Tag Archives: Africa

Andries in Uganda

My husband is traveling through Uganda again ministering in churches and supporting orphanages and schools.

Here are some vlogs of the trip.

The staple foods are Matooke, a cooking banana, and pineapples. This is how to quickly prepare the pineapple


Social Development in South Africa

Recently I attended a Seminar about CAPS, the new National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement. This is basically a new nation wide attempt to provide a comprehensive curriculum for grade R (similar to grade K in the US) to grade 12.

We built our facilities ourselves. Training the educators is becoming essential. It is not simply about information and curriculum but to convey a heart that will take initiate, put in extra hours and pay out of ones own pocket. Unfortunately that is not very common in the African community.

During the seminar we learned about the current state of education in South Africa. It is so sad that for many children there are no or only substandard learning facilities available. Many schools and teachers in the rural areas lack initiative to improve anything on school grounds out of their own pocket. The schools and preschools that are running well often do so because the teachers invest a great amount of their own salary on making their own teaching apparatus and parents pitch in to help buy new toys and paint classrooms, for example. I have too often observed the African community simply waiting for handouts. When talking to the teachers in rural areas which we often do when going to underprivileged schools, it is apparent that the teachers, who earn in many cases more than double my income, are not really willing to invest anything into their own schools. Also it is a long long process to bring a mind set change where teachers use their own smart phones and tablets to start educating themselves about what is international standard.

We trust God and pray and do our best to inspire teachers and ministers of the African communities around us for making changes in 2015.  There must be a huge improvement in education and in the available resources. Many schools without basic resources like chairs will need to see the parents coming together and saying “Let us make chairs”. The parents will be coming on board and take initiative instead of the previous passivity there must be active parent involvement.

Boy died in School pit toilet

Mom blames school for death of child

The learners in our churches own preschool are very blessed to have a clean, state-of-the-art environment with bathroom and kitchen facilities up to highest international standards. We want to be an example to other churches who want to establish their own preschools to address the urgent need in the South African rural communities of appropriate child care and learning centers.

Churches play an essential role in community upliftment. The province where we are living and working is the poorest one in South Africa. many schools rely on feeding schemes by churches to feed their students. my husband and I oversee 17 other churches in this province including many African churches. We see that the African churches often struggle with moral issues and are trying to encourage them to get involved in community programmes to help assist the education sector.

More churches will establish their own schools resulting in more involvement from businesses supporting church based schools to help them to continue with that. There will also be moral initiatives from churches going into schools. Churches will use local media and create educational upliftment and holiday programs. Christian programs will help children over the holidays where children who usually got food from the schools will be provided with nourishment.

If you want to help us do so, you can send a donation here.

Every penny helps, as we are currently really tight on resources.

End of Year Fun, Stress and Success

German mommy in South Africa!
My sons love going fishing with their daddy.

South Africa is so different from Germany in many aspects. In Germany, just like in the US or Canada, our school year ends in July. You graduate in July and you start school again in September. In August you generally rest. Then, when you start school and work again in September, you get to rest at the end of year during Christmas and New Years, before starting the year again in January.

In South Africa, the year lasts from January to December without any major interruptions. In November all the reports need to be written, and what ever needs to be done has to be finished by the end of November because December is the big summer holiday. I find it to be a very long stretch of hard work culminating into a high pressure November. I tried to to find some resting points in between like going fishing with my boys but boy, am I tired right now!

My husband and my oldest son opening the concert: A trip to the bushveld
My husband and my oldest son opening the concert: A trip to the bushveld
Chatting to the parents about how well their kids did this year
Chatting to the parents about how well their kids did this year
Little Sam had so much fun praising the Lord that this shot by reporter Isabel Venter made it to picture of the week in the local Zoutpansberger newspaper!

I was so happy to be able to do a big preschool graduation concert with our school. Every child received a detailed report on their development and the milestones they reached. Since I am trained in child development (MA) this was quite a thorough report and many hours were spent accessing each learner. We are so proud of the fact that all our preschool graduates have been accepted into good schools after doing really well in the  application interviews.

Here are some impressions from the concert for you to enjoy.

We will miss our children that leave to the "big school"! I have done a lot of training recently to fully understand the SA Department of Educations approach to early learning and we are happy to say that we live up the the highest standards.
We will miss our children that leave to the “big school”! I have done a lot of training recently to fully understand the SA Department of Educations approach to early learning and we are happy to say that we live up the the highest standards.
Proud students, proud parents. The kids got many certificates!
Proud students, proud parents. The kids got many certificates!
One of our young graduates.
Showing of strength! I love to build confidence in young kids.
Showing of strength! I love to build confidence in young kids.


I let each child of the oldest class perform a little speech on their own.
I let each child of the oldest class perform a little speech on their own.
the mighty Lions class performing
the mighty Lions class performing
Chatting to the parents about how well their kids did this year
Chatting to the parents about how well their kids did this year
courtesy of Isabel Venter, Zoutpansberger regional newspaper
Baby Kateko, our youngest student, had a ball being on stage.
Baby Kateko, our youngest student, had a ball being on stage.
Young performer
Young performer

Care Boxes in the local paper

careboxes careboxes

Thanks to everyone who helped making this possible.

