December 3, 2010

Our First South African School Year is Coming to a Close

Today is the last day of school, and I am of two minds about it. On the one hand, I can’t believe that these kids are going to be home now and it is only the beginning of December, with a million things for me left to do before Christmas, preferably away from curious eyes. On the other hand, it is time for us to bid grades 8, 6, 4, and 2 our final farewells. It doesn’t just seem like we’ve hung around them forever, we actually have! Leaving the U.S. in March of this year, we had almost completed the school year, only to start here almost from the beginning of the same grades. I’m now more glad than ever that I took the kids out early back home and traveled the country for a month.

Not that they didn’t get enough breaks here. Every time it felt like we had gotten into a routine, there was another break coming up, and Zax will tell you that I harp endlessly about the fact that there were three weeks (THREE!) practically off for high school exams. Twice this year. One and a half hours of exams each morning, then the rest of the day off. Which you were supposed to use for studying, but for kids who only study about 20 minutes per exam, that’s a whole lot of time off. But this year was also unusual due to the World Cup and the extra break that had to be squeezed in for it. Although the World Cup was great fun and we’re very grateful to have had the privilege to be here during this time, I am now looking forward to a new full school year with the regular three terms, starting after summer break on January 12, 2011.

All in all, we have been very happy with the experience at Dainfern College so far. There is a strong focus on academic achievement, a good sports program, and a whole lot of school spirit and music sprinkled into every day. It is definitely more formal than in the U.S., and I don’t just mean school uniforms. The recent academic awards assembly is a good example. All teachers were dressed in robes and their colors, and the students who received awards for academic excellence were called to the stage one by one to receive their certificates and be congratulated. This doesn’t take place in a gym but a large auditorium that resembles a posh theater. Quite often there are guest speakers telling inspirational stories. But it’s not always this serious. The Junior Prep (grade 0-3) teachers turned out an adapted production of Cinderella that was absolutely hilarious, the Grade 3 Nativity Story was wonderfully performed, and the choir is always excellent and entertaining.

If you’re an expat contemplating a move to the Johannesburg area, you should strongly consider Dainfern College for your kids. It will be very convenient, for one, because most expats stay in the Dainfern area, and you shouldn’t underestimate the convenience factor as a calming influence on your life. But it is also a very good school. Yes, I’m biased since that’s where we send our kids, but I truly think it will be an enrichment to your family. The academic level will likely strike you as lower from your home country, and that will put you off at first, but there is a whole lot more to school than just academics, and Dainfern College has all that extra. We’ve seen tremendous growth in our children as people over the last year and it can mostly be attributed to the new school and the friends they’ve made there.

7 comments :

unknown said...

Hi,

I spent my last evening reading your blog and it was quite interesting. I moved with my Family to Joburg in 2003 and stay there nearly 4 years.
Well, it was not exactly the same situation than yours because my Wife is South African and I was here to work with my father-in law who own a company here.
Your story about eskom just make me laugh ! I remember so well my first invoice in 2003...16000R for one month in summer ! I finally went to Rivonia Road office to solve it as you did. That's the only way to solve problem with Eskom : go there and refuse to move before somebody with something else than a nuts as brain come to help you.
You're lucky to leave where you are. If you never feel the reality of crime, then you are very lucky. I knwow from first hand more people in South Africa who where Hijacked or robbed than people who had road accident. My son best friend had a gun at his head at 3years hold when the were hi-jack with her mother. It's just one of many exemple of what can happend. I had many Expat's friends and a lot of them who where living in a boom were sure that crime was not a real issue in South Africa until somebody came to their house and robbed them at gun point. The next week, the whole family were in a plane to europe.
But anyway South Africa is still in my heart and I plan to come back to stay may be next year. Hope your enjoy your stay there. The choice of South African school is great for your kids. I'm sure the lost of 3months this years will be compensate by the knowledge of a new "way of life"
I will follow your blog time to time to see if everything is running well for you and your family

chris

ps : sorry for my english. I'm french and still not used to english

Sine said...

Hi Chris,
thanks for you comments, it is great to hear from other expats, even if you're no longer here. A bit of a reality check too, to hear about the crime you've experienced, and you're right, you don't think it's there until it happens to you. So I guess that until now we've been very fortunate not to have any such experiences. Or maybe things are gradually changing for the better, which of course I, the eternal optimist, would say. In any case, I'm glad we have Eskom to get upset about and nothing worse. On that account, I'm still calling my new friend Mr. S. every week and he tells me to call back the next. He seems very nice and knowledgeable compared to the other people - nuts for brains you called them? - I've dealt with, but nonetheless he has not actually helped me yet in any way. We'll see...

Anonymous said...

Hi sine,
I was so happy to find your blog! I have been reading it over and over again, finding lots of valuable input. My familj and I are about to go to SA for à 2-3 year expat assignment. I have so many questions and noone to ask, so, 'talking' to your blog is à big help!! Thanks for sharing. In 1.5 weeks we Will go for à pre-visit, and I think we Will live in an area called Dainfern, is That where u live, and is it à good place? We too have children, they are 5 and 8, and we have been reccomended an american school close by. Is that the school u reffer to?
I also get lots of discouraging stories about crime and how awful things are, and I suppose the visit Will perhaps give us à better view of how it actually is.
If you are not swamped with people asking you questions, I would very much appreciate if I could bother you with some questions from time to time?
Again, thanks for à very smart blog!
Best regards,
Malin
Ps ) we are swedish, to explain potential language mishaps:)

Sine said...

Hi Malin,

that's great news, and I'm just happy that my blog has helped someone like you. Have you subscribed to the blog (on the right hand side)? If you have I can also send you an email if you have more detailed questions and give you my phone number in case you want to get in touch when you visit.

Yes, we live in the greater Dainfern area. The school I refer to is a South African private school, and we have been very happy to NOT have gone to the American International School, but that one is also not too far from here and many expats living in Dainfern send their children there. Our school is Dainfern College, and it is right next door to Dainfern, if you live close enough to the gate your kids can walk to school (a BIG bonus in my mind). The only problem might be that Dainfern College sometimes has waiting lists for the younger grades. You should look at their website http://www.dainferncollege.co.za/index.php.

If you want I can try to get you in touch with another Swedish family (who I had also met through my blog and their child is now also at Dainfern College). Regarding crime - you will find that it is much less "dangerous" than you read about on the internet, otherwise we wouldn't all be living here and enjoying it so much. However, there is crime, in fact there was just a security breach in our neighborhood last night, something that has never happened before. It seems like both our security people and the police are in hot pursuit of whoever did it, we shall see. But in all honesty that is something that can happen in any country. It's just not supposed to happen here because we live behind so much security.

Anyway, good luck, and let me know if you have any other questions.

Anonymous said...

Hi again and thanks for your answers. Yes, I'd like it very much to also get in touch with the other swedish family. I am subscribing to your blog, so you should now have My emailadress.
We Will now within this week when our first visit Will be,
Br malin

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Sounds a lot like schools in the UK. I wonder if British schools are still like that. Nice that they get so many breaks. Better preparation for life is probably just as good as if not better than the book learning.

Sine said...

I think it's how British schools USED to be. Someone else said once to me, SA schools are more British than the ones in Britain in many respects. It's as if time has stood still in SA whereas it has moved on in the UK, particularly in terms of respect for elders, discipline and politeness among the youth.