Day 4 – Hoofd schouders, knie en teen

Written by Meike Berben & Freddy Renisch.

How to keep the participants awake after four days? Use a nice Dutch song and do some movements as well:

Hoofd, schouders, knie en teen. Head, shoulders, knee and toe
Knie en teen. Knee and toe.
Oren, ogen, puntje van je neus. Ears, eyes, tip of your nose.
Hoofd, schouders, knie en teen. Head, shoulders, knee and toe.
Knie en teen. Knee and toe.

At first sight, this little song might seem like the perfect energizer. And yes, it is! However, when you think about it for a while, the song suddenly has a deeper meaning.

`Hoofd` stands for all the knowledge input we got today. Firstly a presentation was given by the Agency for Refugee Education, Skills Training and Advocacy (ARESTA). ARESTA is providing refugees from different African countries with e.g. English language courses, life orientation, HIV/ AIDS workshops, CV checks, and assistance in legal matters. In the afternoon we had a workshop about MDG 2 (Education). The main conclusion was that although South Africa is doing well in the achievement of the MDG (enrolment, literacy rate and completion rates are high), the students are still underperforming due to poor quality of teaching.

`Schouders` symbolise the cohesion in the group and the cooperation with all the local organisations.
Today we also welcomed some friends from ‘Canada World Youth’, Mozambican students and South African exchange students, who participated actively in the workshops the whole day. Furthermore, the African participants could provide `the facts behind the figures`; personal experiences in their educational systems.

‘Knie en teen’ stand for stepping forward and undertaking actions: we started with some facts about the educational system, became aware that there is still a lot to be improved and gained inspiration to make a contribution. Finally we thought of concrete activities to undertake during our school visit of tomorrow.

`Oren, ogen‘ represent all our observations and experiences. These can be very small things, such as a view on the townships next to the modern airport of Cape Town or a ride in a third class Cape Town train that made us realise that we are just about to discover South Africa and that we are slowly opening our minds and deepening our understanding.

´Puntje van je neus` finally stands for looking further than your ´own nose´. For the first time AEGEE is looking ´beyond Europe´ and we are opening ourselves to new experiences as well. We are very conscious of the fact that the past few days have been an introduction and that the real confrontation with South African society is just about to begin from tomorrow onwards, when we are going to visit schools in a township.

A few more impressions of the day:

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Day 3 – Workshops in the shadow of the mountains

Written by Ivanka Bloom.

On our first Sunday in South Africa, we had a leisurely start in the morning. The focus of this day lay on developing more in-depth background knowledge of each other’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through interactive workshops which had been carefully prepared in small subgroups. For the workshops we took refuge in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Kirstenbosch, a main tourist attraction in Cape Town, is based at the foot of Table Mountain and filled with colourful flowers, a few squeaking guineafowls and a wide view over the suburbs of Cape Town. It was therefore no surprise that many cameras clicked away at the sight of the shadow of Table Mountain so that it took a little longer than expected to walk up to our meeting point.

Sprawled in the sun that some of us had missed for most of the summer in Europe, we explained some of the MDGs through several creative workshops. At first we were shortly introduced into MDG7 on environmental sustainability. After that, the second subgroup provided us with an overview of all goals to fill-up any outstanding knowledge gaps. The third group on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (MDG1) opened up interesting discussions on the difference between absolute and relative poverty, the difficulty of reaching out of poverty, the causes and consequences of the poverty gap and the usefulness of development aid. The final workshop of the day on maternal health and child mortality (MDG 4 and 5), opened up our eyes on the hard facts of the problems that South Africa faces with regards to these MDGs.

The coming days will be filled with workshops on the remaining MDGs and our first visits out of the westernized part of Cape Town and into the townships.

More material from the cameras:

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Day 2 – Cape Town Welcome

Written by Julia Hoffmann & François Firket.

Today we had a first piece of South African soul. After a nice breakfast, we left by train to the city in order to visit the office of the UTRS – Unity for Tertiary Refugee Students – looking at all the programs which this organisation has developped to answer the needs of young refugees in South African higher education. During a presentation by UTRS, we learned to understand the difficulties, particularly financial, which refugees are facing when they want to study in South Africa. This organisation supports refugee students throughout the academic year to avoid the risk of having them drop out of their studies due to financial concerns. In addition, it tries to change education policies in South Africa to provide some help to refugee students. Finally, after their studies many refugee students experience difficulties to find a place to work. So UTRS assissts the graduated refugees in finding jobs.

After the visit we experienced a very relaxing afternoon and headed up to the centre of the city. There we passed through some souvenir shops before discovering the amazing view of Table Mountain under Capetownian sunshine. This cathedral of rock is dwarfing the city and making an impression on anyone looking up from anywhere. All the communities are colouring the busy streets through their daily activities.

Before getting to the fortress, Mandela’s face on public posters reminds anyone of the path to freedom. This road away from apartheid which the South Africans underwent and resulted in a society where anyone regardless of the colour of his skin is having equal rights. We will see in the next days to which extent this ideal has been realised.

Some more pictures of the day:

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Day 1 – The long way to Cape Town

Written by Milan Padilla.

It was a very long way to Cape Town for all of us. We met all together at the international airport in Frankfurt. The flight to Cape Town had a stop in Istanbul and later in Johannesburg.
Excitement kept growing when we could see on the inflight screen that we are slowly leaving Europe and we were flying over Turkey, Kenya etc.

We arrived first in Johannesburg for a refuel stop and reached our final destination another two hours later. Christian, who had already spent over a month in Cape Town in order to prepare the Case Study Trip warned us about how bad the weather was. We were more to happy to be welcomed by warm and sunny weather all day long. Cape Town airport was very calm on that Friday. A cool and refreshing breeze came when we left the hall and entered the bus to our hostel.