We delivered care boxes to 6 different district magistrate courts and helped many under aged victims of abuse in testifying at court.

Sorry for my short posts. I am busy writing reports for my students at preschool most of them will enter formal school next year. I will keep you posted on our preschool concert and everything!

Yippeh, we just published our first book!!!

Click here for your paperback copy!
Click here to get your kindle copy!

Yippeh! I am sooo happy that in between raising two young and very busy sons, pastoring a church, managing a preschool and doing various charity work, my husband and I were finally able to complete our first book together!

This book is born out of the amazing things we have experienced in our daily walk with God in a nation that has many challenges. With so much crime and no real social security, we need to hear God’s voice so much more.

God talks, wants to warn and advise and encourage you! Dreams, visions, the bible, prophetic insight popping up in your spirit when you pray, we talk about how you can fine tune into God’s voice.

This book contains more than 60 exciting stories and events in our lives where God spoke things we couldn’t possibly know through human understanding alone, and how God uses a sensitive believer to impact the lives of others. Your personal faith will be built up, we will make you rush back to your bible to see if God really does all we quote from the book of books, and you will be so motivated to listen to Him with a new expectancy of getting answers. Thanks for buying our book, you are supporting our work in Southern Africa.

You are welcome to check out www.emmanuellife.org for more information.

Since amazon has different platforms for different nations, you are welcome to browse on your respective amazon site for our names or book title and download the book onto your kindle or kindle app from there! Look for “The Powerful Impact of a Spirit Led Life”or Andries van Heerden or Christiane van Heerden.

Ipromon the meantime we have also published a compilation of prophetic words for 2015 available here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QW3A252 check it out! Especially inspiring for South African entrepreneurs and educators.


Andries and Christiane van Heerden are senior pastors of Emmanuel Church in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, South Africa. Besides impacting their own community in areas of ministry, education and charity work they travel to nations around the globe to inspire believers to really listen to God’s voice for a more effective impact into their communities. They enjoy raising their two sons, Steven and Samuel. For more information on their church and ministry check http://www.emmanuellife.org/

Hiking in the Soutpansberg with Toddlers

Happy faces!

Today we took our preschoolers on a hiking trip into our nearby fantastic Soutpansberg mountains in northern Limpopo, South Africa! I had been teaching my 4 year olds about space, the globe, Africa, and our place on the map and now we went to check out geography by ourselves. Lots of excitement and many happy faces!


The local mountain biking club developed some great trails that lead over mountain streams and through beautiful forrestry. The kids loved to stop and listen to the murmur of the water, the bird song and the wind! Hiking with 2-5 year olds must be about fun, different textures and a stimulating environment. A lot of children have never been to this mountain let alone have ever hiked, so this was real great exposure to a new experience.

My husband, pastor Andries, came along to help keep our rambunctious boys safe and supervised!
Picnic in the mountain
It’s all about having fun!
Thanks to the Akkedis Mountain bike challenge, we can enjoy a fantastic trail through our beautiful Soutpansberg mountain! http://www.akkedismountainbike.co.za/


Bringing Horse back riding to preschoolers

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Field trips are great, and field trips that come right to your preschool are a lot of fun too because it is safer!

Horses are magnificent animals. Horse riding and interaction with horses is a proven aid to education, concentration, honing fine and gross motor skills, muscle development and social skills.  Unfortunately many children do not have the opportunity of the benefit of getting to know these amazing creatures.


Therefore we are offering our children at Emmanuel Kinderland Preschool  a very special chance every Monday morning.

We provide our students with a chance for horse interaction and an introduction to horse riding with experienced horse trainer Sarah Coronaios from the Rondebosch Riding School.











Sarah explaining the basics of horse grooming

Thank you from the courts

Intermediary Salome Phaho and myself when I handed R 4000 worth of comfort over to the court. Yeah, sorry we had no professional camera with us, just cell phones. But that’s exactly it – helping is gritty and not about looking pretty right?

Thank you from the courts

Today I received this letter from the intermediary for child witnesses and victims of sexual crimes at the Magistrate Court in Sibasa about how our Comfort boxes now are helping even children in the Musina court:

Good Afternoon Mam,blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus who causeth us to triumph through Christ!

I am simply excited for the foundation that has been laid because for this vision to manifest like this means Victory!

My colleagues Nthabiseng Dzhivhani has just given out a 12-15yrs box yesterday @ Musina and I heard the girl couldn’t put it down.

This project is really working as I realized that most kids come dejected and rejected with little or no support from parents or relatives as if they chose to be victims.

But when they find LOVE in that little box is like their WORLD has suddenly changed as they understand that irrespective of what happened and how they feel and what others take them for, there’s still HOPE in life because someone out there loves them and care about them so much.

DSC02559Thank you once again Woman of God for your heart for souls.

Pass my regards to Pastor

Salome Phaho

So wonderful to hear about those boxes really making a difference in children’s lives.

Of course I cannot post details about the children involved, but share some photos of the people who work with the children and pictures of the court:

The ladies working with the children who come to testify in court.
the entrance to the court room
the tiny space available for children to wait for their court hearing. Our boxes make it so much more comforting for them.

