This is part of a series covering BWB Co-Founder Xavier’s recent trip to Africa.
*November 12, 2007
Rain is soaking the red dirt roads and we are exhausted as we head to the fifth and final school of the day, Nomevu High School. We are running late because of a long presentation at Mafunda HS, but the students at Nomevu are waiting for us, even though many have quite a walk home ahead of them. Alone on a grassy hill, this school has just one building. There’s only room for the 8th and 9th graders, so they’ll have to drop out by 10th grade.
Teachers greet us at Nomevu High School.
Thankfully, ECAG-USA, an non-profit building classrooms in this area and that organized our Africa trip (see their website or read the previous post), has placed this school as #1 on the waiting list for more classrooms, so that the students can graduate.
The process for a school to get new classrooms is that the school’s home community puts up a $1000 payment per classroom, and then, through fundraising and donations, ECAG sponsors the additional $11,000. The classrooms have a standard design, so the materials are accountable to the last brick and can house around 50 students comfortably. They are built with electrical wiring, but adding power is an extra for the school to pay. What happens if ECAG doesn’t build? That’s it; no new classrooms. The kids don’t graduate, or in some cases, have no school at all. Many students in this area still learn under a tree, but on a rainy day like this, it’s a day off. Cool! say the American kids, but think of how often it can rain in a season here! And, no desks, no library.. hardly a good learning environment.
I have mentioned that all primary students are fed a meal each day at school. What we learned today is that the government doesn’t sponsor high school students, so that means these kids at Nomevu had been waiting for us, without eating all day. Our hearts are breaking for these humble, appreciative students. Sorry this post might be a downer, but after we’d fallen in love with so many kids all day it was really hitting us, how hard life can be here. On the way here, on the radio, the newscaster announced that HIV/AIDS is the #1 killer of children in South Africa. How were these kids today so full of life? I had to wonder if they thought our visit meant that we would be able to solve their problems, or if it was, you know, just a lot of fun. I certainly had a wonderful day, but still I felt a bit guilty.
The end of a long day, Nomevu HS.
Like at every school, the students had songs and dances ready for us, including the native costumes for the girls. I don’t feel comfortable posting video of the girls to BWB because they are topless, but I did think they were so beautiful. My favorite choral performance of the day, however, was this one:
Let it shine in Zululand video. (youtube)
The teachers provided a snack for us of sandwiches and chicken in the other classroom. Knowing the kids hadn’t eaten, and since we’d had snacks all day, nobody made a move for the spread. Some of the ladies in our group whispered we had to take something to not be rude, so begrudgingly, we did. More guilt… Anyway, we unloaded the sandwiches and drinks we had in the vans. With that and all the leftovers from the snack, there was enough for a small meal for each student, and we felt better knowing they had eaten.
What a day! We are overwhelmed but ready to help these students graduate. If you’ve been following this blog, you remember that at the end of this day, after Nomevu HS, we went to visit the student Nomkhosi’s family.
Xavier and Erin, bottom left, and the ECAG and Books for Africa group, enjoy the show.