I write this blog to you from Johannesburg, South Africa. It is not where I am from, but for the next few months it will be my home. I am here to fulfill a requirement for my Master’s program, interning at the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. While here, I will be collecting and analyzing data for one project that is coming to an end, and assisting with the development of a new project that is just beginning. I have also been tasked with unpacking a section of the national curriculum to turn it into a professional development program to help multigrade teachers. I have a very busy few months ahead of me and so it’s important to keep in mind the proverb above: In the silence of the wind, a song can be heard. The wind is a silence that is not silent. Sometimes we need to be silent in order to hear the world speak to us.
I should note here that this isn’t my first time living outside of the United States. I have lived and worked in South Sudan and have traveled to China, Russia and other countries as well. Though it’s been five years since I’ve last been outside of the United States. In addition to working abroad, I have also taught at the middle school level in the United States.
I’ve been in South Africa for two weeks now and I find myself reflecting on a post that I wrote not that long ago about the need for an alternative to development. I called this new alternative Dreamscaping – the art of speaking our realities into existence. It is imperative that I keep this in mind as I embark on this new endeavor. Dreams are often the foundation of which societies are built upon, and if I want to live in a society that envisions a world collectively, and executes to achieve that collective imagination, I need to keep in mind the Dreamscaping mentality.
I’ve been working in South Africa for two weeks now and I cannot stress enough about the need to change the way we do “development” work. The current project that I am on is concluding at the end of this month. It is an ICT intervention targeting literacy in English and Home Language. The organization that I have been working for was tasked to implement and monitor the intervention. However, they did not do any monitoring or school support. I’ve been tasked with collecting the end-line data, but due to poor implementation the results are corrupted. Meanwhile, the organization has dispatched a team to collect all the other monitoring deliverables that are due at the end of the month. So what should have been done over the course of a year is now trying to be done in the course of the month.
This case study represents just one reason why we need to look at the world differently. When we stop acknowledging the humanness of the people that we are helping and only recognize the rewards that are to be gained by us who “help” others, we fail at being people. It’s not that I judge my organization on the outcome of one project, but I do hold them accountable for the failures of this particular project, especially when they could have easily been mitigated.
It’s been a rough two weeks, and I need to remember that sometimes we just need to be quiet in order to hear the song of the wind. The world is full of people, and my voice is just one.
Christian is the first World Unwrapped writing fellow.