At the commencement of the Changemaker Symposium at the University of Witwatersrand “Wits”, Professor Makalela offered up that we go to the moon, not because it is easy to do so, but rather because it is not easy to do so. This set the stage for the challenges we would be hearing about in our small group sessions. I was in a group with Carlos, Penny (Esikhisini), Makkie (Esikhisini) and Makgabo (Limpopo). Our group meshed well – we breezed through our first session and even planned an intro to our presentation. We would all attempt both traditional Zulu and Mexican dances. We also quickly realized that both cultures manipulated maize through stone and integrated that into our opening skit.
However, when I was confronted with the problems faced by the primary schools at Limpopo and Pretoria, I was instantly engulfed with a sense of insolvability. I was introduced to the term “child-headed households”. I learned that some students only attend school because it is the only meal they receive during the day. I learned about grannie-headed households and the overwhelming lack of parental and community involvement in these already under-resourced schools. My first instinct was to resort to try to raise funds for these schools, however my gut told me to seek out Dr. Jez to recalibrate our solution. We came upon the idea of implementing reading clubs and reading buddies at these schools to improve student learning and motivation. If it is difficult to engage parents, then capturing children’s attention through reading and stories seemed a better approach than throwing US dollars.
With an image of a unicycle, Dr. Makalela likened changemakers to disruptors of ways of knowing and being. Many challenges, barriers and obstacles to inclusive education were presented during the symposium but these were met with new ideas, potential solutions, and funds of knowledge. More than that, having two sets of individuals from different continents and cultures sit together and try to tackle these lightened our collective loads.