Visiting orphans in Uganda and equipping their carers

Yippeh, my husband just returned from a real intense trip to Uganda/South Sudan. He went to encourage Christian leaders, ministers and educators, conducted leadership seminars and visited a lot, a LOT of orphans ministering to the children as well.

The best room in his hosts house – no electricity, just a gas stove. They shared their food with him, beans, a little rice, a bit of pineapple.
So happy to have a guest from South Africa!
Many people came for prayer
Children from the orphanage presenting an item
All the children are eating a day: one cup of liquid porridge and maybe a fruit for tea. Resources are scarce.
Preparation of the porridge
Traveling on the back of a pick up truck to the next destination.
Sunday lunch. although Uganda has fertile soil, people lack the knowledge to generate wealth from farming. Much more training needs to happen for people to be able to look after themselves. Many rely on the bananas that grow everywhere for food!
Leadership seminar
uganda (7)
Equipping pastors and educators who are the ones looking after the needy in their communities.

Here is what he saw: IMG-20140312-WA031 IMG-20140313-WA002 IMG-20140313-WA003 IMG-20140313-WA004 IMG-20140313-WA008  IMG-20140313-WA011  IMG-20140313-WA013 IMG-20140313-WA014 IMG-20140313-WA015 IMG-20140313-WA017 IMG-20140313-WA018 IMG-20140314-WA014 IMG-20140314-WA016 IMG-20140314-WA018 IMG-20140314-WA020 IMG-20140314-WA024 IMG-20140314-WA025 IMG-20140314-WA028 IMG-20140315-WA002 IMG-20140315-WA003 uganda (2) uganda (6) uganda (13)

Going to court

specialIn my work as a pastor and counselor at Emmanuel Church Louis Trichardt and headmistress of Emmanuel Kinderland preschool I have come to work with many people who themselves were survivors of abuse or came on behalf of a close friend or relative who had suffered through sexual abuse and rape.

As you are well aware of South Africa has a devastatingly high rate of rape, wikipedia talks about the highest rape rate in the world.

The SAPS statistics report that

There were 64,514 sexual offenses reported to the police in South Africa in 2012 alone of which over 45% percent where child rapes.

However, variable reports claim that only 1 in 9 or 1 in 25 rapes actually get reported

This means that the numbers could actually run up to 1,548,336 rapes every year

This means that someone is raped as often as every 4 minutes

Interpol has named South Africa the “Rape Capital of the World”

Extrapolating from the statistics, 1 in 3 South African women will be raped in their lifetime.

2 out of 5 South African male learners say they have been raped according to a survey carried out in 1200 schools across the country (Published in Biomed Central’s International Journal For Equity in Health)

The greatest increase in sexual crimes is against infants and children under the age of seven (Rape Statistics South Africa & Worldwide 2011 www.rape.co.za)

50% of South Africa’s children will be abused before the age of 18.

85% of them will be by perpetrators known to the child.

It is crucial that perpetrators will be identified and severely punished.

ippWhen predators get away with it, it will happen again and again. 40%percent of South African men have raped for the first time when they were under aged themselves. Why is it possible? Cases do not get to court and when they do, it can mean a potentially traumatizing experience to the child and the family.

Most rapists are serial rapists. Seeing them severly punished for their crime acts as a deterrent for other potential rapists while every one that “gets away” is per implication an encouragement in his social circles to others to keep doing the same.
There are so many facets where we need to be involved in to start preventing these crimes. We are running self defense classes, teach parents awareness as 85% of the crimes are committed by someone within the social circles of the child, but you as the justice department are playing a most crucial part in this.

We as church and community need to do our utmost to make the conditions for survivors testifying as bearable as possible.


I am asking church members, parents of our preschool and community members to assist in putting together comfort boxes for children testifying in court, as these parcels can provide a minimum of comfort to a child in such a stressful situation.

The children who are brave enough to relive the crime to help that justice can be served each will receive a care box containing a fruit juice, a snack, a new soft toy, a mini book and some stickers to keep themselves busy, relieve some stress, feel cherished and be comforted from this unpleasant setting.

All items are all new and the fruit juice and snack are high quality. The box is closed with a sticker (picture provided) that says you are special and indicates whether the box is for a boy or a girl.

Thanks for your interest, and may this result in fruitful cooperation in service to these youngest of victims.

The first boxes went to court this week with Magistrate Hanlie Kellerman. Please help me to help the children.

Collecting and making

Schools have opened again in South Africa and my little preschool is working hard to deliver excellent schooling to all children.

At the same time I am working hard on creating and purchasing sensory teaching aids for the blind and deaf children at the Tshilidzini Special school. I will be going in about 2 weeks time to help and assist the teachers. We also want to get a local African artist to paint a nice mural to brighten up the drab environment of the doormrooms.

I need to purchase paint, ornaments, fruit and veg for a better diet for the children, mattresses and some CD players. I have put together a collection of music CDs that are ideal to teach with.

The South African educational system lacks on every level. Education, public schooling, is expensive. The government is not putting the taxes into education (nor into roads, health care etc. It goes into villas and luxury cars). Teachers haven’t heard of pedagogics and are very little schooled in education theory, educational psychology, scientific background.


