Matjana Community Preschool

Kaphunga Swaziland

Matjana is a not-for-profit, community preschool in rural Swaziland

Siswati Lessons for an Aussie Teacher

Written by Michelle Brear

I knew as soon as I took on the job of teaching at Matjana Preschool that the little siSwati I knew would be completely inadequate. I made a vain attempt to learn all the “important preschool words” before starting.

Michelle at MatjanaBut I knew I’d be working with another teacher who spoke siSwati, so I thought “it doesn’t really matter.” It hasn’t really mattered (except that I can’t eavesdrop on the kids conversations), but even if it did, there was no way I could have properly prepared myself!

I did manage to learn some of the “important words”, but the kids had a remarkable ability to pretend they didn’t understand me. When I told them “hambani ngaphandle” (go outside), they just stayed inside, looking at me blankly. When I said “hlalani phansi” (sitdown), they continued to run around and they certainly didn’t shut up when I said “thulani” (be quiet).

I was expecting to need “toilet” words and learnt pretty quickly that “ngifunakuchama” means “I need to pee” and “ngifunakukaka” means “I need to poo”. But I didn’t learn quickly enough that it sometimes also meant “I need help getting my pants off”. I guess the odd toilet accident was to be expected though.

UmmmmmBut there were other important words that I never considered I’d need. Who would have thought such beautiful kids would beat each other up or make each other cry? And how could I possibly have been prepared for the strange questions they’d ask?

My siSwati had improved enough to understand the question when one of the kids asked me, “uhlalaphi make wakho?” (where does your mum live?), but how on earth do you explain to a five year old Swazi where Australia is when you teach in a classroom with no world map?

There where other things I didn’t even realize I’d been asked until it was too late- but one of the kids swears that I told him to cut the head off his octopus! I probably did, but how could I have known he was asking me “should I cut the head off?”

Thankfully the paper octopus was the only thing that lost its head!

A Picture of the Swaziland Flag


Matjana 2009

New Swings for Matjana

2009 Begins

2009 School Committee

Matjana 2008

Improving MPS in 2008

Parents get involved in MPS Committee

Comparing 2007 and 2008

Dancing at MPS

Training Swaziland Teachers

Ministry of Education Inspection

Matjana Excursion 2008

Graduation Party 2008

Matjana 2007

The First Month

Why Kaphunga needs a preschool

Inaugural Fundraising Day

Matjana becomes Registered

Michelle gets Siswati lessons

Enrolment for 2008

Plans for A new Classroom

Chris and Corina visit Matjana

Fun Filled End to first Year

The Graduation