they hold responsible for starting the Gulf Wars.  We drove up to East London yesterday and are now settled in our flat.  We have a PEF teacher training class tonight at 7;00 p.m. and another one in Queenstown at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. 

   We asked the Fowers how their efforts to put a computer lab in a primary school was going.  The principal had it lined up complete with a computer technician from Germany.  However her teachers vetoed to project opting to put that money into more class rooms.  They felt that  55 kids in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades were just too many.  

  We enjoyed a successful meeting in East London with seven PEF teachers last night.  Elder S. did a great job of explaining the PEF program even providing many handouts (which I thought was overkill) for the teachers, ward leaders and potential students.  Turns out it was just what they needed.  Sister Dixon said, “I’m a convert.  You people use terms that many of us do not understand.  Thanks for explaining PEF and for all the help you have given us.”  When we suggested that each ward provide a mentor for students who are not passing their classes she said, “When would they have time?”  People who have jobs often work 12 hours a day.  Some even work seven days a week.

  I thought you might be interested in hearing what the Daily Dispatch says about the election.  Under a photo of an old woman with a security officer,  we read: “Presidental Gran:  Kenyan Sharah Hussein Obama, grandmother to US President Barack Obama, is escorted as she celebrates his re-election yesterday in his ancestral home village of Nyangoma Kogelo, 430km west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. “ 

Turning economic tide lifted Obama an article underneath reads, “Changing US demographics also played a key role.  The article claims that single women, Latinos, African-Americans, blue-collar union workers and upper-educated whites made all the difference, “Although Republican Mitt Romney did better with independent voters than Obama Tuesday, that advantage was wiped out in battleground states by Obama’s core coalition.”  

Another article entitled, US election lesson for us states:    Though Obama’s majority of popular vote was wafer think, American returned their first African American president for a second term. . .  The campaign was expensive, brutal and, in the right wing efforts to discredit Obama, sometimes overtly racist.  In the end the American chose the man whose character, record and policies most appealed to them.  If there is one thing we should take from the complex American process, it is the opportunity to directly choose a particular man or woman to lead our country.  . ..  We believe South Africa would be better served by a system that allowed voters to express a direct preference without being locked into a party mandate or having to delegate their final choice to a party, as is the case here now.  Our next present will be chosen in six weeks time by just 4500 delegates to the ANC’s conference and they won’t even by bound by the mandates of the branch that sent them. . .  We need a system that requires candidates to declare their positions on what they would do to make South Africa better. . .  We would like our candidates to have to do the same.”  Nice to know that many countries believe the U.S. system of popular vote is  the best way to elect a president.

   From an article on the front page:  “The re-election of Barack Obama for a second term was generally welcomed around the world, including South Africa. . .  Both President Zuma and Nelson Mandela Center congratulated him on his reelection.  “We value our relations with the United States and look forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the years to come,” said President Jacob Zuma in a message on behalf of the South African government.  He said the US had an important role to play in Africa’s development. And that the US was a vital partner in Africa’s efforts to overcome poverty and inequality.  . . Tom McGrath, president of Republicans Abroad France conceded;  “It’s clear if they could vote, Europe would vote 80% for Obama.  Pakistani Taliban spokesman did not express happiness about Obama’s victory.  In China, Obama’s re-election was good new for people concerned about Mitt Romneys vow to label China a currency manipulator.  Some feared that would ignite a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.”  Love and Blessings, Sister S.

"This is Africa"

   Today Elder S. is off driving the Toises around in an effort to finish their applications.  He will likely be gone most of the day.  So since I'm not yet comfortable with my new Apple, I have access to Tom's P.C.  The Toises showed up for our Planning for Success Workshop numbers 3 & 4 last August.  Then we had to go to Knownbuhle to help them make up lessons  1 & 2.  Tom drove them around before we left for East London in October.  But Sister Toise did not qualify for the nursing program and the welding school that Brother Toisie wanted to attend closed down.  We hope to get them both PEF loans and into programs before the new term begins in January.

   I e-mailed Drew Baker about my problems with the blog.  Today I’ve discovered that it isn't even showing up anywhere on the web.  No matter, I can have a successful mission without a blog.  I’ve been working with Picasa all morning trying to upload photos but the only thing I’ve be able to do is send a few photos out on my g-mail account.   Sister Flowers has an Apple.  Perhaps she can help me with my new MacBook Pro.  Maybe using an Apple will enable me to finally add some new posts.  But perhaps not.   After all, this is Africa where you never know if it's hardware,  soft wear, the Internet or you are just plain stupid.

   We  enjoyed a nice dinner Sunday night with the other senior couples and Janette Lake. The Sherberts hosted.  Sister Van Sickles made the spaghetti and a birthday cake for Janette.  Brother V. has health problems so he had a priesthood blessing.  Two weeks ago someone broke into the Van Sickles flat thru a back window they left open and stole two computers which is a huge loss as all his business records are on one hard drive.  There were no finger prints.  So the police think it was an inside job; perhaps the construction workers who were remodeling the flat next door.   Last week the Van Sickle’s cell phone and GPS were  stolen out of their locked car.  No sign of a forced entry.  The thieves likely used a device that blocks the automatic locking system.  I asked Elder V. if he was stressed over all this.  He said, “No.  This is Africa.  I’ve learned to just cope.” 

      Last week we were quite busy helping the young elders.  Monday night we went to family home evening with the Lorraine Elders.  Tuesday night we hosted a dinner for the Palmers.  Brother Palmer is 78 and just had knee surgery.   He is the Stake Patriarch and former President of the Johannesburg temple.  I offered to help Sister Palmer with her family history.  Brother Palmer was not at church yesterday so I asked his son how he was doing?  Leslie answered, “Not well.  He has the flu.”

