Today is the start of our 3 weeks winter holiday and children that are in our school hostel have to go home. The Italian leprechaun and I took some of the hostel learners home today in one of the schools mini buses. Apart from going home at the holidays, the children get taken home every third week and long weekends.
These children are part of the Education Departments Rural Consolidation plan. Here in KZN we have hundreds of small schools with about 50 learners and 2 teachers. These schools have no proper facilities, sanitation or water. Teachers have to do multi-grade teaching, meaning that one teacher will teach from grades 1 - 4 and the other will teach grades 5 - 7. This is never a satisfactory situation and most of these learners never make high school. Thus they have very little chance of finding employment and the cycle of poverty continues.
The rural consolidation means that these small non viable schools are closed, the teachers are allocated to bigger schools, and the leaner's are sent to schools such as ours that have hostel facilities. The government pays their boarding and school fees, provides uniforms and pocket money. These children come from very poor families who literally have nothing, no work, no income, except what they earn as seasonal workers on farms, there are also child grants for children to the age of 16, about R250pm about US$34.
We were very surprised at their adaptability, the smaller ones, grade R in pre-school and those in grade 1 & 2 shed a few tears, but within days they had settled in and were quite happy. Most of them have very little or no English so we have to teach them a brand new language plus all the rest.
The group we took home today live 90km away in Drakensberg foothills. When we got to the drop off point s their parents and grandparents were waiting for them. They still had a long walk of several kilometres before they got home.
This is where they live. Click on pictures to enlarge.