For the first three weeks of the global seminar, we were based out of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. The fifteen of us were divided amongst four different volunteer internships where we went three afternoons a week after our seminar class. I, along with four other Princeton students, volunteered at KAYEC Trust, a Namibian non-profit that provides an after-school center for middle and high-school kids. The program is designed to keep kids off the streets after school, as well as to help them with their school subjects.
The first day at KAYEC, the kids were extremely welcoming and curious. They had many questions about where we were from and what we were doing in Namibia. The next day, we were directed to help the kids with English. English is the official language of Namibia, but many of the teachers are still Afrikaans-speaking and thus the level of English instruction is not great. The kids were split into age groups and we were each assigned to one. None of the kids had brought their school books with them, so we had to make a lesson plan up on the spot. The thing that struck me most was how much the kids’ English skills varied within the same age group. Some of the kids were way ahead of others, so it was a challenge teaching them all together with no material to work from.
The next day, we led a Spanish class and a salsa dancing class. The kids loved both activities and soon all of them were joining in. The boys were definitely more reluctant to join in on the dancing, but some of them did with a little encouragement. When we were done salsa dancing, the kids showed us some Namibian dances.
The next week, we were invited to celebrate the Day of the African Child at KAYEC. It is a day celebrated on June 16 (every year since 1991) to commemorate the Soweto Uprising in 1976 (a student-led protest against Afrikaans instruction in schools), as well as to spread awareness of the need to improve education for African children. We watched a variety of performances put on by the kids including traditional dances, songs, poems, and skits. There were also several discussions about what can be changed in the education system to improve Namibian schools. The kids brought up the fact that some teachers still teach in Afrikaans, which the kids don’t understand.
Jorge surprised everyone with a salsa performance!
Over the course of the three weeks, we worked with kids on English and math, Spanish and salsa dancing (and even some Bollywood dancing). The kids expressed many times how much they appreciated our help. We were the only volunteers at the time, so the program was definitely very understaffed. While the program was not the most efficient in helping kids with school work, it more importantly provided a safe place for kids after school and was something they really looked forward to daily. The kids were really sad when we had to leave and many of them asked for our autographs and emails.
While I learned a lot through the seminar itself, I learned a lot about Namibian culture from KAYEC that I could never have gotten from the classroom. The kids were amazing to work with and I really hope someday to go back.