As a twenty-something postgrad, waking up before 7:00 A.M. is not something I do willingly or routinely. My family members and past roommates have a running joke to not talk to me until I’ve either had my coffee or the clock has struck noon. This morning, however, I hardly recognized myself as I leapt out of bed at 7:00 A.M. without pressing snooze button half a dozen times. I even caught myself smiling, humming Ben Fold’s “The Luckiest,” and talking to people before both my morning pot of coffee and 8:00 A.M. The reason for my excitement was not because I had won the African lottery or was having an especially good hair day, but rather because we were meeting with Andre Odendaal and his family for breakfast.
When we arrived, Andre, his wife Zora, and their three children Rehana, Adam, and Nadia were waiting for us at a long table. After brief introductions and a cup of coffee, it came time to ask Andre questions. Chelsea was the first to speak up, and asked what all of us were aching to know: how did Mr. Odendaal manage to complete the planning for the Robben Island National Museum in only two months? Over three more mugs of coffee (I had forgotten how dangerous free refills are), two glasses of hand-squeezed orange juice, fresh pineapple, almonds, granola, and grilled tomatoes, we also got a firsthand account of South Africa’s schooling system.
Though we have continually heard about the struggles facing schools here, Andre brought up an interesting point that had not yet crossed my mind. Sure, education is at risk in South Africa, but where isn’t it at risk? South Africa is just a microcosm of the world. For as saddening as the statistics are of students who drop out of school early or don’t complete their primary education, the statistics can be comparably as grim in America. While it is important to take note of these numbers while in this country, what is perhaps more important is that we consider the problem globally and not just locally.