06 March 2017

Interns reflect: first week on the job

Three new interns are thrilled to join SAHA's team for the March intake of South African graduate interns. Nonhlanhla Khumalo joins SAHA as part of the FOIP team, this is her first legal work experience; Kerry Clark joins the SFJP team; and Selasi Akrong, a Bcom Law graduate joins the Support Services team. These are Nonhlanhla, Kerry and Selasi's reflections on their first week on the job.

Nonhlanhla Khumalo

With a busy week of orientation over, I find it amazing how easily I adapted to the new work environment.

On the first day of my internship, I remember stepping into the office feeling nervous, as I am the only new Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) intern. I was uncertain of how well I would fit in at SAHA and how my first legal internship would play out. I was given an overview of the work of FOIP, in particular, how the programme uses the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) to work towards the realisation of the right of access to information and to encourage the public and private bodies to act in accordance with the statutory provisions of the PAIA. Subsequently, I had to carry out various tasks as part of my orientation and this presented me an opportunity to draft a PAIA request. I was taught how to submit access to information requests, (PAIA requests) using the SAHA PAIA Request Tracker to both public and private bodies. At first, the orientation programme felt overwhelming, however, as the week progressed things unfolded smoothly and I began to understand the work as well as the role I would play as a FOIP intern.

I find it inspirational to work with SAHA's existing team and it is always easy to consult any of the team members whenever I come across challenges with work. The team is devoted to assisting members of society to access information and they are understanding and supportive. There is hardly a moment spent in the office sitting at the desk with nothing to do.

I am convinced that by the end of the internship programme I will have gained working experience which is likely to surpass the highest expectations I had on the professional legal training that the programme provides to its interns.

Kerry-Lee Clark

Like anyone taking their first steps in a new field, I spent my first day in that strange mixture of confidence in my own abilities, and fear that I might be less capable than I thought. By the end of the first week, I learned that asking for help was the only way to manage this; every question was another opportunity to confirm what I thought I knew, or to reassess what I had previously thought to be the case. While I am still coming to grips with it, I am quickly realising where the gaps between theory and practise lie.

When I was studying, archiving was described as a kind of funerary practice for history. Interring objects in such a way that their legacy might be preserved. During my time organising SAHA’s t-shirt collection, this seemed especially true.

I began with a brown box, roughly the size and depth of a human torso. From there, I add a sheet of crisp white paper, and onto that, a t-shirt. It is adjusted to ensure that the ‘face’ of it is left exposed before another layer of paper is added; the shroud which will hold this particular object. The work is slow and considered, and demands a certain level of reverence. Even with more layers added— more objects, more shrouds, the arrangement becomes part of a catacomb when added to the shelves, secured against time.

At SAHA, the metaphor ends a little differently. Here, history is not given an eternal slumber. It would be disheartening to think that as an archivist, I would become a sort of historical grave-keeper. Thankfully, these objects are made to be recovered, and SAHA imagines the archive as just that. It is not static, but an archive in practise. As an intern for the Struggle for Justice Programme (SFJP), my role reflects this. I am part of a process of activating these objects, and making sure that they survive so that others may study them. The present is built on the legacies of the past, and only in remembering that past does it offer something to the future.

I hope to spend my time at SAHA as a mirror of this— contributing to the everyday organisation of the archive, and acquiring the practical skills of an archivist. Beyond that, I hope to nurture a way of thinking that helps me to remember; that I am not a grave-keeper and this is not a graveyard. These are foundations, even if we bury them just the same.

Selasi Akrong

My first week at SAHA was overwhelming. Although the orientation plan carefully laid out the objectives to be met, I found that the best way to truly grasp the work was to dive right into it.

The Support Services division at SAHA is the heart of the organisation. Most activities relating to the work done, financial administration and the general day-to-day operations at SAHA is the responsibility of Support Services. My favourite part of the orientation was familiarising myself with the filing system and learning how to manage finances.

I anticipate that my time spent at SAHA will be filled with learning curves and triumphs. I am grateful to be surrounded by an immensely supportive and dedicated team. I hope to come out on the other side of this internship with invaluable experience that will serve me well in my future career endeavours.