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Friday, 24 June 2011

Going home.

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.

Happiness is going home.

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.

The buildings in the foreground is the Amphitheater Back Packers Lodge. The area where the children and their families live is in a valley beyond the lodge about 6km. Follow the faint footpath in the foreground (right hand corner of picture) and you will get there.  In the back ground the Drakensberg. On the southern point, (on the left of the picture) is Champagne Castle, with the Outer and Inner Buttresses, and Dome.

Northern end of the Northern Berg, with the sentinel and Amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre lies in the Royal Natal National Park. Named Royal since the Royal families visit here in 1947. Natal is know as the last outpost of the British Empire, we still have quite a few things with the appellation Royal.

Entrance to Amphitheatre Back Packers Lodge.


Jo said...

Ah, those last photos make me feel homesick for SA, Phil. What a treat for those children to be taken home for the holidays. They all look very happy and well-adjusted. So you have another holiday? Enjoy! Love and blessings, Jo xxx

Desiree said...

The children all look so happy! I am sure it must be a joy to teach them, as they are probably very eager to learn, unlike many kids who come from wealthy families and expect everything to be served to them on silver platters. I do hope these children get to experience an 'easier' life than that of their parents. I'm sure the parents are just as eager to see these little ones educated and being given better opportunities and I am equally sure there will be several touching and heartwarming stories in the years to come :)