Donation improves dire situation

2007-12-13 00:00

FIVE thousand rand might not be a lot of money, but for the pupils of Bambinkunzi Primary School in Nhlazuka near Eston, it has gone a long way.

The 28 students are mostly children of farm workers in the area. Some have to walk bare foot for as far as five kilometres from neighbouring farms to get to school.

The conditions are so dire that the children, whose ages range from five to 15 years old, are forced to share two classrooms, with only two teachers shared among all 28 pupils.

“There is no electricity, there is no running water and the water tank you see there is very new,” said Min Keyser, a former teacher who works at the school on a voluntary basis. She comes in two days in a week, to teach English and art.

According to Keyser, although the school receives very minimal government support, the children are so underprivileged that they have limited stimulation compared to what is necessary for all developing children.

“I try to make sure that my lessons are centred around fun elements like art, because these children don’t even have televisions at home,” she said.

The money given to the school was raised and donated by a former pupil of St John’s Diocesan School for Girls. She was answering a call by President Thabo Mbeki, who addressed St John’s during a visit.

The president’s speech, which encouraged those who have to reach out to those who don’t have, struck a cord the pupil, who decided to grab the bull by the horns and assist Bambinkunzi Primary School, which she identified through Keyser.

Perhaps, it is no coincidence that Bambinkunzi, is the Zulu word for grabbing the bull by its horns.

The school started as a missionary school more than 24 years ago but has become derelict over the years.

“With the money we received, we have been able to fix the windows and the floors. We have also been able to paint. But obviously that is not enough. There is so much more that needs to be done,” said Keyser.

She has helped establish a feeding scheme with an American friend, on top of the primary school nutritional program offered by the government.

The school’s two teachers travel from as far as Richmond and Pietermaritzburg to get to work everyday.

“It is work which puts us here. But I must say it is not easy. There is office work that piles up on you, there are provincial meetings that must be attended and with just the two of us, it does get overwhelming,” said Gugu Mkhize, the only teacher who was at school for the day.

Mkhize has been with the school for 24 years and has been in the teaching profession even longer.

“I have to teach one grade and give them work, so I can move on to another grade. It is a big toll and I’m not as young and as fresh as I used to be. I’m starting to feel the pressure of being overworked,”

She said she pays R350 for transport each month out of her own pocket. However, she feels her pupils deserve a teacher as much as everyone else.

“They are good children. People need to reach out to people in rural areas because they really need help,” said Mkhize.

One of the parents, Zanele Gumede, who is a former pupil of the school, said the school has not changed much since the 24 years when she was under Mkhize’s care.

“The money has helped a lot. It used to look like the wild in here and they had to use cardboard in winter so the children wouldn’t freeze,” she said.

Gumede is one of few who was able to go through to Grade 12 and works in the area as a domestic worker.

“It is not easy to finish matric around here, simply because there is not a lot of encouragement nor incentives for the children to want to do better,” she said.

But despite the worn out shoes, patched uniforms and the broad shoulders these children need to bear the weight of life, it has not stopped them from having big dreams.

Zama Mkhize (10) is in Grade 4 and wants to be a nurse, despite the fact that she can’t speak English and no-one in her family has finished high school.

Lindokuhle Gumede (13) is in Grade 6. Like his name suggests, he awaits only good in his future. He plans on being a pilot. However, Gumede will be forced to travel an even longer distance next year to attend another school, should the plans for the school to accommodate Grade 7s not succeed.

“While there might be a lot of other schools like Bambinkunzi, I believe if each and everyone one of us decided to help at least one, we would make a difference in our society,” said Keyser.

Any form of assistance can be directed to Keyser at 083 631 1204.

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