     Wednesday night we visited the Clarkes.   Friday Tom and I went to District Meeting at Cleary Branch. The district meeting was on the Book of Mormon.  The elders also talked about how to get along with your companion which I thought was timely as there are many new elders in our mission now.  I’m so impressed with their district meetings.  This kind of information will really help them when they get married as well as in other relationships—business or personal.  I can certainly see how going on a mission helps these young African Elders become effective leaders in countries that need good strong leadership.

Monday I baked muffins for my neighbor across the street, and invited him to attend a meeting of the "Body Corporate for Stethan Place" since they need representatives to have a quorum.  Though I'm a renter, not an owner, Peter Clark, invited me to attend.  He is the chairman and the meetings are held at #14, his flat.  The seven member committee was pleased to have me participate.  Some of the problems:  1.  Will insurance pay for water damage to the flats because of the recent flooding?  The same thing happened in 2007 and in 2009.  When will the municipality do something about this?  2.  What about the illegal sewer hookup which the developer connected in 2007 and the city inspector approved?  Who do we sue?  The developer or the city?  3.  Why does the insurance/levy schedule total 77% rather than 100%?  How do we contact the absentee owners who need to sign the releases after the Body Corporate bought additional property because Mr. Meady, the developer, encroached several feet onto adjoining land?  It was interesting to observe this local governing board in action. Perhaps I can help.

    The Elders just stopped in to pick up seeds which they will plant in the garden at the Lorraine Frail Care Center tomorrow.  We will be on our way to East London.  As the N2 was washed out, it will take longer to get to Gonubie than it did last time we went.  The Fowers have invited us to dinner so we need to be there by 6:00 p.m.   
   Hope our 8 TA thumb drive works so we can follow the election.  I talked to Mandella, our boss in Johannesburg, who told me there are  big changes coming to PEF.  The age limit will be dropped and every worthy member will now be able to apply for PEF.  This program will merge with Employment Services so we will likely be working with the Van Sickles soon.   We will likely have  to fly to Johannesburg after the official announcement. This may be a problem as OneTime Airline has just gone bankrupt leaving many people scrambling for space on the only other airline that flies between P.E. to Johannesburg.  Stay tuned.  Love and Blessings, Sister S.

Megan McCoy's Talk - The Word of Wisdom

Today I’ve been thinking about little Annabell Jane who will likely arrive sometime this week. This talk by Megan McCoy was given in Sacrament Meeting in P.E. Ward on September 28th. It reminded me of our new little granddaughter. When I complimented Megan and told her I would like a copy of her talk, she handed me these notes.

            Sacrament Meeting Talk in Port Elizabeth Ward, on October 28 

 Gordon B. Hinckley told this story: “One evening, I put on a record, turned down the lights, and listened to Beethoven’s Concerto for the Violin. As I sat there in the semidarkness, I marveled that such a thing could come of the mind of a man, a man who, in most respects, was as I am. I do not know how tall he was or how broad he was or how much hair he had, but I guess he looked very much like the rest of us. He became hungry, he felt pain, he had most of the problems we have and maybe some we do not have. But out of the genius of that inspired mind came the creation of a masterpiece which has entertained the world through all of these many years.

 I marvel at the miracle of the human mind and body. Have you ever contemplated the wonders of yourself, the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the voice with which you speak? No camera ever built can compare with the human eye. No method of communication ever devised can compare with the voice and the ear. No pump ever built will run as long or as efficiently as the human heart. No computer or other creation of science can equal the human brain. What a remarkable thing you are. You can think by day and dream by night. You can speak and hear and smell. Look at your finger. The most skillful attempt to reproduce it mechanically has resulted in only a crude approximation. The next time you use your finger, watch it, look at it, and sense the wonder of it. You are a child of God. His crowning creation. After He had formed the earth, separated the darkness from the light, divided the waters, created the plant and animal kingdoms–after all this He created man and then woman.”

 Sister Susan W. Tanner also spoke of the marvels of our human bodies. She said: “I have just returned from a visit where I welcomed into the world our newest little granddaughter, Elizabeth Claire Sandbergy. She is perfect! I was awestruck, as I am each time a baby is born, with her fingers, toes, hair, beating heart, and her distinctive family characteristics–nose, chin, dimples. Her older brothers and sister were equally excited and fascinated by their tiny, perfect little sister. They seemed to sense a holiness in their home from the presence of a celestial spirit newly united with a pure physical body.

In the pre-mortal realm we learned that the body was part of God’s great plan of happiness for us. As it states in the family proclamation: “Spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life”. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World.) In fact, we “shouted for joy” (Job 36:7) to be part of this plan. We were so excited. We understood eternal truths about our bodies We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God. We knew that our bodies would house our spirits.

 We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities, and temptation. But we were willing, even eager, to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element inseparable connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father (see D&C 130:22) and “receive a fullness of joy. (D&C 93:33). With the fullness of the gospel on the earth, we are again privileged to know these truths about the body. Joseph Smith taught: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment.  The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980] 60.

 Satan learned these same eternal truths about the body, and yet his punishment is that he does not have one. Therefore he tries to do everything he can to get us to abuse or misuse this precious gift. He has filled the world with lies and deceptions about the body. He tempts many to defile this great gift of the body through unchastity, immodesty, self-indulgence, and addictions. He seduces some to despise their bodies others he tempts to worship their bodies. In either case, he entices the world to regard the body merely as an object. In the face of so many satanic falsehoods about the body.

 The body is a gift to be treated with gratitude and respect and one of the ways that we can show this gratitude and respect for our bodies is by obeying and living the word of wisdom. This includes not partaking of the things that we should’, but also partaking of the things that are recommended as good for us.

