Shebeen ‘shepherd’ looks after pupils

2010-10-24 09:25

While some try to look for ­answers at the bottom of bottles at Michael Smith’s shebeen in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape, ­matric learners are using the joint to find answers for their exams.

Smith has been at it for the past two decades, turning his shebeen into a classroom by night; where matric learners study and revise for their end-of-year exams.

The learners start arriving at his house in groups by 4pm to study after school.

Though not a qualified teacher, the learners study and conduct discussions under Smith’s ­guidance.

They stay overnight and sleep in shifts according to a ­worked-out schedule. His wife, a high school teacher, helps with the tutoring and catering for the learners.

“People say I encourage the learners with alcohol, but that isn’t how I work. The kids are here because they want to learn,” says Smith, who refers to the learners as his “sheep”.

While some are concerned about learners’ preparedness for the exams following the long ­winter break necessitated by the World Cup and the drawn-out teachers’ strike, Smith isn’t ­worried.

He says: “We knew all year that there would be a soccer ­tournament. I’ve been working all year with my sheep and they weren’t idle ­during the World Cup or the strike.”

As a young man, Smith dreamt of becoming a teacher. His plans didn’t work out that way, but he believes he has the ability to work with learners. He claims to have achieved a 99% pass rate.

“I’m a shebeen teacher,” he says. “At the end of the exams I see all the names of my sheep in the newspaper. Then I know that everything was worth the effort.

“I am very tired now. The exams start next week and the kids need me. We are already working through the night. I slept very ­little,” he says.

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