Rural school still waiting

2011-12-07 14:29

There’s been only one significant change at Ncunjana Primary School in KwaZulu-Natal’s Thukela Valley over the past six months – winter has gone and summer has arrived.

Otherwise, conditions that six months ago saw pupils standing up in their leaking mud-walled classroom to write exams in the winter wet have remained the same.

Recent end-of-year exams in the thick of summer rains saw the combined Grade Six and Seven class write theirs exposed to the elements, part of their classroom wall having collapsed.

Between the seasons, principal Glenrose Mthethwa had expected the provincial education department to deliver five mobile classrooms.

However, they failed to materialise amid mixed messages she said she received from the regional office in Ladysmith.

Now, the department has said four mobile classrooms have been allocated to the school for next year.

“These will be delivered before the start of the academic year,” says the department, adding that the national department of education had indicated that it too would attend to the school’s infrastructure situation.

Mthethwa, meanwhile, watches the tireless efforts of her staff and children to carry on as usual in the mud and the wet, sticking to the schedules.

“These are departmental exams. We cannot postpone them,” she remarks.

Mthethwa is long suffering in her attempts to make a decent school out of Ncunjana Primary.

It started six years ago through the initiative of parents who wanted a school closer than the one that served them, 16km to 20km from their homes.

Their previous school supplied one teacher and parents went about building Ncunjana Primary at their own cost.

The provincial education department says Ncunjana became its school in January, having previously belonged to the Umzinyathi District authority.

“None of the 242 children pay fees,” says Mthethwa. “Very few of their parents even work.”

The lucky few children sit on chairs and benches. Some use old tins.

Most come to school with empty mealie bags to shield them from the cold and muddy floors and kneel when they write in their books.

Mthethwa says for the majority, their days at Ncunjana will be their only school experience.

“Only a few of our children go on to high school, because high schools in this part of the world are too far for them to walk to.”

Meanwhile, the department says the school is 13th on the list of schools to be built in the infrastructure plan that the district has submitted.

The delivery, or non-delivery, of the mobile classrooms in the New Year will tell whether 13 is Ncunjana Primary’s lucky, or unlucky, number.

» Duncan Guy is editor of the education publication

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