 The booklet, "True to the Faith," describes the word of wisdom as follows;  "The Word of Wisdom is a law of health revealed by the Lord for our physical and spiritual benefit. In this revelation which is recorded in section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord tells us which foods are good for us to eat and which substances are not good for our bodies. He promises spiritual and physical blessings for obeying the Word of Wisdom.

 In the Word of Wisdom, the Lord command us not to take the following substances into our bodies:’ Alcoholic drinks (see D&C 89:5-7) Tobacco (see D&C 89:6) Tea and coffee (see D&C 89:P9; Latter-day prophets have taught that the term “hot drinks” refers to tea and coffee. Anything harmful that people purposefully take into their bodies is not in harmony with the Word of Wisdom. This is especially true of illegal drugs, which can destroy those who become addicted to them. Stay entirely away from them. Do not experiment with them. The abuse of prescription drugs also leads to destructive addiction.

 The Lord declares that the following foods are good for our bodies: Vegetables and fruits, which should be used “with prudence and thanksgiving. (D&C 89:10-11) The flesh of beasts and of the fowls of the air,: which is to “be used sparingly (see D&C 89:12-16) Grains such as wheat, rice, and oats, which are “the staff of life: (see D&C 89: 14-17). I believe that there are not many of us who do no know what the word of wisdom is, but maybe we don't always remember certain elements of it, for instance, what things we should partake of and at times ewe may also forget that the blessings we receive from obeying the word of wisdom are not only physical, but also spiritual.

 To those who keep the Word of Wisdom, the Lord promises: “All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; “And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; :And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of israel, and not slay them (D&C 89:18-21)

 Russell M. Nelson said: “One keeps the Word of Wisdom knowing that obedience will not only bring freedom from addictions but it will also add blessings of wisdom and treasures of knowledge.” Sometimes obeying the Word of Wisdom is not easy, because habits are hard to break and we may fell pressure from those around us to disobey. As we obey the Lord’s law of health, however, we learn self-control and feel self-respect. We also increase our ability to obey other commandments.

A young Mormon boy enlisted in the army.   He was akwakard. . . After one parade, when he had gone through everything backwards, he was called by the captain to come into his office. The captain said, "l have noticed you, young fellow. . . you are a Mormon, I suppose.”

 “Yes, sir,"

  "Well, I just wanted to make friends with you. Will you have a glass of beer?”

 “Sir, I do not drink liquor.”

 The captain swore and said,   "Maybe you will have a cigar then.”

 The young man replied, “Thank you sir, but I do not smoke.”

The captain seemed much annoyed by this and he dismissed the boy from the room. When the young man went back to his quarters, some of the lesser officers accosted him angrily and said, “You fool, don’t you realize the captain was trying to make a friend of you, and you insulted him to his face?”

The young Mormon boy answered, "Gentlemen, if I must be untrue to my ideals and my people and do things that I have been instructed all my life I should not do, I will quit the army.”

While overseas later on in the war. . his captain, who had then become a lieutenant colonel, needed a soldier for a very important assignment. He needed someone who was absolutely trustworthy. He needed a man of character. The lieutenant colonel, his former captain, selected and assigned this young man who had the courage to stand before him and say, ‘I do not smoke. I do not drink.” (Hugh B. Brown, “A time of Testing," Improvement Era, June 1969, p. 98).

 There are a number of stories and experiences that can be found on the Internet. I am sure many people here can share physical and spiritual experienced that they have enjoyed by living the word of wisdom, but these will not help us to experience such blessings for ourselves. If we want to know the blessings that will come to us, we need to put the word of wisdom to the test and experience these things for ourselves. . .

Member Support

    Thanks Joyce for your many suggestions.  We do talk to all the bishoprics and most are very supportive.  The bishop in Cleary Branch, mostly browns (people with an Indian heritage,) got the PEF fireside set up fast.  Fourteen youth committed to taking the planning for success class in that ward.  Joshus Mosiah, who reminds one of a highly motivated protestant preacher, taught the class and he was very entertaining.  Only six  students showed up for the first class.  Eleven came to the second including Mosiah’s wife and the branch welfare specialist.  Seven youth attended the third class but only five the final class.  One was only fourteen years old.  (We encourage the youth who have not yet graduated high school to attend so they will know about PEF.)  Several of the young women who attended were in their senior year.  Few qualified for PEF.  We often get  support but no applicants.  Maybe just planting seeds is important.  Elder S. called all six of our PEF students today who are in the process of applying.  They were happy to hear from him but have not taken any action.  So we are focusing on member support. 

   We went to Family Home Evening with the  missionaries last night and visited Celeste, the Afrikaners nurse who helped with Everett's layettes for newborns project.  She has a nine year old daughter and three year old son with down syndrome.   Celeste is in the process of a divorce.  She asked the elders to stop by and make FHE fun for her kids.  Tonight we have invited the state patriarch and his wife over for dinner.  Brother Palmer just had a knee replacement.  When I asked how he was doing  Frieda said, “not good. He still has lots of swelling and it’s rained so much we are both rather depressed.” 

   Wednesday night we are visiting the Clarkes, who were inactive for 26 years.  I finally got up enough courage to asked why they stopped coming to church.  Brother  Clarke said he just did not know.  Just got out of the habit.  After that visit Elder Van Sickle called and ask that we stop over and give Sister Celeste a priesthood blessing.  She was sealed in the temple and is very discouraged over her upcoming divorce.

  Friday night we are taking our Eiki projector out to Cleary Branch for “Friday night at the Movies.”  This activity is held on the first Friday of each month and everyone attends in this coloured ward-- from the bishop to parents, to the youth to people who are investigating the church.  The young elders show church movies.  I’ve been invited to a bridal shower for Trish Van Tiel in Lorraine Ward this week as well. 

