One of the highlights of this amazing experience that I had been awaiting, happened on Thursday when our research team finally got the opportunity to meet with the Brettonwood students and begin our training on photovoice. These students, ranging in ages of 14 to 17, are so impressive--extremely sharp witted and intellectually astute. Several of the students are much more mature and wise beyond their years, which doesn't really surprise me for kids growing up in historically marginalized community. I see this alot with kids in public housing or low-resourced communities in the US, many of whom have to develop quick survival skills early on that give them a certain depth to their thinking that say more privileged kids don't acquire until much later. And as Kira pointed out although they are not adults they have not doubt experienced some adult things that have given them a perspective that is so advanced for their age. "Diamonds in the rough" is the way Tula (my UKZN colleague) described them and I agree wholeheartedly. An example of how clever they are is during the introductions one of the university students said that they were in community education and outreach. Without prompting or delay, a Brettonwood student responded "oh so you are a CEO." The university student with a frown on his brow appearing confused at first said, "ah no I do community education and outreach" to which the youth responded again, "yea, I know so you are a CEO." Which we all then immediately got and laughed. It was sort of a eureka moment where we realized just how quick thinkers some of these students are and that just possibly we would be learning a whole lot more than we would be teaching.
The other exercise or activity that gave us our first glimpse into the critical thinking skills that the students already possess is the responses that we got back from the Bretttonwood students during a focus group in which we were exploring how they defined "healthy" community and what came to mind when they heard the word healthy. Some of their responses (again without prompting or delay) included: being physically fit and eating the right things; taking your medication as instructed; being happy; not using drugs or alcohol.
The pictures are of the student's faces as they were exploring their cameras and listening to Zoe instruct them on the technical use of a camera. A picture is worth a thousand words and the look on their faces is priceless. They are clearly intrigued by their new cameras and interested in learning how to put it to good use.