Archive for February, 2012


I began to work in Kwadinabakubo Secondary School just 3 weeks ago now. I hoped to be like Keating from Dead Poets Society. I think I am making head way.

First, an introduction to Kwadinabakubo Secondary School. One eventually gets used to saying the name, though it took me a few weeks. I have discovered something interesting about the rural third world, something old school and satisfying: when one is curious about something these days one need go no further than a simple Google search and the information is yours. In the third world however, you don’t get people with blogs or websites, so the information just simply isn’t on the net.

Crazy right?

Hence the resurgence of journalism. When Google fails, interviews become your search engine. Having just read an Isaac Asimov Sci-fi detective novel, I can’t help but feel a small sense of adventure when I seek information in this way. In any case, I digress, what I’m getting to is the meaning of the name of Kwadinabakubo Secondary School. When Google searches yielded nothing helpful, I began asking people in the area about the name. It turns out that the name comes from a traditional Zulu chief who ruled the area long ago. His name was Dinabakubo, translated literally as “To anger someone”.

So back in the history of this place was a boy who made those around him angry, yet rose to power and ruled an entire district. I hope I discover more about this story.

The school is a government township school, meaning that poverty grips the school with a corrugated iron fist and it shows. The school grounds are classrooms scattered over fields of knee-high overgrown weeds, sparsely interrupted by patches of red KwaZulu-Natal dirt. The kids adhere to a relaxed school uniform regulation, wearing as much of the uniform as they were able to acquire for themselves. Gray long pants and a white shirt, every 5th kid with a tie, every 10th with a school jersey and every 20th adorning a blazer. In classic South African style however, every kid has perfectly shined black school shoes. Every kid has a cloth they dearly guard and pull out at each available moment, placing each foot on a ledge to maintain that shine, ankles exposed, I’ve only seen 2 pairs of socks so far.

There is no bell and when the government disallowed corporal punishment, they put no alternatives in the hands of the teachers meaning that if there were a bell it would scarcely mean anything to the hoard anyway. When I first arrived, I though it was break time, but this is simply how things go all day in Kwadinabakubo. The problem is mostly with the teachers though. The kids are in class when their teachers are there, but my oh my how the teachers adhere to African time…

I am one of three volunteers who are working with CAPRO here with this mission to the school. I am joined by Ayanda and Sinesipho who teach English, they are beginning to set up a literacy program where they can identify and help the students who have managed somehow to hustle their way thus far through the school system thus far without being able to read/write/speak/understand english

I am teaching Mathematics. I am loving it. I can honestly hardly contain my excitement and enthusiasm following most school days. I have become that guy that loves his job. I always wondered if that was too high an aspiration to aim for, but here I am, each day as I walk from my final class over the weed patches, black-jacks clinging to my jeans, back to my car, I grin with a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. I am working on the front lines for God, I am living out what I proclaim to believe (the teachings of Jesus), I am shaping young minds, I get to talk of interesting things all day and thrive off of a dynamic environment.

The beauty of a public/government school to someone like me is that I am free to do things my way:
– One must rely on an ability to think quickly on one’s feet, the labour of detailed planning is made unnecessary by the chaotic freedom in a school like this.
– The dynamic environment is extremely stimulating, being forced to juggle mathematical concepts, 40 different personalities, an improvised lesson and discipline all at the same time. One must constantly seek to hold 40 people’s interest, maintain order whilst allowing the small amount of chaos that catalyses the learning process and make sure to teach from the perspective of those whose attention one holds, one must teach and explain to their level.
– I absolutely thrive in this chaos.

The privilege of seeing that spark in the eyes of a kid as they suddenly grasp something that has been a mystery for years is invigorating. As they exclaim “oooooooohhhh!” and suddenly the motivation is shrugged off and they attack the next problem on the worksheet with new confidence. Knowing that you have just made an irreversible difference in a kid’s life like this is special. And I won’t grow tired of it quickly.

As relationships with the kids grow, other opportunities open up too, I shared a very enjoyable conversation on religion, apologetics, practical philosophy and Jesus with two matric kids just the other day.

Please leave any comments or questions you may have, I will respond as soon as I can,

PEACE.

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

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I’ve discovered a few blogs of people similar to me, and with ideas similar to mine. People that are further along the path I too am on. Finding people like this and their blogs does two things for me, first: it makes me feel a little threatened – so strong is my desire to do something new, to do something groundbreaking, to capture that most illusive of abstractions: something wholly unique. Something that I can truly say that I created. Created. What an evocative word for me.

To be a creator.

This is something that thrills me, that stirs up passion in my soul, to be legitimately called a creator would be divine. Artists, revolutionaries, game-changers these people are creators. God is a creator, this is why I worship him,

“Why worship the crea-ted when one can worship the Crea-tor?” she said one day as we slowly paced along the streetlight lit pavement alongside Duxbury Street, Hatfield, Pretoria. Conversations on religion, philosophy, love, tears, tragedy, truth and mystery fresh on the mind,

“Why did you stop with the wika?” was my question. Because wika is no creator, just a plagiarism of true power, true creativity was her answer.

When I find that yet another idea of mine has already been done, when I find that someone else is already 30 years down the path I hoped to one day pioneer, it ceases to matter all that much that the pioneer who has preceded me is confirming the relevance, the greatness of my idea, or that I have a kindred spirit out there joining me in my cause, because my idea is no longer original. I… am no longer original.

So the quest for a new idea begins afresh. Maybe this shouldn’t be how it is though. Maybe I’m looking to the originality of my ideas too much for my value. Maybe I need a pride check, maybe I should seek acceptance and value in something else. Fundamentalist chirstians would answer this question with “God” – in a real world like the one outside of home-group does this answer hold up to the curse we live in though? Probably. But let’s not be crass with our platitudes, even right answers can be the wrong answers sometimes – check your relevance. Simple answers don’t work in a real world when they begin to approach ignorance.

Ignorance of the reality of the difficulty with which we must contend as we aim to make the simple truths these fundamentalists proclaim without the temperance gained through the acquisition of the perspective of those weighed down by the reality they can’t ignore.

The second thing finding these people and their blogs does for me comes after I reconfigure my system and find value somewhere else. Once this is done and my value as a human being is no longer dependant on this idea of mine being wholly original I feel my quest is affirmed.

And so I push on.

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

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