    Each Saturday morning I visit Janette Lake who was called to be president of the Relief Society a few months after she was baptized.  Sunday there was a confirmation in Lorraine Ward bringing the membership up to 158,  The divorced, 30-something-year old partner of Brother Wademan is an Afrikkaner was just baptized.  He could not be confirmed because of General Conference and then church was canceled the following week due to rain and heavy flooding.  He was confirmed, ordained to be a priest and set apart as president of the Sunday School .   All in the same meeting yesterday.

 Tomorrow we are going to the frail care center next door to plant beans and weed the vegetable garden that the elders put in three weeks ago when it started raining.  Hope the seed were not washed away again. Congratulations on your book being published.  I'll order my copy of Please Don't Pull the Plug when I get back.  Thanks for the update of Lucus.  What a trouper.   Love to Kristi.   Best Wishes, Sister S.

PEF, Missionaries & Reactivation

   We had a meeting with the senior couples, zone leaders and stake mission leader at Kwa Magxaki last night.  It helped me understand what we are supposed to be doing.  The meeting was on reactivation.    We discussed what we could do to retain new members after they are baptized and how to keep returned missionaries engaged after they return.  Most of our new members are young adults and our area leaders hope to get these young men out on missions as soon as possible.  One recent example:  In South London the missionaries met a young man with dred locks whose parents were dead.  He was living with his grandmother.  He started reading the Book of Mormon, cut his hair and started going out with the missionaries.  It was the first time his life had purpose.  He progressed, was baptized and began preparing for a mission which was an effort for an unemployed young man.  A sister of the Fowlers heard about him and offered to pay for the mission.  They sent money and he bought the first suit he had ever owned.  Sister Fowers did not accompany him when he went shopping.  He returned with an ill-fitting suit,  black with white strips, it was baggy and looked like a “zoot suit”.  But he was very proud of it and left for his mission in Zimbabwe on September 22nd.

   Six young blacks from Kwa Nobuhle 1st Ward opened their mission calls yesterday.  Only one had  parents in attendance.  All the others were from non- member families.  Church policy requires that a young man applying to serve a mission must do everything  himself—acquiring the money to get his pass port, seeing a doctor and the dentist and buy his own clothing.  Since many are unemployed, this is tough.

  Van Sickle has been employing these young men by having them painting Church chairs and doing other odd jobs.  He drives them to appointments and I’m guessing, he’s probably buying some of their clothes.  He and sister Van Sickle were present and filmed the opening of their mission calls.  Most will serve here in Africa along with the White elders, which come from “the missionary factory,”-- Utah.  Although we also have elders from England, New Zealand, Europe and Australia here.

  The plan is that these first generation Africans will serve missions, return and take Institute classes where they will hopefully meet a young woman, get  married, get training in a trade, and find a job that will enable them to be leaders in their wards in Africa.  Consequently, we seniors have been called to support this plan by (1) teaching seminary and institute (2) helping them get out on missions (3)  and as they return, offer them PEF loans.   Finally we (4) assist them in locating good high paying jobs so they can help build up the church.

   The brethren in S.L. would like them to do this on their own with minimal support from us senior missionaries.  However this isn’t what’s happening.  While a  mission teaches them to study hard many fall back into old patterns when they return.  When they can’t find work they often get discouraged.  Many become inactive.  This is sad because they are such fine young men and the countries badly needs young black leadership. 

    Ideally members should be doing this on their own.  However we have discovered that isn’t what is happening.  It’s hard to motivate those who have been raised in a culture of entitlement.  Follow thru is also a big problem here. These young people have strong testimonies but many don’t understand the nuts and bolts of commitment, work ethic or follow through.  Consequently we only have 20 PEF students in Port Elizabeth.  There are only 10 in East London.  This after PEF senior couples have been here for more than a decade.    

    Elder S. and I have been to every ward and branch in our area conducting PEF firesides.  We have attended every “Planning for Success” class in our stake.  But only one or two student attend all the four classes they need to apply for a loan.  Of those who do, perhaps half will applying  but not follow through.  They need to be monitored and encouraged. 

  Example:  Headman in Kwa Magxaki called and talked to Tom about his daughter who had applied for PEF several months ago.  She did not fill out her online application correctly so Elder Webb in Johannesburg e-mailed her and told her to make two corrections.  Evidently she did not get that e-mail.  (Only one family in ten here in S.A. has a computer.)  Her father Headman called Tom saying the school was asking for 1,000 rand to cover the tuition for the classes she was already taking.  Tom told Headman that PEF will not pay for classes taken. Had she filled out the form correctly, PEF could pay for the classes beginning in Jan.  But we can’t do anything about the classes she is in now.  He told her father to call the stake president.

  Looks like most students need mentors to take them through this process.  Karin Van Teil, stake PEF director, says the bishop should be monitoring the students  when they do start school and the ward should provide mentors for any that are failing.  After being here for seven months we are finally getting on to this.  However we find that very few students bother to apply for PEF Loans.  It’s hard to motivate and encourage these young people.  They begin the planning for success class but less than a handful following through which leaves us feeling like we are not doing a very good job.  So we look for other areas where we can serve and try to keep busy.  Love and Blessings, Sister S.

October 26th

This morning we walked in the park next to Stethan Place and then spent an hour with “The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles.”  After breakfast we delivered items we had bought for our young elders -- cleaning supplies, light bulbs, pillows, etc.  We had to stop at Macro to buy a microwave oven, bicycle tire pump and two combination locks.  We also checked the broken window at Elder Ingram & Sheward’s flat and damaged the iron grill.  The District Leaders could not get the key to work so they had to break in since the land lady was on holiday in Egypt.  It looks like we will have to pay for repairs.  They are having problems with a blocked drain that’s the land ladies problem and not ours.

