The sun rises over the school.  I'm in pajamas.  The kids are in class.

The sun rises over the school. I’m in pajamas. The kids are in class.

Teaching science in a hands-on, experimental way is a challenge in the United States.  In rural Africa, it’s an uphill battle.

Among the eight schools we serve there are no labs, perhaps three microscopes, and very few chemicals.  Working apparatus are few and far between.  Safety equipment is a dream.  To make life more interesting, you may have over 100 kids in one class and those kids have 20 – 30 textbooks among them.

I’ve mentioned before that the students here work very hard.  The 12th graders who are preparing to write their national exams are in class well before dawn and are still there when I go to bed.  The teachers here are also busting their humps.  On top of the regular daytime schedule, they give additional classes at 6:00 am and 6:00 pm.

A science teacher here wanted her 12th graders to do an experiment synthesizing esters (one of my favorites when the product smells like fruity bubble gum, but this particular one smells like nail polish remover).  My fellow volunteer Tom went over the theoretical aspects with the students, but how do you get 130 kids involved in esterification?

Unknown to us, the science teacher spent the entire last week and weekend running the experiment with 15 kids at a time.  At 3:00 am.  For seven days straight.

Science education in rural South Africa has a million problems.  Teacher dedication certainly isn’t one of them.