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Back to School with Kavitha and Monica

The highlight of our visit to the schools was definitely our warm welcome from the singing choir of Sinethemba High School. And this wasn't just some ordinary high school chorus ... these were the next Aretha Franklins, the next Boys II Men.

They sang traditional songs in the traditional language, Xhosa. While singing they swayed with slight dance movements, providing the rhythm for the songs.

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We've got the beat!
When they finished singing the songs they had planned on, Monica asked them if they could sing their national anthem for us. The teachers and the students all giggled a bit, and then launched into a powerful rendition of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa), the new anthem of the new South Africa. During the apartheid years, people were often jailed for singing this harmless, beautiful hymn. After Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, they continued right into Die Stem (the old national anthem), first in Afrikaans and then in English. Oh, how we wished we had a tape recorder!

Click here to see the words to the new national anthem, in both English and Xhosa. Kavitha

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Now, that is a look of concentration!

Last Friday, Monica and I had one of our best days yet here in Cape Town, South Africa... and what did we do? We went to school!!!

Our friends from the Western Cape Town School Network (WCSN), Penny Busetto and Sibongile Mafilika, took us to visit a couple of schools in town. We met some really great students and teachers. We also began to understand the enormous differences that exist in Cape Town. As we drove out of the center of Cape Town, Penny explained that, "Near Table Mountain are the richer white neighborhoods. The further you go from the mountain you start going through the colored neighborhoods, and then even further are the still poorer black neighborhoods."

Map of South Africa
As soon as we exited the modern, clean center of the city, everything began to look more rundown. When we finally arrived at the Phillipi Township, the houses were one room shacks, most with no electricity or bathrooms. In the center is the Sinethemba High School that surprisingly has clean, sunny courtyards and classrooms, and well-kept lawns and flowers. Penny told us how the parents all pitch in to make the school beautiful.

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A computer classroom at Sinethemba High School
AMANDA: I would like to say, why did the Odyssey come to South Africa and why did you choose this high school? I would like to know if you have orchestras in your high schools and what kind of music you play? What kinds of music competitions or concerts do you have?

Click here for more questions the students from Sinethembe High School.

We were treated like special guests. The principal, Bonakele Busika, and the other teachers, immediately called together an assembly when we arrived. We first visited the computer room and were surprised to see so many computers. Mr. Theodore, the computer teacher, fixed old equipment for the students to use. He is hoping to connect all the computers to the Internet.

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Students at Grove - How many of you want to travel around the world?
Do you eat a lot of Chinese food?

Click here for more questions the students from Grove Primary School asked us.

After we were introduced to the students and teachers, Monica and I started to tell them about the Odyssey, and why we were visiting their school. The students seemed eager to learn more about the rest of the world and excited to use the Internet too. Principal Busika thanked us for coming and shared a story from his trip to the United States. In a small town in Pennsylvania, he said, "Some Americans asked us 'Did you fly or did you swim?' People in other parts of the world should know," continued Principal Busika, "No, we don't sleep in trees and wander about wearing loincloths. We are going to schools, learning about computers, speaking different languages, making music."

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Students at Grove listen to Monica and Kavitha
Both the students and the teachers wanted to connect with schools in other parts of the world. If you want to email the students at Sinethemba, you can write them at The students will get to read the messages in their computer classes.


Monica - Window to a South African Home

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