We came home and had to have Jessica, our cleaning lady, let us in as we had forgotten our keys.  We collected our scriptures and “Preach My Gospel” for District Meeting which started at 10:30.  But did not get there until 11:00.  As there was carrot cake left over from my birthday party on Tuesday,  I thought the new elders who had arrived on Wednesday would enjoy  it.  Elder Balmforth when home to Taylorsville that day and Elder Ssemanda was off to be Elder Farley's new companion in Cape Town.

I love Ssemanda.  Every time I’ve seen him lately I’ve felt that he will be an awesome leader in Uganda someday.  I told him so and he confided that the first counselor in the bishopric there keeps e-mailing and asking about his release date.  Elder Ssemanda lost the memory card to his digital camera Tuesday.  I ran into him while shopping for the party and he was feeling rather sad.  It had all the photos he had taken on the mission. I gave him 200 rand and told him to buy another.  Luckily, after a prayer he found it and was overjoyed to tell me so when he came to our party.

The party was a huge success.  All the Afrikaners sat around eating, laughing and sharing memories of growing up in P.E.   These included Tracy and Stan Banister; Phillip and Mariam Clarke; and non- members neighbors, Cheryl & Peter Clark and Wendy Peterson.  Janette Lake also came.  Nine young elders were there along with Nathan Banister.  Elder Dale was being transferred so drove over from Port Alfred.  He said part of the N2 highway washed away as well as a new bridge which is also gone All the elders transferring from East London will be taking alternate routes.

Elder Ingram and his two sisters have an Irish dance studio in Wyoming with ninety students.  So he danced.  Elder Wolfgramm performed the hakka.  Elder Stokoe played the guitar and sang a Maori song.  Cheryl remarked that the young elders were such nice clean cut, confident young men.  “They are such a credit to your church.”  Peter, her husband, thought the fried chicken was better than KFC.  (Actually it was KFC.)  Janette came early, brought a bean salad and helped set up.  We had fruit salad, tossed green salad, rolls and cold cuts–beef and ham.  Also ice cream and carrot cake.

After the meeting I served what was left of the cake.  Then Elder S. and I went to guided Circular Road and bought two chests of drawers for the Elders on Prospect Road and the delivery man there.  The elders helped unload.   This took place before another down pour. Tom took everyone out to lunch but Elder Andriamanenteina who had a doctor’s appointment. Elder Andri. . . has back problems and had to have a MRI.   So he and  Critchfield, missed lunch.  Tom felt so bad about that he invited them to dinner.   As they had a 7:00 p.m. appointment, they suggested we come along.  Their investigators, the DeWall family, are coloured.  They have experienced a lot of trials lately.  Brother DeWall was out of town but we were able to visit with Mrs. DeWall and their thirteen-year-old son.  Elder S. and I testified that the gospel can help one get through trials and bring peace to your life.   
  Sister DeWall thanked us for coming.  She said she had been very depressed that morning but our visit had brought her a lot of comfort.  Then we took the elders to dinner at American Grill and got them home before 10:00 p.m. -- the magic hour for these young missionaries.

We asked Elder A. why people from Madagascar have such long names.  He said that it’s to honor the grandparents.  They names of the grandparents are added into all surnames.  We love having Elder Critchfield back here.  We last saw him in Ntata when we were in East London.  Critchfield was in P.E. when we first arrived  but he’s has been gone for about three months.  We love being with these young men.  They are such an inspiration.   It’s been a  good day.  Love and Blessings, Sister S.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Ten Days of Rain

October 16, 2012


It's been raining the past three days and with the rain comes the African umbrella.  A few fortunate Africans have an umbrella, some have a jacket with a hood, but the most innovative and impromptu resource is the black, plastic garbage bag.  Worn like a poncho with holes for the head and arms, walking garbage bags are a common sight in the African rain.  For those who cannot afford an umbrella, a jacket with a hood, or a black garbage bag, getting soaked is the ultimate reward. It's probably a toss up as to which is the most popular: getting soaked, or the plastic garbage bag.  I must say it is a striking and decorative sight to see walking garbage bags in the rain.  It shows people are resourceful and creative.  So, I refer to such ingenuity as the "African umbrella."  When poverty reigns and the destitute have no access to umbrellas and hooded jackets, why not become a walking commercial for plastic garbage bags.  At least one can keep partially dry at minimal cost.

Not much going on at the moment other than Elders Sessemanda, Ingram and I dug and planted a vegetable garden at the "Frail Care Center" this morning.  At least one good deed for the day.  I listened to the BYU vs Washington State game on KSL.  Hope to catch the Notre Dame game this Saturday.  Cheers - as they say over here.

Elder S.   

Sister Stokoe to  Laraine Kent & Corinne Young
October 22, 2012


Today  our e-mail is up and running again.  Thanks for all the B.D. messages.   Laraine sent photos of the baby shower for Corrine and Neil.  Their baby is breach so little Annabell Jane will be delivered on Oct. 30th.  .  .   We enjoyed two taped sessions of  Conference yesterday but had to drive to the stake center through heavy rain.  There were small rivers running over roads and a few trees down.   The soil here is very sandy and the trees very tall.  When there is lots of wind they come down.  This would not happen if there were more clay in the soil.  There have been reports of golf-ball-size hail stone breaking car and house windows and flooding;  poor Blacks in the townships some of their shacks have been washed away.  I even feel bad for animals in the game parks.  

