***Disclaimer: My internet connection here has become very poor and I have had trouble uploading my blogs. Hopefully I will get better internet soon so that I can post more recent blogs, but for now this will have to do.
This week the office is moving to a new location closer to the city center. Therefore everything is complete chaos. I got a chance to get outside the office and go on the museum trip I worked on last week. We changed the location to the South End Museum that tells the story of the local history of the apartheid. I went with three different groups to the museum to learn about civic responsibility.
The first half of the event was an informational session about the history of the museum and its purpose. The presenter explained why it was necessary to tell the story of the South End of Port Elizabeth and the role of museums in the community. The second portion of the visit was time spent exploring the exhibits and answering questions. It was my duty as the Ready4Life representative to observe the event and provide feedback. I was given a set of questions that the students were expected to answer. My co-worker initially drafted the questions, and myself but the museum staff altered the questions to match specific exhibits in the museum. When I saw the final set of questions I realized many of the questions were asking for students to list names and dates of information that was provided in the museum. I don’t believe this was the correct format for the students as it encouraged the students to just look for the answers rather than interact with the exhibitions. The facilitators who were present all agreed the format should be changed so that students focus more on understanding the history and the museum. During the exploration most students felt rushed and continued to jump from room to room searching for the answers to the questions. This caused the visit to become chaotic and the lack of sufficient time to view the exhibits caused the students to panic. I recommended that next visit the student be given more time in the museum itself and to shorten the time for the presentation.
After the trip I was invited to walk with the group to get lunch. I was glad for the opportunity to speak and get to know the participants of the program. At first I was not quite comfortable speaking up since most participants were speaking Xhosa and the occasional English that was spoken mostly discussed family, friends and the community. I was happy to just listen and watch the interaction among the group. Then I was asked a few question about where I was from and what I was doing here in PE and how long I was staying. These questions not only showed their interests, but also allowed me to participate in the conversations. Soon the conversation is mostly English and I am able to continue to follow the discussion and I am thankful that I can understand them despite the slang and broken English. During lunch we talked about the trip to the museum and the program overall. I really enjoyed hearing first hand accounts of what the program means to them and what they enjoy about it. One woman told me that without the program she would never have been motivated to find a job and learn new skills. She is looking forward to graduation and to using what the program taught her. One of the young boys in the group told me that he always thought he would have an informal job, he didn’t think he would have the skills or the opportunity for a chance to work for a legitimate company. He says he wants to work as a mechanic in a shop in town that would provide a stable income. This was the first time I was able to see how the program has directly affected the lives of the people I have met.