Azhar Vadi – 7 September 2012
Heading down to Polokwane always excites me. I love the bushveld, the arcadia trees standing next to each other stretching their branches touching each other tip to tip, the dust.
Sipping at South African life north of the Gauteng noise is a cup of calm I can never turn down. This time around I’m accompanied by my station manager, Shamsheer Khan and senior producer, Ponty Moletsane. We are on a scouting mission looking for a school to benefit from the Cii – Educating the Future, container library project.
Breaking out of the out of the Gauteng N1 traffic we scuttle along the seemingly endless road en route to our first stop, the Northern Muslim School where we are scheduled to meet the Bariqal Amal community organisation in Polokwane. We are also introduced to the Nirvana Welfare Department and the school librarian Mr. Ghani.
Conversation and discussion soon turns to the innovative library project, the costing involved and more importantly the location of the beneficiary. At approximately R150 000 a library, Bariqal Amal, has taken on the responsibility of joining Cii in raising the funds to install the facility. Mr. Ghani suggests we visit the Polokwane City Library before heading to the Education district office to get some direction as to where this library should be located. With 16 000 schools in South Africa not having this necessity turned luxury, it’s not difficult to find one in rural Limpopo; but choosing which one, can be a tricky decision.
Mrs. Lotz, head librarian at the Polokwane library, is overwhelmed with the idea. It’s an expected response because normally a person involved and passionate about a particular field of service has a deeper understanding about how that service can impact positively on society or the stunting affect due to the lack of it .
Chebeng she suggests. There are at least four schools in close proximity and none of them have a library in that village.
The closest municipal book depot is about 25 km away. A quick meeting at the Department of Education District office and we are suggested to look at a school in Chebeng called Mahlodumela Primary opened in 1959. As we turn off the main road, Shamsheer realises we should’ve bought a 4×4 instead of a VW Caddy.
Welcomed by chickens, some cows and children with sheer determination as their only real supplementary learning tool, we enter the school yard and meet the principal, Mrs. Mapahalane Anne Mailula. She has been at the school since 1979 and not much has changed in terms of development over the years. The school caters for 237 learners from Grades R to 4 with three other schools in close proximity with learners up to Grade 12.
“A library is infinity under a roof,” said a person named Gail Carson Levine once upon a time. For the learners of Mahlodumela it will open up an entire vista of experience, stories and the colour of childhood.
The Educating the Future campaign will be the key to unlocking this.
Qaanitah Hunter visited the second identified school to benefit from this project.
My experience of the Vezamafa primary school
“Buhle, do you know where the Vezamafa school is in Cleremont?” I asked the domestic worker at my mum’s home . She gave me a puzzled look that asked, “what do you want in Cleremont?”
I quickly explained to her that I needed to visit the school as part of my ‘radio work’.
On a dull Wednesday morning I set out from Reservoir Hills, a Durban suburb, and drove around for about 10 minutes before reaching Cleremont, a township that I had never previously visited.
Much like any other township, there were RDP houses, shacks and fleets of taxis in various colours with different township tunes thumping.
After straying through a maze of un-named streets and many “Hamba’la’s” (Zulu for go there), I arrived at the school.
I recall thinking it to be not much different from any other government school; face brick and dusty as I drove up the driveway. Little did I know that the school does not have electricity.
I began my tour with many curious eyes following me. I started at the grade R classrooms where the kids were painting on the back of used papers.
“It is very hard for us. The kids can’t afford photo-copy paper. They can’t even afford fees,” Tracey, the deputy principal said Its R100 a year.
The school consists of 300 pupils and 7 educators.
As I went from class to class, I noticed the mark of poverty. Government provided school books were not covered, kids erased their work with a fifth of the normal eraser size and some of them had broken school bags.
Tracey then explained to me that most of the learners come from shanty houses in a ditch behind the school and most of them suffer abject poverty.
“We have to feed these kids. We grow vegetables and then we cook for them. It is sometimes the only hot meal they have for the day,” she said.
The reason for my visit was to assess whether the school is deserving of a library to be set up by Cii.
Thus far I was not firmly convinced that the school deserved it, because there are many schools across the country that suffer similar problems.
Then I come across a stack of old newspapers. “What do you use this for?” I curiously asked the deputy expecting her to answer for cleaning or art purposes. But I was gobsmacked when she told me that they have a reading period ever morning and they read from the old newspapers.
It is evident that the school lacks fundamental resources but what stands out, is that the educators are dedicated and committed. So while they do not have access to books, teachers write out short sentences on charts that plaster most of the classroom in order for the learners to gain reading practice.
I left the school with a lump in my throat and a hollow in my heart.
So when my colleagues asked me whether this school is deserving, I remember the stack of newspapers and junkmail and quietly reply, yes.
To contribute to this initiative email email@example.com or call 011 494 7000
Tags: container library, Educating the future, mahlodumela, vezamafa