We have been very comfortable in our new flat but our young missionaries on Prospect Road had to spend the weekend bailing water out of the flat below them and placing towels on their window seals.  We took a shower curtain, lamps and other items over to them on Saturday.  Two more elders will join them during Wednesday transfers.  A brick wall went down and covered their drive way while they were at priesthood meeting Saturday night.  Their car would have been damaged had it been parked in the usual spot.   Other cars had to be dug out of the mud and debris.  We have been blessed in that the Bannister’s had two sets of bunk beds and bedding they wanted to sell as we are responsible for four of the young elders’ flats.   Lucky the Bannister’s had most everything we needed as they are emigrating to Canada in December.   Have a great week.  Love, Diane

Laraine Kent to Sister S. 

We had Stake Conference this weekend.  The visiting General Authority was Elder William Russell Walker.  Apparently he lives in the stake west of us.  We really enjoyed his comments on Saturday night as well as today.  President Monson assigned him to go to NYC last June for an interview with Barbra Walters.  She was doing a special on "What is Heaven?"  I remember seeing it and wondered if they would have a representative from the LDS church.  And...half way into the hour's presentation, here was the LDS view point.  Barbra was meeting with Elder Walker in the Manhattan church/temple building.  His explanation was very simple and good.  Elder Walker reported Barbra Walters commented she was an atheist, almost agnostic, but she wanted very much to believe what he had told her.  She went on to say he was very easy to understand, not like others she had interviewed.  He told her she would know it was the truth after she has passed on and could know he was right!

Questions had been turned in for last night's meeting and he took time to answer a few...

"If one visits another ward on the same Sunday, should sacrament again be taken?"  Of course!
"Why wasn't any of the first presidency at the Brigham City Temple dedication?"  President Monsen wanted it to be President Packer's day as it was his hometown.  
"Who signs the general authority's temple recommend?"  President Monsen.  He also signs the recommend of their wives.

Elder Walker noted President Monsen is 85 years old.  Thanks to Jon Huntsman he has use of his personal plane to travel around in.  The temple in Rome is due to be completed the summer of 2014.  President Monsen wants to attend that dedication.  President Monsen's oldest son went on his mission there. 

After the meeting we chatted with Dez and Robin Russell.  I asked if he had connections to Elder Walker?  (As during the meeting Elder Walker mentioned ties to Canada.)  Come to find out, Elder Walker is Robin's first cousin!  At that point Elder Walker came and joined our conversation!  Elder Walker had worked and served in Atlanta when Dale Murphy was playing baseball.  Every month, Dale Murphy would write out his tithing check in the amount of $25,000!  Elder Walker said recently someone had sent a check in a very plain envelope with the message, "To be used for the Tijuana Mexico temple building.  It was in the amount of one million dollars! 

We enjoyed Corrine's shower yesterday.  I'll attach a picture from the event, plus a picture of the  beautiful red tree in front of your house...the all colors are all so pretty right now.   So good talking and hearing from you.
Love, Laraine

To: from Elder Stokoe
Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2012 2:28:41 PM
Subject: RE:  computer/internet
Hi Corinne:

You are right, we have had virtually no Internet for a week and a half.  It just comes and goes.  It will be on for 3 minutes then off for half an hour, on for 2 minutes and off for 45 minutes and then not working for hours on end.  It’s been raining cats and dogs with massive flooding,  Finally, today, we had the sun shining all day long for the first time in almost 2 weeks.

Last week I went to the telephone company and requested they fix ou Internet and telephone. We’ve had no land line for almost 2 weeks.  The office ladies said a telephone technician would be sent to our house. Nothing happened.  So today I went to the telephone company again.  The director is a recent convert to the church.  I said to one of the ladies behind the counter, “Is Mr. Mchumu in?  Tell him his pastor is here to see him.”  She looked at my missionary badge, smiled and went back to his office.  I heard her say  “Your pastor is here to see you.”  I was admitted immediately.  Anyway, he got on the phone and made a couple of calls and said a technician would be out today.  Four hours later the technician arrived and now we have complete Internet and a working land line.   So from now on, whenever the phone and Internet go out, I am going straight to the top man.  I’ll say to one of the ladies behind the counter, “Is Mr. Mchumu in?  Tell him his pastor is here to see him.” And I will get immediate action. 

We had a nice party for Sister S. with 20 people total in attendance.  Our neighbors were impressed by the nine young missionaries.  They sang the mission theme song.  One woman said “What fine young men, so clean cut.  Such good looking nice young men.  Very impressive.”  When the young elders sing the mission song before non-members, or members, the light of Christ and the power of the priesthood shines through them.  The spirit of righteousness just beams from them.  We enjoy working with the young elders.  Well, this is it for now.

Elder S.     

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Education in the Eastern Cape

Notes from The Herald, Port Elizabeth.Newspaper, October 15, 2012, article: “70% pass rate ‘pie in sky’--Eastern Cape Education Department’s matric target unrealistic due to host of challenges.”

With just a week to go until the start of matrix exams, the Eastern Cape Education Department’s ambitious goal of a 70% matric pass rate this year has been slated as ‘pie in the sky.’  Last year, the Eastern Cape was the poorest-performing province with an alarming 58.1% pass rate for high school seniors, and education experts said this week a vast improvement in the pass mark was unrealistic.

But provincial education spokesman Mali Mtiman said projects such as winter school and other interventions would help matrics achieve last year’s national pass rate of 70.2%.  However, education specialists pegged a shortage of math and science teachers, under-qualified teachers in rural areas, the non-payment of temporary teachers, teacher absenteeism, book shortages and weak departmental administration as this year’s obstacles to a healthy performance by the class of 2012.

Federation Governing Bodies of South African Schools chief executive officer said there was “Absolutely no way” the province would achieve a 70% pass rate saying pupils were operating in an “unstable environment.” He blamed the provincial department’s weak administration and non-payment of some teachers as the main problem.  “If they get to 60% it will be a miracle,” he said.