In Africa, you do never know where to start. Jump in and believe that every drop of sweat you put in has the power to drive away the darkness. Prayers are welcome.

Thanks a lot, fake interpreter! #MadibaMemorial making history.

As somebody who works in the education field in South Africa, I am tremendously impressed with what happened at the Madiba Memorial. A genius planned a fantastic stage act to expose some of our most pressing issues.

For those of you who do not know, millions across the globe were inspired and moved by speeches made at former President Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

You can read about this inspiring event everywhere in the web. Maybe you were also amused at Obama’s selfie shoot,

and Michelle’s angry expression resulting in her even switching seats with the Potus during intermission since he seemed to get a little too comfy with the blonde he was seated next to.Great photo-story here.

But what the international community was really outraged about was this sign language interpreter who was not signing in South African or any other known sign language, but seemed to have stepped right off a star ship :

Or was it true Anti-American activism at work here, really really subtly?


Watch him “translate” President Obama in his historic address to honour old president Nelson Mandela for his life’s work here:

The man, who signed for a portion of the ceremony including Barack Obama’s speech, was simply making up his own signs, say the Deaf Federation of South Africa. David Buxton, the CEO of the British Deaf Association, said the unidentified man, who was supposed to be signing in South African, was “waving his hands around but there was no meaning.”

Mr Buxton said it was “childish hand gestures and clapping, it was as if he had never learned a word of sign language in his life.”

He said sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern, but his were just repetitive hand movements.

“It was hours of complete nonsense. He is clearly a fraud who wanted to stand on stage with big and important people. It’s quite audacious if you think about it.”

I beg to differ. I am saying:

Well done, Comrade!

You accomplished what many of us tried before but always failed: to raise awareness on an international stage of the outrageous South African habit to employ someone for any other reasons than qualification.

When it comes to former-cleaner-come-high-paid-municipal leader, nobody cares if a non-educated buddy of another functionary gets to decide that raw sewage can safely spill into drinking water supplies. And when thousands of Limpopo villagers have no access to running water because Julius Malema well received millions of Rand for a government tender but failed to complete the pipeline he had promised to build, this raises not even an eyebrow internationally.

Let us learn the lesson. Maybe talking about headmasters of special needs schools who receive outrageous pay but do not bother to learn about education should get an reaction?

Will the CIA hold the ANC responsible for allowing a mentally unstable, unqualified person such close access to the president of the United States? Are we ever going to be able to discuss qualifications in South Africa?

Blind children who sit in dark, empty rooms while the donated Braille typewriters stand unused in the shelves because the principal has no idea what to use them for (but he did bother to study the car marked before buying that high end SUV) can maybe draw attention to this problem.

tshilidszini 020Or a fully equipped computer room that does not get used because, as I am told in no uncertain terms: deaf children can not learn words. Just like that. When I am informing the teachers that you can download loads of visual vocabulary games for free online, they do not even look up from their whatsapp chats on their cell phones.

tshilidszini 005a
These facilities built in the 1970s house 400 physically challenged, hearing or visually impaired and albino children who do not get sufficient stimulation or adequate education. And nobody seems to care.

Applaud this comrade who was bold enough to show how the cadre does not bother a bit about educating the special needs people of South Africa!

Now the national “ministry of explaining things away” claims this poor person is schizophrenic http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Fake-interpreter-says-he-is-Schizophrenic-20131212

Well, whatever episode you are suffering on the mental spectrum, you are normally much more likely to regress back to old habits rather than making up non-intelligible signs. For him to sign: mama makes great stew, or at least repeatedly use the SA sign for Mandela, would have been more likely. Which means this interpreter probably never knew how to sign in the first place.

Singing together with the parents of my preschool’s first ever Christmas Concert.

Living in South Africa can be frustrating, to say the least. I learned: involve some topic that matters internationally, like offending the international deaf community, and you might draw some bit of attention to major South African problems. Will things change? Not through international outrage.

At always, it will be the tedious works of love by dedicated individuals that will continue making a difference.

Here is a great blog summarizing the correct steps that should have been taken in appointing an interpreter for such an historic event:

“This whole thing makes me sad. So terribly sad. What has happened to Madiba’s dream? A country ruled in fairness to all it’s peoples? A just government, portraying the hopes and aspirations of a wonderful nation?

“Let us hope that clear minds and cool heads consider the questions raised. The interpreter is just a symptom, you guys. We need to address the disease, not blame that poor man for the real problem.”

PS. It gets even more bizarre. In a weird turn of events the South African Government now admits their interpreter who was entrusted with the task of translating Barack Obama, president of the USA, does not really understand English.
“For you to be able to interpret you must understand the language that’s being spoken at the podium.  He is Xhosa speaking as his first language, the English was a bit too much for him. So yes he could not translate from English to sign language,” says Bogopane-Zulu.

South Africa, please wake up. Now even the African American (black) president of the USA fell victim to BEE.

If you can do with a little chuckle, check out what the “fake interpreter” really said:

A Special Needs School: Love the Children

PS: Read the update on this post here: Revisited


When you live in South Africa, chances are that you are barely making it through your month.