Our accommodation is far more beautiful than anything we could have expected. We will spend the next two weeks in Observatory. Observatory is a part of Cape Town located three metro stations east of the city center. It is frequented by students since it is very close to the medical campus.

In the Riverside Lodge (though there is no river close by) we have rooms for 3-4 people and a number of common rooms. Palms outside of the house add to the relaxed atmosphere. It’s certainly a good place to relax after a long day out.

During the rest of the day we went outside and had a look around the whereabouts. We were all more than grateful that the facilitators meant to give us a smooth start to the trip. Our first impressions are scarce but this is going to change with each day. We all hope that we will be able to grasp what South Africa is like.

Less than 48 hours

The last preparation days are hectic – one is tempted to say ‘as expected’, but not without reward: a good meeting with Susan from the Volunteer Centre on Monday, successful meetings with African Monitor and the Green Team of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology on Tuesday, meeting with the Green Initiative of the University of Cape Town today. Still to come this afternoon: staff meeting with Alice, Jamala, Jean-Claude and Joseph.

Most of our European participants are either packing or already on their way to the group’s departure airport Frankfurt International. On Friday – shortly before lunchtime – a bunch of 21 Europeans is expected to arrive at Cape Town International Airport. If everything works out as planned I will be able to welcome them just after they pass the customs control.

What will the upcoming two weeks hold for them? Certainly they are going to be challenged; certainly we take them out of their comfort zone by throwing them into an unknown environment that is marked by amazing beauty but also extreme socio-economic differences.

CE, Cape Town

September has come…

So here we are, finally September is here. Cape Town is greeted by an awful lot of rain today. But the excitement is palpable. So far the week was extremely busy: a second meeting with the Volunteer Centre, a meeting with SCORE and another one with SHAWCO. It’s like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together with the aim of getting the best possible programme. In between meetings I spent a tremendous amount of time in internet cafés all over the city as all options have to be weighed, evaluated and discussed among the team. Only ten days left until we kick-off in Cape Town.

CE, Cape Town

Prep Meetings

After meeting the Volunteer Centre on Wednesday and SHAWCO on Thursday several challenges remain. Even though the meetings were quite enlightening – especially the Volunteer Centre showed its willingness to support us – we settled for a second meeting on both occasions.

Those facilitators already present in Cape Town – Alice, Jamala, Jean-Claude, Joseph and me – met twice this week to discuss different programme options and divide tasks.

With regard to logistics, local transport still poses a major challenge due to our budgetary limitations. In yesterday’s taxi ride back from ARESTA’s offices – in fact taxis are minibuses carrying up to 12 people on a given route – I discussed and inquired prices with a driver called Suleiman. We will still check for cheaper options, but in case the current status quo remains, we might rely on him on one or the other day during the CST in September.

Two weeks to go. By now we are confident that we will get our act together and have a promising programme ready on the 10th September.

CE, Cape Town

A busy week ahead

Thursday allowed for another meeting with Joseph, after I spent several hours in Observatory, the project’s prospective home base. Friday takes me to Cape Town centre: changing money, posting visa invitations via DHL, etc.

The weekend – though plagued by rain and heavy wind – offered the opportunity to experience Cape Town’s surroundings (Kalk Bay, Simons Town) and South African culture (Cape wines, rugby). Several phone calls and arrangements point to a busy week ahead. But after having spent one week in Cape Town, our efforts and hard work seem to slowly materialize. The project gains shape.

CE, Cape Town

A Rwandan dinner

My third day kicked off with a suitcase stuffed in Taryn’s car, a breakfast in Observatory and several hours on the net reporting back to my team in very different parts of Europe. By lunchtime Taryn drove me to my new flat in Claremont.

In the afternoon I was meeting up with Joseph. Together we visit the hostel once more, talking with the staff – a very friendly woman called Amanda – and go through several details regarding our accommodation. Afterwards Joseph and me were heading to the city centre where we inquired prices for DHL documents mailing. Some visa invitation letters are needed as originals.

The day ended with a meeting over a delicious Rwandan dinner at Joseph’s flat in Retreat where I got to know several wonderful people. After having been introduced to Joseph’s wife and sister, Jean-Luc, Elizabeth and Alice arrived. Jean-Luc is originally from DR Congo and now working as a Refugee Rights Educator for ARESTA in townships like Khayelitsha. Elizabeth – half Italian, half British, but most certainly a citizen of the world – is about to leave South Africa after having spent two years at the Cape for a job in Africa’s heartland, in Burundi, but after having heard about the project she is eager to help out with valuable advice. Alice, working for and representing UTRS (Unity of Tertiary Refugee Students), will be part of the ground staff for our project. UTRS is our second partner Cape Townian partner organization and already at our first encounter Alice leaves no doubt regarding a successful cooperation. A lovely evening came to an end with a bumpy – but most of all – funny and inspiring ride home in Jean-Luc’s car.

CE, Cape Town

Accommodation found

Fortunes are with us. Following Taryn’s valuable advice I was visiting a hostel (Riverview Lodge) in an area called Observatory. The staff is very friendly and the location superb for an event like hours: the perfect safe haven after a challenging programme, with a supermarket and several bars and cafés around. Observatory has a long vibrant entertainment scene, perhaps due to its high proportion of students. Just a few meters from the hostel is Observatory train station with regular Metrorail connections to Cape Town centre.

My first two days in Cape Town have been full of sunny, daring, emotional – and very often surreal moments. You always get told how beautiful that place on earth is. Once you see it with your own eyes the rightfulness of that statement strikes you.

CE, Cape Town