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Travellers Worldwide - Teaching in South Africa

Travellers Worldwide - Teaching in South Africa

Rachel Ley went to South Africa as a gap year volunteer to teach underprivileged children between the ages of 6 and 12 in a township school with Travellers Worldwide.

My name is Rachel Ley. I am 22 years old and currently studying to be a Lawyer. I made a decision that for my summer holiday I would do something meaningful and purposeful. I have always had an interest in travelling and the ways in which different people live. I wanted to experience a different culture and way of life and I felt that the most fulfilling way to do this was to do volunteer work amongst local people.

I decided that the most rewarding thing would be to work with and help underprivileged children. I wanted to be sure that the time that I would spend would be productive, have a lasting impact and make a difference.

I decided to go to South Africa and volunteer to teach underprivileged children between the ages of 6 and 12 in a township school. The school has 1200 pupils and very limited resources. I thought I had prepared myself for what I was about to encounter, but nothing could have prepared me for this life changing experience.

In assembly the children are told that Maths and Science are not so important but that the choices they make in life are. The school try to instil one set of rules in the children in terms of education and moral’s but outside of school its completely different as they are taught only to survive, so its not surprising that they are so confused.

Yet the children were amazing, so talented and loving. I could never have prepared myself for how I felt when they ran up to me and hugged me as soon as they saw me. They also hug you at the end of every lesson and thank you. It is impossible not to be happy when you are around people that have such a positive energy and are so happy when they have so little.

Having volunteers at their school is such a novelty for them, they are just as amazed by us as we are by them. Being at the school gives them so much motivation and they try so hard and it is very rewarding to be surrounded by them.

It really is not surprising that love is so important to them, as really this is all they have. One thing that I learnt from them and will never forget is that happiness is in internal factor and you don’t need to look outside yourself for this.

By having volunteer teachers at the school the children learn that the world is a bigger place outside of the township and there are opportunities for them if they persevere. It provides them with a lot of enthusiasm to learn new things. As a volunteer, you have to remain impartial, objective and have an open mind at all times.

The teaching of self worth and values to these children is of great significance. The situation in South Africa cannot be changed overnight, but any help at all that can be given has a massive, positive impact on these children and future decisions they may make or the way they choose to live their lives.

I feel that I have achieved my aim in making a difference to these children’s lives in just the short time that I spent with them. Before I left Africa a huge number of the children made me promise that I would go back to teach them again.

I have no intention of breaking this promise and I am currently planning a gap year trip to South Africa! My intention is to make 6 times the difference that I made on this trip. I intend to spend 6 months teaching to gain a greater understanding of the children and to have a greater impact on their lives and views.