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That’s why at month end the supermarkets are overcrowded with people who received their pay and can buy some food again. I was not used to this from my former life in Germany. I now earn a fraction of what I brought home monthly in Germany. Medical costs are high – my son needed his teeth fixed and it actually cost more than what I get in a month.

As pastors of a big community church in the poorest of all SA provinces, we deal with so many crises that it sometimes seems like climbing a never ending mountain. We had to bury a lot of young people recently due to crime and traffic accidents.

Working for a church means to be the crisis center of a community. And a church in a poor community in the poorest province has very limited funds, so you end up paying a lot out of your own pocket. A new T-shirt for your child or some shoes for a needy sister? I hope some of you can relate when I write that one becomes a little hesitant to get involved in new things. I am not one of the south Africans driving around with a flashy car spending my mornings in gyms and glitzy malls. Wouldn’t mind, but there is real life happening to real people and i don’t want to play the violin while the titanic is busy sinking. I’d rather be tossing more people onto the life boats, if you know what i mean.

In Africa it goes like this: if you have once helped, you will be always responsible to help. Somehow helping creates the impression you have got a money making donkey in your backyard somewhere. We had many people who we helped, showing up again and again demanding more and more things, not understanding that my sons also must eat.

But the Lord Jesus challenges us to never close our hearts, we need to trust Him to replenish what was given.

Out of that call to love, we dared once more to go and check out people who might be in need. You know, when it comes to children, you just have to throw caution into the wind and get ready to help.

So today I have been on the road to Thohoyandou, the former capital of Venda in the Limpopo province.


Africa runs at a very different pace (hurry up and wait).

This Special Needs School has been all the time on my mind though, and after being in contact with the headmaster and some people who wanted to help, I was pushing my husband and finally today we got to go!

I want to share some impressions and pictures with you.

I pray and hope my words can reach your heart and those of some people able to support.

The school was founded under the old Afrikaans regime, a huge complex with great facilities – in theory.

It is immediately evident upon arriving at the school that the gardens are landscaped and the offices comfortable.

Apart from the front, the back buildings are starting to show signs of neglect and disrepair.

At the moment, the TSS is home to 360 visually and hearing impaired children as well as physically disabled children and children with various degrees of mental disabilities who are schooled in 3 separate complexes at the school.


The Principal, Mr. Maluma, received us sitting at his desk.

He informed us that this is a government school. The government build the school in the 1970s. The different buildings on the vast complex are big and solid. But it is obvious that for a long time no repairs have been done.


The Deputy Principle of TSS Mr. Msrabu was so kind to lead us around the school premises.

This is the main building where the staff offices are.

Please read my report carefully. It is easy to come in, judge and criticize. I really do not want to do that. I am sure the staff of such an institution is really weary of people with a camera throwing some bags of cookies around and thinking they are saving the world.

It is hard to serve at any place and not get accustomed to all the wrongs over the years so much so that you get comfortable and stop saving the world, though.

The way leading to the teaching and housing area of the visually impaired. You are looking at classrooms.


Classrooms around a courtyard.




Dorm room for 7-12 year old girls. Everything was clean except for a strong smell of urine due to the bedwetting problems of many children.

Mr. Maluma kept stressing the fact that they need waterproof mattresses.

I really wish the government would provide the funds to renovate the dorm rooms and add some cheer and deco to them.

Another dorm room.


Just get me some paint a a few arty aunties and lets paint this happy!

Stairway to the first floor where there are more bedrooms. I was sad to notice the total absence of decorations.

The cafeteria for the blind.


The facilities were all very neat and clean. Although to me the bedrooms are totally drab and sad, I am aware that many learners are from backgrounds where they probably never even had a bed of their own and also not three meals a day. That is much, and it is too little at the same time.

Roof of the kitchenImage

The government pays the school R17 (about 2 USD) per child per day for food. The parents pay a fee of 1400 ZAR, about 160 USD, per year as a school fee.

As I said it is a government school, the principal and staff are paid by the government. There is no extra initiative to repair the school and purchase any extras out of the private pocket. The government seems to have no funding available to upgrade the cafeteria. The chairs and tables are so worn. I pray we will meet somebody with enough funds and a hart to change this!


The library and resource room. The materials where basically 20 years old or older.


Kids are between grade K (in South Africa it is called grade R) and grade 7.

The severity of their disability differs greatly.


A great number of Albino children (lacking normal pigmentation) whose eyesight is usually seriously impaired, often up to 80%, but who are otherwise fine, are in these special needs classes. To me it was astonishing that they were not wearing any glasses. I do not know enough of the customs in their villages to be able to judge if they are actually better off at this school. I personally felt that the environment in the classrooms was careless and unengaged.

The children were definitely bored as this was not the appropriate place of schooling for those with Albinism.


The classrooms lack teaching materials especially for the little ones.

The kids live at the school but do not have any personal belongings. There are no decorations and also no special materials to teach blind kids. In most classrooms the children were asleep on their desks.

There were Braille typewriters in the class but the teacher said she does not know how to use them.

These typewriters are the only way that blind children can write.

The manager had never heard of Braille and was amazed when I showed him that you can type dots that form an alphabet.

The teachers said it is too difficult for her, she is new. She has been working there since 2010.

I see the effort in teachign the children academic skills. It would be nice if some fun franchises such as Kindermusik could be sponsored to come in and support the teachers.

