The schools Zuma must visit

2010-02-14 12:15

AS President Jacob Zuma begins his school inspection drive he

should visit Rwantsana Junior Secondary School. He would be shocked.

Its almost 40°C and its not even midday. Sitting in the scorching

sun are more than 400 learners.

Teachers give lessons with chalk in one hand and umbrellas in the

other.

It’s so hot it is difficult to breathe. The heat from the

hard-baked earth burns through the soles of the ­thickest shoes. Sweat drips

from the faces of pupils as they try to follow lessons.

There are few intact desks so three to four pupils share one. Books

overlap, jostling hands make for ­untidy, almost illegible notes.

Those who don’t have desks ­balance their notebooks on their

knees.

Pupils lick their dry lips constantly. Many sit listlessly, their

eyes glazed over.

A few grade Rs, desperate to get away from the relentless heat

climb into a mangled wreck of desks and other debris lying in a corner in search

of shade.

The teachers leave them to it.

A few pieces of blackboard are propped up by whatever means

possible and it is on these that teachers write out their lessons.

This is how teaching has been taking place at the school in the

Emacwerheni district, about 200km from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, after a

tornado ravaged the school in ­December last year.

School principal Kholekile Mtati was in hospital with kidney

failure when he received the news about his school.

Nearby residents initially opened their homes to pupils and

teachers so lessons could commence. They withdrew their hospitality because the

school was taking too long to get back on its feet.

Rwantsana is not the only school in the province that has been

damaged by tornadoes.

Loyiso Pulumani, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape education

department, says at last count there were 61 schools – with 25 identified as the

worst.

‘‘People may feel they are being ignored but we are aware of the

problems they are facing ,’’ he says.

During his state of the nation ­address this week, which focused on

improving education, Zuma said government would test for basic ­numeracy and

literacy in Grades 3, 6 and 9. It’s almost guaranteed that the children in the

“tornado schools” will not pass.


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