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Alexander, G. (2010). Nine Times Down, Ten Times Up. Fort Da, 16(1):67-69.

(2010). Fort Da, 16(1):67-69


Nine Times Down, Ten Times Up

Gene Alexander, MFT

Last August, as part of Teach with Africa, I had the opportunity to teach poetry and playwriting at the LEAP Schools in Cape Town, South Africa. The school provides high school education to children from Langa and other neighboring townships. Just under one-third of these students come from homes where one or both parents are deceased. Ninety-nine percent of the students come from significantly economically disadvantaged households and 50 percent of the students live in informal, non-permanent housing. Considering that English is a second language for these students, their willingness to express themselves openly and powerfully through poetry is stunning. The students took to their writing immediately and most seriously. It is important to understand that each and every student in the school is in a kind of group therapy every day, and I believe that this also supports them in being able to be direct and honest in their self-expression.

The poems on the next few pages were written by ninth-grade students. They speak to the challenges these students face day after day. The complete collection of their poems, entitled Nine Times Down, Ten Times Up, is available online through Lulu Publishing ( Although the cost of the book is minimal, we are relying on contributions to continue publishing the journal. To donate, email

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