Today we ventured to LEAP school, a Science and Maths high school in the township of Langa. Right when we arrived, we were greeted by a group of students and we spent time getting to know each other. After a while talking, we sat down and they started to perform for us. They started with a traditional South African gumboot dance, and then went into singing. As I watched them sing and dance, I noticed how talented they were and how seriously they take music. I also noticed how seriously they take their academics and how they really push themselves to do well.
After they sang, which they were very good at, it was our turn. Although they had beaten us in this field, we still did great. Eventually, they came up and joined us and we sang together. I feel like the singing really brought us together as they sang our songs and we sang some of their songs. We got to connect with them on a different level through singing, which is one of the biggest ways of connection throughout the world.
After performing together, we sat down in groups of three and we were asked to discuss the question, “If there was something that we could change about school what would it be?” In my group, we discussed the mandatory uniform that the LEAP students must wear. We talked about how wearing a uniform restricts you from expressing yourself, and that if you want to wear something you should be able to wear it because how you dress shows a little of who you are. This struck me because back home we don’t have a dress code and I never really thought about how we dress being a way to express ourselves.
I felt a flood of emotions during my time at LEAP school today. Walking in, I was immediately greeted by Cetitu, a student who set my mood of the day with her joy and happiness. Her inviting energy made me feel accepted and the openness allowed for the both of us to get to know about each other’s lives easily. Throughout the day, I was surrounded by more and more kids my age, and noticed how well my classmates and I connected with everyone. We all live such different lives but I feel like that fact didn’t have a negative effect on the friendships and connections that I formed today. The differences just made the experience that much stronger.
After the school tour, we performed songs for the students and visitors at LEAP and they sang some songs for us. Their performances were amazing and they made me realize that community and culture are important. They opened their hearts to us, and the way they sang gave me chills. We sang them our songs and they were supportive of us; they clapped and smiled for us. I felt nothing but love for them. I felt a powerful community as we were all singing together. I felt so much appreciation and I enjoyed getting to know the kids through such a creative space. It made my visit to the LEAP school impactful.
After our time at the school, we all walked through the Langa township, talking and getting to know each other even more. It was interesting for me to walk through a town completely different from what I see in California. It really opened me up. It was like a big family. I saw a community where people helped people for the benefit of their own community. I saw children running around smiling, enjoying themselves. We were welcomed into their community and it seemed like they enjoyed our presence. We eventually stopped at a barbeque restaurant and shared lunch with our new friends. Sharing food and stories with them was so much fun, it felt like all I did was laugh today. It didn’t matter that we were from different countries. I find it amazing that people from two parts of the world can hang out without having a barrier or culture shock. I loved that there were so many unexpected similarities between all of us.
“I value my school and my education a lot.” My new friend, Aluta, said this today during our time together at LEAP school. I would like for you to think about that for a second, and reflect on the average student in the United States and how they think of school. When we visited the Leap School of Science and Maths, I was in awe of how the students felt about school. I go through school not giving it my full attention, not valuing the very expensive, special, and amazing school that I attend. I go to Mount Madonna High School because my parents and I decided it was the right place to learn and grow.
The kids at Leap School had to take a test just to get into their school. They value each class. Each student takes very advanced and difficult classes. Classes like these would be taught in college in the United States. A good education is very hard to commit to in South Africa because of the lack of financial means. The average family only makes $6 a day, so higher education is not a viable option for many households. Leap School pays for clothes and food, in addition to education. These three items are hard to come by for many South Africans and this limits the success of students. I know that I have taken them for granted.
When we arrived at Leap School we were paired with a student to give us a tour of the school. I was the last through the door and there was one student standing alone. No one was paired with him. I went straight up to the student and introduced myself. His name is Aluta and he is the nicest person I have ever met. He was kind of shy. I kept most of the conversation going but shy in South Africa is a bit different than the United States. In South Africa, most people seem outgoing in one way or another but compared to the rest of the students, he was a bit shyer. I spent the whole day with Aluta. I asked him about his school and his family life.
Aluta has no mom or dad. He lives with his grandparents. His mom passed away when he was very young age and his dad is out of the picture. Aluta values the opportunity of the school more than anything in the world. We were given a talking point during the day to share with each other, “What would you change about school?” He said, “Nothing. School is so perfect and the chance just be at school is good enough for me.” He wants to be a doctor when he finishes school and move the United States of America. I have faith that he can but the problem is that his family does not have enough money to send their kids to college. Aluta showed me how much I take for granted, and that I should be more appreciative of the fact that my parents sent me to my amazing school that offers so many opportunities. I see that I should try my hardest.
Singing at LEAP School