“The very, very weak administration in education in the province is the most important thing against us.  Teachers, principals and school governing members are always anticipating the next disaster. . . If a teacher who does not know if she will be paid or if she will be transferred because she is an excess teacher, is in front of a class, this negativity will affect pupil performance.”

. . . “If the first 11 years of school are a mess, you can’t expect a 70% pass rate in Grade 12.”. . .  Professional development is part of any profession.  A lot of these teachers were trained before the end of apartheid and are badly trained. . . children arrive at high school under-prepared. . . They don’t know the basics of grammar and some can’t even spell, so I think the focus should be on improving primary school teaching, because that’s the foundation.”

Grade 12 pupils at some schools had to endure textbook shortages in almost all subjects.  Jabavu High School principal Bonginkosi Gotyana said, “Students are unpredictable.  We ask them to attend after-school lessons but they run away.”  He did not want to comment on the Education Department.  “We are not relying on the department [anymore].  We have done our utmost to attain what we can with the little we get from the department.

Principal Llewelyn Tomelii said Duncan Village school had a shortage of Grade 12 math and science teachers, with teachers in these subjects in lower grades having to fill the gaps.  This means pupils in other grades suffer and it also overloads the teachers, who have an average of 50 students per class. . .

Provincial manager Abe Smith said, “The main problem is that teachers were not appointed and for long periods some children had no teacher in front of the class.  Also some textbooks were not delivered on time.  Our education department is one of the worst.  To achieve would mean that teachers would have to be in front of the classroom seven hours a day, five days a week, but in some areas teachers are only teaching for an average of three hours a day because of high absenteeism, especially on Mondays and pay day,” he said.

Van Vuuren also mentioned the shortage of teachers in critical subjects like math, science and languages in rural areas, book shortages and the appointment of incompetent principals as factors for a poor pass rate.  COPE provincial education spokeswoman Angela Woodhall said while schools with full education departments and good community support could reach a 70% pass rate. . . those with severe challenges of poor infrastructure, furniture and staff shortages may not even reach 58%.

The Herald, Tuesday, October 15, 2012 “Zuma must admit crisis – Some schools worse off than during apartheid.”

President Jacob Zuma must admit South Africa’s education system is in crisis, University of the Free State vice-chancellor professor Jonathan Jensen said yesterday.  He said some schools were worse off today than they were during apartheid.  He was backed by several school principals who met for a conference in Nelson Mandela Bay.  They agreed that things were only getting worse.

Principal Elroy Bosman, who has taught for 37 years, said: “Apartheid was wrong but  education [in townships and northern area schools] is now definitely worse than back in apartheid particularly in the Eastern Cape.  It’s a damn crisis.. .”  He said that the number of pupils writing matrix exams had dropped since 2008.  He said many matrics registered for the exams but then failed to show up to write them.

We have this nice development plan but it just makes assumptions  . . it lacks clarity.  The plan fails to address the plethora of problems  the grass-roots level.  People in South Africa are led by sentiment, . .  Students are going to school but are not being educated. . .  Bowman also attacked math literacy in high schools and the declining number of pupils opting to study mathematics.

Jensen said “The terrible education system had left South Africa in serious trouble.  We need to get people to believe in high-quality education or we are screwed.  If we do not get this right why bother.”  To admit to the crisis is one thing, they [the government ] must remedy it with a solution.  As proof of the crisis more than 90% of the school’s 243 Grade 8 pupils could not read or write properly.  Everybody is concerned about a good matric pass rate, but they need to look at the problems at primary schools.

Human resources was also a problem at the school:  “We can’t promote subjects like physical science because we have been without a teacher for six years.  We only have one qualified teacher to teach math and accounting for grates 10 to 12."

                                                 Education in South Africa
                                                           By T. Stokoe

     Our role in South Africa is to promote education and encourage young adults to enroll in classes leading to a diploma, certificate, license, or degree for a particular employable career.
There are challenges facing such accomplishment:

(1) Not all students have the academic qualifications to enroll in specific career oriented programs. Education in South Africa is plagued with problems.  For example: In the past academic standards were higher than today.  A passing grade of 60% in all subjects was mandatory. As the quality of education declined, so did the passing requirement. So many students could not meet the standard that it was continually lowered until today it is at 35%.
In order to graduate from high school a student must have at least 35/100 in all subject finals in order to graduate. Even with this low standard only 70.2% of the nation’s high school seniors graduate.  In the Eastern Cape, the eastern sector of the country, only 58.1% graduated in 2011.
     Why the terrible state in the public school system?  There are an inexhaustible number of problems:
#  Extremely inept government administration of education.
#  Corruption throughout the entire education system
#: Lack of education funds.
#  Siphoning of available funds by corrupt government and education administrative officials.
#  Lack of education responsibility and accountability.
#  Lack of qualified administrators and teachers.
#  Prevalence of the “rip off the system” attitude throughout the country.
#  Lack of schools.
#  Lack of committed and dedicated administrators and teachers many of whom don’t even show       up to work. Why?
#  Some have not received a pay check for as much as six months. Why?
#  Weak, under funded school districts and individual schools.  No money available. What little        money allocated by government legislation seldom reaches its destination.  Is stolen en route          down the pipeline.
#  Shortage of teachers and over crowded classrooms. Some classes have 50 plus students. With        so many in a class chaos can reign, discipline is minimal even non existent, and qualitative             teaching is very difficult. Consequently, learning is low.
#  A good number of teachers, qualified or partially qualified, quit the profession each year due to      the ongoing plague of problems.
#  Lack of textbooks and teaching materials. There are classes that never receive textbooks                 during a school year though money was supposedly allocated for them.
#  Many school buildings are in poor physical condition though there are some that are in                   good condition.
#  There are excellent principals and qualified teachers, but in the overall spectrum of the              education system, here are just not enough.
#  Quality education is lacking at all levels grade 1-12.
#  Students who did not graduate either quit high school or academically failed. A few could not be       bothered showing up for finals.
#  When after-school enrichment classes are made available, students don’t show up. Obviously, there is a lack of incentive, motivation, desire and commitment among some students.
(2)   With regard to post high school education, and beside the lack of qualifying academics to be admitted into vocational, technical, or university programs, there are more problems:

