Thursday the 27th of May 2010 – 19.23h
Today marks my third week in South Africa. The honeymoon period is well and truly over. As the days and weeks have gone by the work here has been getting tougher. I have already experienced so much it feels like I have been here for three months. At the same time it feels like yesterday I was still at our Barcelona office getting through the week looking forward to Friday night pizza and playing for Flahertys on Saturday. A strange feeling.
Over the past three weeks I have gotten to know my fellow house mates better and I have also been trying to get more involved with Life Zone, the organisation that have set up the programme I am working on. Life Zone have set up a programme which is based primarily on community development. We are currently working with 12 different schools in a suburb of Cape Town called Kensington. There are about 5 of us, all football coaches, that visit these 12 schools on a weekly basis to coach the children football. Every Wednesday we set up pitches on a field where these schools compete against each other in a league Life Zone have set up.
From what I have seen so far there are lots of football clubs here that take their youth teams very seriously. There are a lot of talented young football players here and I am sure the clubs are trying to nurture them so that they can end up playing at the bigger clubs. Obviously not all the children can make it into one of these clubs so those children that do not have the necessary skills to play football at club level do not have the opportunity to play “league” football. Life Zone offers these children this opportunity. As well as setting up the league, Life Zone also provide food for the children involved in the programme to ensure they have enough nutrition to play football and compete with one another.
This past week has been the hardest week with the children since I have been here. I am starting to remember the faces of the children I am coaching and even some of their names (a lot of the boys names are African and impossible to remember). As well as building a strong bond with these children, they are getting to know me better and more confident around me, meaning they are listening less and misbehaving more as the feeling of meeting a new foreign person is wearing out.
The children I am coaching are between 6 and 9 years old. I get very frustrated at times when I explain a drilling exercise trying to get the children to practice their control, passing and communication between one another (something they lack when playing in their matches) and I find a lot of the boys not listening and fighting between each other. I know they are still young and it is normal at their age to misbehave but being the perfectionist I am, I cannot but feel frustrated.
From what I have been told, in many of the schools where we coach each class has about 50-60 children per lesson, double the amount a classroom would have in Spain or England. This could explain why the children find it so hard to concentrate, listen and carry out instructions. They probably get very little attention in their classrooms and thus have to find ways to keep themselves entertained, which normally consists of arguing and fighting with one another instead of doing what they are told.
It is no surprise that these children finish compulsory school (if they manage to finish) without having developed the necessary skills to find a job as well as not being properly discipled and therefore needing to find any way they can to survive in the “real world”. It doesn’t surprise me at all to find South Africa in the situation it is with this very little background information.
Many parents around the world treat school as somewhere to occupy children’s time whilst they are at work. Going to school is much more than just this and it is essential parents get as involved as possible and give their children the necessary attention as well as ensuring they are properly disciplined if they care about the future of their children.
The more time I spend here and speak to other volunteers and people from South Africa, the more I am realising how hard a task it will be to eradicate poverty in Africa one day, and as a consequence the level of crime out here.
On a personal note, this week I have started to do some extra hours coaching football in one of the football clubs here and as I am getting to know the people at Life Zone better I am also trying to get more involved in the Life Zone programme. Over the next few weeks I am hoping to help them improve their website and I should also be able to help them with how they promote their organisation to get more volunteers and further investment.
In these past three weeks I have also managed to fit in some of the touristy things out here, most notably climbing up Table Mountain, which gives you an amazing view of all of Cape Town and at the same time places you above the clouds. I have tried to upload a picture but wordpress won’t let me, will try annd get some pictures up next time. On Sunday I will be going shark diving in a cage, let’s hope I get back in one piece. 🙂