The enjoyment of the adventures of Cape Town cannot come without some hard work. Since I’ve been getting into the 9 to 5 grind here at ORT SA CAPE, it’s about time for a post about where all of my time in Cape Town is being spent. I am working for a non-governmental organization called ORT SA CAPE.  ORT SA CAPE is affiliated to ORT SA, which operates throughout South Africa in areas of extreme poverty and disadvantage. ORT SA forms part of World ORT – an international educational NGO established in 1880 in Russia to technically train marginalized Jews. ORT is actually the worlds oldest NGO, and has since spread to many countries across the globe.

The arm that organizes the Western Cape area of South Africa is ORT SA CAPE. Their vision is simple: with diverse educational expertise, ORT SA CAPE aims to enrich education in impoverished schools and communities by focusing on critical educational challenges in Technology, Mathematics and Literacy. I worked on putting their goals and objectives together this week, so they are as follows:

To improve the skills of educators by:

–       Fostering professional learning communities for educators in the rural areas of the Western Cape to improve CAPS implementation, learner performance, encourage joint problem solving.

–       Facilitating and funding SETA-accredited Grade R teacher training courses to offer better job opportunities for trained teachers, and improve the overall quality of education.

–       Offering specific targeted support for teachers to cater to individual circumstances.

–       Engaging in research on teachers through, monitoring and evaluation, to analyze and reverse shortcomings.

To improve the skills of learners by:

–       Facilitating Constructive Enrichment After School Programmes (CASPER) in rural areas of the Western Cape, in the areas of technology, literacy, and numeracy.

–       Providing supervised reading groups, which employ the buddy system, to improve confidence and literacy in all subjects.

–       Organizing Robotics extra murals and workshops, to encourage group communication and improvement in visual memory, concentration, math and science strategies and problem solving.

–       Advancing research on learner’s assessments to identify and rectify areas of need.

I chose this organization because I was hoping to get exposure to the workings of a non-governmental organization. Graduating next year with a degree in international relations and political theory & constitutional democracy from James Madison, I have many options for a post-graduation plan, none of which I have narrowed down. Through this internship I was hoping to better understand the NGO world, and what would go into such a career choice.

As a part of my daily job here at ORT SA CAPE, every afternoon I visit an affluent Jewish school in the city, in which the kids pay for “robotics club”. We bring the lego wedo and mindstorm kits and the kids build robots for an hour. Since these kids pay, the organization is able to offer the same service to other disadvantaged groups at other times.

However, with my skill set clearly not being robotics and engineering, nor educational development, I’ve had a somewhat difficult time finding my place here. In fact, everyone believed that I was an engineering major. If you know me at all, you know how laughable the idea of me technically constructing and engineering is. My first week was extremely slow, as time was spent putting covers on iPads, programming computers, and sorting legos for the lego robotics program. It was only my first week with the organization, and I should have expected it to be slow, but after feeling that my skills were not being used and my brain was slowly dying from inactivity, I finally spoke with my boss, about my place in the organization. I’ve never had to do something like that, so it was a good experience to have under my belt, and open communication is obviously essential to any work place. She then gave me suggestions of more substantial work that I could do over the term, including social media management, marketing through newsletters, compiling the annual report, managing a survey/data analysis project, as well as editing for grant proposals.

Needless to say I’ve somewhat gotten over the hurdles presented by the first two weeks at any new organization, and I’m hoping that I find my rhythm soon. I’ve already learned so much about the organization, and the other staff members have been extremely accepting. ORT SA CAPE does awesome work in the field of education for the Western Cape area, and I’m excited to get more involved with it.


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