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 Zulu home stay, KwaZulu Natal - 2006

As part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme for UK students, students are expected to complete a residential project where they integrate with a different community, and immerse themselves in that community for 4 days.  They are also asked to complete 3 days work on a community project.  The group also completed a 3 day tour of the Rorkes Drift, Isandlwana and fugitives rest battlefields.  The DofE program is something that I am likely to be involved in at Marlborough House College, and thus I went along as an observer and as a general facilitator.  A group of 4 students from Felstead High School, Essex came to South Africa to complete this section of their award. The home stay section of the award was based in a traditional homeland setting in the southern parts of KwaZulu Natal.  It is an area formerly known as the Transkei. 

The battlefields tour was based at David Rattray’s cottage on his farm, near Rorkes Drift.  After being collected in Zululand, we were taken to various famous sights and monuments dedicated to the great Zulu kings, around the Emgungundlovo Valley.  We spent our evenings chatting around a few gas lamps in an old cottage high above the plains of the lower Drakensberg, listening to the sounds of the wild.  The tour of the battlefields was interesting, and refreshing to hear it from a well read military enthusiast.  It was also poignant to hear about the real history and culture surrounding these battles, and not to have an abbreviated version presented in a politically correct fashion.

The Zulu homestead part of the trip was very fascinating and a major eye-opener for all, since electricity, hot water and comfortable toilet seats were now but a mere glimmer of the imagination!   It was based in an extremely rural setting, based in the Mbandla Community Trust Area, past Creighton.  In some instances we were definitely the first tourists that these villagers had seen, and we were all amazed at the smiling happy faces that only bemused kids can exude.  They are just such a happy bundle and fascinating to observe.  The students were split into pairs, who then stayed with a Zulu family for the duration on a Zulu Muzi, or enclosure.  The kids were rather fortunate in that although the setting was very rural, the kids were able to sleep in their own shared room, in beds.  They were also fortunate in that water for washing was collected and warmed for them, by the friendly families.  The area is beautiful in its setting and one cannot help but enjoy the simple life and fresh air, but after 4 days it is obvious that one would take a fair amount of time adjusting to this life permanently.  There is no electricity, so no TV, no reading light (bar an old paraffin lantern) and no place to buy a new book should you finish it!  9pm bedtime was the average for us, more from boredom than exertion, and we started to find it hard to sleep passed 6 am after such an early night!  What is obvious is that we lead a very spoiled life, with access to education, books and showers! 

We all regrouped in the morning after a traditional Zulu breakfast of putu (maize) and eggs, and went off to help out on a community vegetable garden project.  These projects are kick started by an initial donation raised by the visiting students, enabling the community to purchase tools, seeds and fertilizer.  The group then helps the community plant these seeds.  The community is then empowered to sell the vegetables, and use the profits to sustain their own development.  Similar projects were identified for a school, as well as a project involving the building of a poultry coop, and the initiation of a chicken farm stall.  Unfortunately, when we got to most of the projects, they were barely in existence, and we were the main attraction.  It may have been more beneficial to work alongside the project stakeholders, as opposed to being the expensively imported labour force!  Although I did try to understand the hardship endured by these rural communities, what I was unable to find acceptable was the amount of apathy that exists with regard to sustaining a self start project.  Fresh, running water has been made available to the vegetable plots, and the forestry project, yet when we arrived there were no workers, and most of the land was untilled.  Some trees near the forestry project were clearly neglected, and it was disheartening to see very little accountability present. 

Maybe we, as a developed nation need to apportion blame through accountability and chase success through fear, whereas at a rural level, if blame in itself is regarded as a foreign concept, can there be an expectation of success?  I know it does not paint a rosy picture, but all that is missing from successful businesses here seems to be the willingness to put some consistent effort in.  Maybe we are forcing our success and desires on a rural community that are themselves divided between financial greed and success, education and an outdated, outmoded rural existence?  Are we more driven to succeed than rural communities? 

Anyhow, it was great to work some kids that attend a school similar in standing to Marlborough, and to gain some insight into a different educational system and to be able to stimulate discussion regarding the various cultural differences encountered.

See some photo's here of the group in action




Rush hour, Zulu style

A Zulu Kraal and some huts in the distance