# One of them is in the outlying rural settlements there are no post high school institutions.  Those living in such communities desirous of higher education are either at an educational dead end, or need to move to a town where such learning is available.  Many cannot afford to move; they just don’t have the resources.

# Transport is a major problem in this country. There is a lack of it and there are those who can’t afford it where it exists. Why?  They don’t have a job and an income. National or private bus systems linking all cities, towns, and villages throughout the country, do not exist. There is a taxi system to a certain degree. Those who cannot afford transportation to and from schools of higher learning are stuck.    

# Money to pay for tuition, fees, and books is a problem. A student just can’t afford it and those that can are few and far between.  Academically, some may qualify for a bursary which can pay for tuition, books, and fees as well as transportation, room and board.  Those lucky few can move on to excellent jobs and salaries upon graduation.  Likewise, those who can afford to pay their own way.  But the vast majority can not do it.

# Employment is a major problem.  The unemployment rate in South Africa is staggering. Obtaining a job is a big challenge especially where certain skills, knowledge, academics, and certification is required.  Employment opportunities in rural areas are limited.  Even urban areas have their shortages and having skills and certification is not necessarily a guarantee for employment.

# Strikes have had a crippling effect upon the economy of the country.Where miners have obtained an 800% wage increase, other copy cat strikes have occurred in industry and commerce, national economic stability in the future is further jeopardized. Prices will rise all around and supply and demand can be “helter skelter”.

# Corruption, rampant and unabated, infiltrates from top to bottom in practically all phases of
government, enterprise, commerce, industry, manufacturing, education - you name it, it’s there.

# Private schools catering to the affordable provide the best education in the country. Standards are high with excellent administrators and teachers. There is ample funding, textbooks, materials and supplies, excellent curriculum, programs, activities, smaller classes averaging in the twenties to low thirties, and more well-rounded educated students due to receiving qualitative education throughout grades 1-12.

    They are disciplined maintained schools, organized and structured to meet the best demands of qualitative education. They function with authority, integrity, and honor having high expectations of students, their performance, and accomplishment.  There is consistency in the education system where qualitative, effective learning is accomplished. These private schools provide the highest caliber of education and are the exemplary-model schools of qualitative education in South Africa.    

The Herald, Thursday, October 18, 2012.  Opinion & analysis section article, “Basic school facilities needed.” by Precillar Moyo

In 2010 Newsweek ranked South Africa’s education system 97th out of 100 countries surveyed.  Interesting the country ranked 22nd for “economic dynamism”, but our poor education scored dragged us down to 82nd overall.

We can debate and question the value of these international rankings, but we know that the challenges faced by South African education are numerous.  A significant proportion of pupils come from non-supportive homes, the school environment lacks discipline, classrooms are overcrowded, many teachers lack skills and some lack professionalism, and the delivery of textbooks and workbooks is inefficient. . .

Indeed Equal Education is preparing campaigns on these other important question. . . But as I engage more with the infrastructure campaign I found it difficult to disentangle basic infrastructure neatly from school attendance, teacher morale, and underlying pursuit for the provision of quality education and equality in the education system. . .

Very few people will dispute the fact that a classroom with an appropriate teacher to pupil ratio and basic facilities will be better for teaching and learning than the rural classroom for the poorest among us.  However, this is not the reality for many poor schools in the country.

One example is Mwezeni Senior Primary School, a school in the Eastern Cape whose mud structures were damaged by storms early last year.  The school, alongside Equal Education is an applicant in the court case, to be heard on November 20, on the implications of inadequate infrastructure.

The school caters to 295 children from Grade R. To Grade 6.  Since the damage more than a year ago, 220 children have been taught outside.  During the rainy season these children simply do not attend school.  The remaining classrooms are overcrowded, roofs leak, are dark because of a lack of windows and there is a severe shortage of furniture.  Teacher moral has been affected and pupil absenteeism has increased.

Some 25 schools have filed affidavits in support of Equal education.  One is Samson Senior Primary School near Libode in the Eastern Cape.  The school does not have running water and is reliant on seasonal rain for water collected in tanks.  The nearest tap to the school is 5km away.  The lack of water affects pupils’ concentration, especially during the height of summer.

Milente Secondary School in Limpopo also does not have running water and often has to sacrifice the purchase of educational resources to pay for water delivery.

Sanitation is another question raised by the case.  At Lehlaba Primary School in Limpopo one pit latrine is used by 90 pupils.  Iqonce High School in King William’s Town has 254 pupils who share two toilets.  The impact is felt particularly by girls in puberty.  About one in 10 school-age girls do not attend school during their menstruation because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities. Sexual harassment in school toilets is also quite common, particularly when toilets are isolated and far from the social control of the school.  In most schools toilet paper is not provided.. . .  [And the list continues].

Equal Education does not believe that the crisis in education is only the responsibility of government.
Having regulation in place will mean that the public, parents, pupils and teachers will have a standard by which to measure school infrastructure, thereby building local accountability. . .  We all want a better South Africa so let us unite and join the call for the right to education, and the enactment of minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure!