For my fall internship with CIEE in Botswana, I had the opportunity to intern for the Guidance Department at Moselewapula Junior Secondary School in Phase 2 of Gaborone. I was the most excited for taking the internship out of all my classes because it would allow for the most cross-cultural interaction and immersion in Botswana. And really, it did!
In the education system, the JSS is akin to middle school, having American grades six to ten as "forms". Undoubtedly, this creates a very different atmosphere as students spend five years here wearing mandatory uniforms and taking classes such as Setswana and Moral Education. Interestingly, the students report while Setswana is the hardest, Moral Education is the easiest and often most fun course. As an intern for the guidance department, I worked with students three times a week in the study hall period after classes, from 2:30 to 4:00 where students study and hang out with each other. On Monday, I would lead tutoring with a couple students in maths and science, a generally relaxed hour for going over homework and problem sets. On Thursday and Friday, I led meetings for PACT, or Peer Approach to Counseling for Teens. The club encourages students to seek counseling and has volunteers in PACT help them generally. In our meetings over the semester, we went over helpful studying skills as well as ways to help people in crisis. To do this, I had to spend time developing lesson plans, which was a new experience for me as I had never taught middle schoolers outside of Boy Scout camp. However, the big challenge is always managing their attention and presenting information interestingly, whether on how to write a thesis paper or to help a friend in crisis. For example, in the paper workshop I suggested a prompt where if a student could bring a famous person to speak at school, who would they be and why. As they selected their person, I helped them outline reasons for why they picked that person and show them the formation of the paper.
I found that in my travels people are almost the same wherever you go, yet the differences are rich and poignant. For the students in Mosewelapula, they had to deal with teacher corporal punishment, which I never faced, and more drug issues that my schools luckily avoided. I was able to learn much from them about their hopes and dreams, from the grand to the sweet, as well as their vision of a better school and thereby a better Botswana. For my final project, I made a research paper for the school detailing an approach to a developed peer helper program. I concluded my internship at Moselewapula believing the students in PACT were amazingly eager to help their fellow classmates, but required investment and training to be able to actualize this as peer helpers