Quotes from my post:
When children say the rat ate their homework- they are not lying. Shirley – teacher at local Ndumo primary school
I have been fighting with the Education department for water and toilets at schools for ten years- Cheryl Ogilvy Tshwane University of Tshwane
The story started like most of mine- getting lost. I thought Ndumo Game Reserve was where Tembe Game Reserve was. After being lost for an hour and ignoring my GPS because it has been wrong out here- I realised my little two-doored car had to brave dirt roads of note
I made it to the middle of nowhere without a tyre puncture. I was praying,
Here at Ndumo Game reserve I didn’t see any animals but I eventually found the Educational Centre full of local teachers in a workshop with Tshwane University of Technology’s ( TUT) Cheryl Ogilvy. Ogilvy is an environmental educator. She trains rural teachers and children how to look after the environment in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN wildlife. The 12 year-long initiative was designed to stop chronic poaching by desperately poor communities at Ndumo game reserve.
Two rural children who were participants in the training are now studying at TUT to become game rangers themselves. This is amazing- this place has no water, no power, no tar roads, nothing.
When I arrived at the training workshop, the 27 teachers were discussing problems at Ndumo schools in a large Rondaval with typical game reserve thatch roof. And then I recognised one: I worked at rural school about 40 km from Ndumo, 11 years ago when I was a naïve 17 year old. One of the teachers Sicelo, who worked there back in 1999, came to the workshop today. Wow- I never thought I would reunite with a person whose name I had forgotten, whose number I don’t know and who doesn’t have Facebook or an address. People here live on tribal land on a hill, behind a bush next to cattle. I am not being patronising- that’s how it is.
After an incredible reunionn I listened to the problems learners and teachers face:
No water at schools (agreed to be number one problem by all 27 teachers). The temperature can reach 44 degrees centigrade in summer. It is 26 degrees today in May- Autumn.
Not enough classrooms. On Shirley’s first day as a teacher (she’s from Gauteng)- she asked where her classroom was. Teachers pointed to under a tree.
Orphans- half a classroom full of hungry children
Rape- “Silence” said Shirley. When I discover that 12 year-olds in my class are pregnant, it is often their brother or uncle who is the father. It is from the way they sleep – all squashed into one hut.
No libraries – Shirley says children can’t take books home because when they say a rat ate my book/homework, they are not lying. There aren’t books anyway.
Long walks to school in the heat.
Lack of nutrition
Shirley is a vivacious bright woman who met her long-term partner at a TUT training workshop in Ndumo. She speaks Southern Sotho and comes from Sebokeng in Gauteng. But she works in Zululand to “make an impact”. She describes how children come to her desperate for water, thirsty but sometimes there is none- They are sent on a long walk home without water. She feels like crying.
“I have been fighting with the Government for toilets and water for ten years” says Ogilvy who keeps trying to improve the schools.
Here in Ndumo, her team teach local children about the environment and taking care of it. The children are taught about snakes, birds and insects. They are trained that owls do not mean witchcraft but actually eat harmful mice. They are shown behind the fences to see what is actually in the game reserve taking away the mystery of “the place behind barbed wire”. The children see Nyala, Impala, Wildebeest, Rhino, Giraffe and rare water birds for the first time in their lives.
They are taught to be clean and pick up litter and apparently their schools are clean.
And some are given E’pap- yes everybody in KZN is mad about the fortified porridge
E’pap is “miraculous” says Shirley. “I have seen miracles, I have seen miracles”
I now give up- I don’t a day without meeting someone who talks about how e’Pap stops malnutrition. I don’t ever ask about it- they volunteer the info.
Ogilvy has raised money to distribute e’Pap to orphans and weighs those children on it. Trials show the children pick up weight, their sores disappear and their skin glows. She has been successful with raising some money to give E’pap to starving kids but her fight for water at schools is a lost battle.
Cheryl ends today’s training workshop asking teachers to write letters to the Dept of Education about their schools. Cheryl tells me, “When I speak to the Minister of Education about how there is no water and no toilets at these schools- He asks for proof. Now I have proof: I will take the letters. Maybe they will throw them away but we’ll keep writing.”