I noticed that there was only one crafts class,  all other craft classes such as sewing and wood work were closed down, although they could produce toys and the likes for the school. I hope the leadership will realize again that fundraising can and must come from within the school, and the nearby tourism due to the proximity of the Kruger National park would provide a great source of income if for example woodwork was to be sold.

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Another challenge I noticed is that severely mentally ill children where together with learners who were only hearing impaired and obviously frustrated with the little education they were receiving.

Although the school is only up to grade 7, learners are often 20 years of age when they finish school due to the fact that up to the time they get to this school, they have not been given any education at all. Hearing impaired children have not learned to communicate even the simplest terms in sign language before. The teachers have to do a lot of hard ground work and are in over their heads.

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These teens were all desperate for a hug and some praise for their samplers of their work.

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One teacher, asked about the stimulation the children are receiving in the afternoons, told us they are only roaming about. No toys, no activities. I want to bring toys for each child, but I am told that the teachers are afraid that this will cause strive amongst the children. I understand that problem.

I can make simple Montessori-type teaching aids by myself for these children. I will try to get our people to help me purchase the materials needed to make those teaching aids myself.

But I would really need you to ask for some sponsors for waterproof mattresses, and anything else you can think of as well.

There is no visible application of modern educational materials. The teachers need to be taught to use computer programmes to teach vocabulary to the hearing impaired children.

tshilidszini 032

This is a government school. But the braille typewriters stand unused because teachers are not knowledgeable about their use.

There is a computer room with about 16 computers in it and I am told the deaf children can never learn to operate a computer.

When I mention that there are loads of educational games available for cheap or even free online (like for example sorting a picture to match a word), the teachers in the class who are on their cell phones and the manager as well say they hear that for the first time.

Who can support us to be involved in helping??? It’s not just material needs. The children are sleeping their formative years away. So much could be done.

The kids were desperate for a hug and an appreciative word.

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This lovely young first grader sang for us a song with a voice as clear as a mountain stream. So beautiful. Her teacher was the mopst enthusiastic of all the teachers we met, although she has to make do with materials more than 20 years old – only two buckets full of plastic toys, no numbers or counting beads, no alphabet to feel etc. I want to make her some tools like that.

This little blind girl touched my heart with her beautiful song about the love of Jesus she was singing for us. I so hope to have the time soon again to go again and show the teachers how to use teaching aids.

What I can not do is to buy 360 standard mattresses with plastic covering.

The sad thing is that my skin colour is always putting me in the box of “rich and responsible for everything”. Which is not true – I had to even borrow a car to go there.

The classroom with a teacher I really enjoyed. She was trying to do the best for her grade 1 learners with whatever materials she had.

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The teacher urgently needs some toys and learning materials. All she has are some plastic toys in two plastic buckets.

I can rally my friends to help get 360 stuffed toys so the kids do not have to sleep alone on a cold room.

I can make teaching aids.

I can get books and building blocks.

I can try to inspire the teachers to re-open the workshops so that students can produce goods to the benefit of all. (toys can be self made as well).

Can you help us contact organizations who might donate modern day teaching aids to the school?

I can talk to farmers to donate fresh produce and food.

I can buy treats.

I can inspire my youth group to come and do a show for the kids and minister the love of Jesus to them.

Can you find sponsors for the mattresses and other material needs?

Lots of blessings to you from South Africa,

Christiane van Heerden

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Just imagine…

I am just walking home from work this morning, pushing my son in his pram. This lady is walking home in front of me, having just done her grocery shopping for the day at the little store around the corner.

To me it’s a daily sight but I thought some of you might still be amazed how one can transport 10l of water on one’s head.

Education and Twitter Activism

South African pupils I have been teaching

Hi there.

I recently started to have a lot of fun on twitter. Living in South Africa for 7 years I have been doing my best trying to understand this diverse nation’s many layers from within. Europe, and I guess the rest of the world, has their own pre-conceived ideas about South Africa and I still find it difficult to explain South Africa’s reality to my folks overseas. I might dedicate another post to the warped Africa “romanticism” by the western world that South Africans themselves aren’t even aware of. I mean, at school in Germany lots of kids had Nelson Mandela and Anti-Apartheid stickers and badges all over their bags, and multi-cultural festivals display peaceful dancers in leopard skins singing ancient songs. The usual consent is: Just leave Africans alone, white people are bad and exploiting the continent. Africans are best left to live and hunt like 1000 years ago. Those general European ideas, looking so tolerant at first, are so racist on so many levels without even being aware of that. But that’s really not what I want to write about. To give a frame of reference though: In South Africa when I mention the young generations lack of exposure to quality education, certain people’s arms go up defensively assuming I talk about the black kid from the town ship. Guys, I live in a predominately white Afrikaans neighbourhood and most kids I meet here have much less access to education and exposure to the wider world than their European counterparts. When I write about South African kids, I mean them all. See picture of my students.

I have been trying to find my feet and a purpose living and working in South Africa, dealing with a different kind of life and death challenge on a daily base. As a counselor I am working with people from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. I trauma counsel, advise, help in life orientation and motivate.

