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.

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