Life would get kind of boring if we just stopped filling our brains with new stuff. Bulembu is home to an amazing school system for kids of all ages, including adults, thanks to a special English as a Second Language class that’s being taught to the Aunties. “The Auntie’s kept asking when they could learn some more English,” explains Leslie Shirk, the instructor of the English classes.  How could she refuse?

Leslie, who arrived in Bulembu in 2010 along with her husband, Bulembu’s Medical Director, Carl Shirk, M.D., started working with the Bulembu childcare program. Her task was to help newly arriving children transition and adjust to their new lives in Bulembu. But now that most of the newcomers are babies, she has been counseling children with special needs. Leslie says that since the day she arrived, she’s wanted to start an English Second Language class for the caregivers.

Her dream came true in March when she began offering two classes – beginners and advanced – to about 60 Aunties. The classes are held for one hour every Tuesday and Thursday morning and will last through the rest of the year. When asked what they wanted to learn, the Aunties said they wanted to work on punctuation and writing proper letters. Leslie says the classes have become great fun for the competitive Aunties who play games, such as Bingo, as a learning strategy.

Part of the fun in learning is sharing all of that wonderful knowledge. Patricia Mamba is Aunty to six children, and she’s been able to take some of what she’s learned to help the children in their studies. These classes are teaching the Aunties a second language as well as helping them to gain confidence in reaching their children and beyond Bulembu. They are proof that none of us ever really stops learning.

By Theresia Whitfield