In my “former life” I worked as a speech and family therapist, College lecturer, researcher. I have a BA in media science and a MA in Educational Science and Psychology. So naturally, I am passionate about education.

What set me aback big time coming to South Africa was the bad quality of the public education system, starting with horrible facilities (no psychologist consulted in the make up of noisy, dark classrooms with lots of desks behind each other, huge class sizes (I was used to 14 to 20 kids in a class, here over 30 is common), short periods (how can any child settle into a subject in 30 minutes) and worst of all: it is not for free. Parents have to pay high school fees plus books and stationary plus school uniforms.

In Germany all education is free. There are no school uniforms. If you can not afford the books, apply and you get them for free.

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Typical display at a German bakery. You study (incl. apprenticeship) 5 years to be a baker Master. Only with that title can you open your own accredited shop. That ensures high quality! Still the Master baker does not sit in an office like South African bosses do. He gets up at 3 every morning, kneads the dough, makes the pastries. And he loves it. He does not dream of employing an unskilled person to do it for cheap. He will maybe have an apprentice and pass on his secrets, with pride. Germany has thought this is a great system for 600 years and it has ensured wealth and happyness for all. South Africa please wake up and learn work ethics.

The whole German education system is free and based on performance. If your marks are right by the time you reach 5th grade, you qualify for the better type school. No matter what background. Compulsory pediatrician visits throughout your childhood scan if your parents are properly looking after you. If not, the government offers free sessions with a speech therapist, movement therapist or other, to make sure kids get a shot at life no matter where they are from. The pressure to perform is high, kids having sex and catching STDs like in Africa is totally uncommon. They know at a young age, if they do not study, they wont be going to University. It is NOT mom and dad’s money that gets you in. Universities are NOT places of party, they are places to prepare for life. Germany does not favour cheap unskilled labour. Any baker or butcher has to properly study and make his Master’s before being allowed to provide food to the public. High qualification requirement ensure high quality products that retrieve high market prices. That guarantees an overall wealth for the nation.

I repeat, University is free. If you can not afford your housing and food, the government will even provide a student loan of which you pay back 50% later in life when you have an income.

I regret that so far both the South African broader public and Government haven’t realized the essential call for quality education in order to advance South Africa into a nation that has a high general life standard for the average citizen.

South Africa has a wealth of yet unused agricultural lands but lacks the expertise to transform raw materials into high-end goods. Why import Lindt chocolate? Too impatient to build proper factories where we carefully conche best quality cacao ourselves? Woolworth is definitely on the right track there, with their speedy improvement in the food department over the last couple of years. And the costumers love them for it. All our industries should learn from that. It takes skilled scientists to produce quality products. South Africans have a romantic picture of an Entrepreneur in his little shop … this is so yesterday.

I am dreaming of a South Africa that can proudly compete with the rest of the world in the arena of high tech products, not just in tourism!!!

South Africa has a wealth of yet untapped precious minerals and other natural resources. We would not need to import as much finished products as we do, if we would focus on training young people to be experts. Japan has no natural resources to draw on but the minds of its people. They didn’t waste their time with pointing who is all racists. They looked at the market, educated their people and produce world-wide respected high-end goods.

Made in Germany is a guarantee for high quality that lasts, isn’t it. That mentality starts in Kindergarten and is instilled throughout school and university. My 62 year old dad is an inventor, entrepreneur, pastor and engineer. He still, at his age, gets up at 4 in the winter time, braves the frost and ice to hands on oversea high way building sites, if necessary climbing into sewers to fix power lines. I do not know a south african engineer who does that. Instead, they will pay 20 or more cheap labourers equipped not with high-tech tools but, as I witnessed, with old Ricoffee cans, to climb into the mess and try to scoop out water. Usually one climbs in, 15 watch, two wave a red flags at cars. The engineer waits at his office for the report.

In the end, we still have power outages at every single rainstorm, the 20 labourers earn a pittance and stay unskilled for the rest of their life and the engineer vents his frustration at his family…

Now who is to blame for this system. The government? Racism? The TV for displaying success as not having to work?

South Africa can within the next 10 years (one circle of school attendance) start implementing a paradigm shift towards quality and prosperity. Our schooling system would be the vehicle on which to educate that revolution.

Via the media of twitter, of all things, I found myself suddenly connecting to mushrooming initiatives that are discussion how we can connect for #AdvancingSA, #buildSA, achieve Quality Education for SA #QE4SA

Have I been blind before or just too new to the scene to find out about those awesome people? Or is this just the right time, where South Africa is ready to stop pointing fingers at old racism and join hands across skin tones to really pursue progress?

So last Tuesday it was my first time ever, whoop whoop, to join a tweetchat on how to help South African entrepreneurs. The topic was how varsities can support entrepreneurs or if a true entrepreneur does not need university.

A heated discussion quickly polarised between those who believe in the self-made, self-sufficient man for whom varsity would be a waste of time, and those who believed you can teach skills and expertise.

What I found difficult during the discussion was that twitter with its legendary limit of 144 characters does not allow for any in-depth explanation. The participants surely did not share the same frame of reference.

First: Define Entrepreneur. what makes him different from a business man.

Define what you mean when talking of varsity, are you plainly referring to business studies.


