The mood is solemn but you can feel the excitement of the teachers as they stand in a circle, all holding an unlit candle. This is the moment they have worked towards for two years: it is the graduation from the course we have been running over a series of workshops, spaced out between holidays.
Nomathemba, our workshop facilitator, begins. She goes to the centre, lights her candle and turns to the first teacher. "May you take the light of what you learnt back into your classroom," she says as she lights the teacher's candle. These words echo through the room again and again, as teacher after teacher lights the candle of her neighbour. Smiles break out, this is a big moment for these women who have never received a formal training in their lives.
The receiving of the certificates is a noisier affair as cheers break out after each teacher's name is called. Then there are the photos – individual photos, group photos, photos with Nomathemba, photos with the toys they made during the workshop. Now the mood is buoyant and the room filled with chatter; no longer strangers to each other as they were at the first workshop, but family that had gone through highs and lows together.
It is a beautiful ending to a week that had been challenging for many of the teachers. During the last workshop we did the Hero Book, focusing on the teachers' personal development and finding the Hero within. They had to delve deep into their lives, think about the experiences that had shaped them and how they had reacted to adversity in the past and how they would like to address it going forward. Many tears flowed but it was within a space of trust and for many there was a sense of release. At the end, the teachers created a Hero Book and retold their stories, with themselves at the centre as the Hero.
– next page