Of course there are a couple of coaches trying to use the platform to get business. Maybe their intention is not to advance the country but rather catch some business? And there are those who immediately “suck up” to the coaches, rather looking for approval than to engage in meaningful discussion. Not all coachesw are like that, there are for sure some real necessary ones who have the greater good of the nation in mind. But some guys, goodness, can you not see your statements logical consequences materialize in ten years time? You think varsities are unnecessary because you want to be the only star at the horizon? The kind of coaches we need are those who come in, assess, come alongside the organisation and work together in makign things better. They provide access to information hubs, and do not bash the efforts of others. In my experience the ones who scream loudest against other organisations are the ones who accomplish the least.

All in all it was a very fun experience, leaving me fruitfully frustrated:

If I understand it right, in South Africa mainly rich kids get to attend university. That leaves the children from poor backgrounds already unmotivated during school years “why try harder, I wont make doctor anyway”.

The rich kids then waste their parents money on partying to an extend that shocks me. In Germany where education is free but depending solely on your personal performance, we do not have the luxury to spend time getting drunk and having sex excesses. We actually study hard to stay in the loop. Our professors are highly engaged in the practical world. Seminars of 20 to 40 students allow for personal development. I do not think at 17 or 18 you are ready to be an entrepreneur. You need to be slowly finding your feet in the wider market. University provides would be entrepreneurs with the skills to create a high end product, read the marked, do their maths.

The tweet chat entrepreneurs were convinced they do not need all that. Again: frame of reference. Talk to me about your product and I tell you how varsity would improve your business in the long-term.

The tweeps were highly into coaching. I do acknowledge the need of coaching in certain life and buisness situations. People in the tweetchat demanded: Every business man has to mentor at least one newbie. Good and admirable, but when I had the honest question WHY would a business man spend his limited, valuable time on mentoring a young person other than the proverbial reward in heaven (which I said with a smile, meaning it ironic) I only got an outcry of one about me preaching the gospel? I was tempted to reply “Hold your horses, pumpkin, don’t you know the first thing about sarcasm, all I am trying is to ask in 144 characters about what would be in it for the mentor”, because, obviously, there are no free mentors out there in South Africa.

Every South African child needs to have a realistic shot at bettering themselves through free tertiary education depending only on your performance, not race, not financial background or connections.

Wait, there are, actually. Called pastors? Back to gospel, pumpkin 🙂

Seriously. I conclude that a lot of people are still too much in it for them selves rather than honestly wanting to help South Africa arrive at a new mindset of well deserved prosperity.

My conviction is that without free, high quality education including free, performance based tertiary education there is no way to solve any current issue South Africa faces.

I am calling on churches as independent “not-in-it-for-monetary-gain” institutions to drive this home to politicians and business people.

We do not use our resources to the max  because our labour basis is unskilled.

Cheap labour is a curse, not a blessing. 1 educated, hard-working person gets more done without the amount of collateral damage than 14 cheap hired hands.

No child grows up dreaming of becoming the guy who waves the red flag at a building site. All children should grow up having the same, performance based change of becoming a doctor or astronaut, their dreams fuelling their study ethic.

The government must be pressured to put the ta payers money back into education. From the smallest village to the big cities, literacy and general knowledge must be driven to saturation.

Tertiary education must include mandatory periods of practical labour. In Germany, every student has to work at base level in his field of study for at least 3 months during BA level and up to 2 years during MA levels.

There MUST come in quality standards in all fields. Backyard creches in the dirt should be illegal. The government must provide free access to government financed preschools for every child. Preschool teachers must be formally trained and accredited and paid by the government as it standard in Europe. Why does the developed world provide so much more for its citizens than the South African government who put on its flags to erase disadvantages and provide equal opportunities?

Entrepreneurs need to sponsor schools and individuals. In the USA this is normal, the Rockefeller foundation sets up schools and hospitals and the local business at least sponsors a after-care facility. In South Africa I hardly ever see a bench in a park put up by anyone.

Poor public engagement of the rich and beautiful! The high and mighty don’t currently care to put up some play things in a public park for kids, I wonder how we can change that attitude and make them proud doing so?

“This public fountain, benches and flower beds where proudly sponsored by Zuma’s wife no.3, dedicated with love to the citizens of Malaphalla” – wouldnt that be nice? That’s standard in the wealthy nations.

South Africa, you lack expertise, work ethics and a view beyond the rim of your own tea-cup.

I am definitely going to put myself out there to engage in productive dialogue with those who can change things. Thanks for tuning in,


A Southafrican Pilgrimage

Come and follow the link below to travel with me to South Africa

and to understand why I chose this place (or dit it choose me) to build our future.

In doing so, the future of the woman and her family the future of the nation are becoming strangely intertwined, because if you consciously choose a nation (not by birth and not by job opportunity) you do that out of conviction. Out of this conviction we want to make it better – we predict the future by creating it.

Right now, we are busy assessing the needs and potential of this country in order to be a voice of inspiration, to wake the sleeping beauties and to strengthen the disheartened knights to build a better South Africa, together.

Read here: —>  A Southafrican Pilgrimage.

Enjoy the journey! I would love to hear from you, especially if you are South African or otherwise passionate about helping to build South Africa.