Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A visit to a brother's school in desperate need

Sometimes we do not quite appreciate the gap between those who have and those who don't - until we see it once again. Last week a few people were privileged to heed the request of a brother and visit his school. Bro Dumisani (Westville ecclesia), invited us to come out and visit the school where he is the Principal.

After meeting his wife (Sis. Nonhlanhla) we followed her through areas of KwaZulu-Natal where we had never been. Soon the tar road gave way to gravel as we continued for over an hour over hills and through valleys.

We were amazed that Bro. Dumisani would travel this far on such poor roads to get to his school every day. The rain was pouring down as we finally arrived and parked our car next to a small rural hut. In the shelter of the building stood Bro. Dumisani, dressed smartly and proudly in his tie as he stood ready with umbrellas.

We then set off along a muddy
track, the road being too poor for a car to navigate, and we finally reached the top of the hill where the school is located.

We were first greeted by a rather interesting sign at the gate....warning us that no guns, sharp objects, drugs etc were allowed. It seemed rather strange as this is probablly the last area where the kids would have guns, and drugs's just far too poor.

Emakheni School caters for about 200 children from Grades 1 to Grade 7. This is the only school in the area for these children - and how poor we were to soon discover the conditions to be.

The first building to welcome us was the toilet block. This is a row of toilets (3 for the girls on one side and 3 for the boys on the other side) set about 100m away from the school buildings. However it is not this that is the issue, but rather the condition of the toilets. The toilets are simple pit-based toilets (no flushing - just a hole). Most of them have no doors or the doors were broken. The smell (well you can't do smell with words).

Finally we reached the main school buildings. There are 3 rows of buildings with each grade having a classroom. The headmaster's office and store room is also a classroom - making it rather cluttered and problematic. Firstly we were struck by the fact that there is no electricty at the school. Even although there is an electrical pole in the property their electricity supply was cut of many years ago because the school could not afford it - little wonder - we discovered that even now the school only gets R10,000 (approx. $1300) for the entire year. This must cover all school expenses (electricty, water, outings, teacher training, etc)

During a period when the school could not afford to lock the school or have a caretaker on the property the school buildings were vandalised. Now many years later all the classrooms have broken and missing windows, and most dont have doors. Unfortunately the small R10,000 budget cannot be used for these items and so they just make do.
However worse still was the storm damage. A huge storm about a year ago destroyed the most of the classroom's rooves. Huge gaping holes in the rooves mean that the classrooms are wet when it rains (as was the case on the day we were there). The teachers have positioned bukets and makeshift gutters inside the buildings in an attempt to catch the water.

We also learnt that their water supply is not reliable and often their is no water for the 200 children. Even although there are water tanks, these too stopped working many years ago and there has been no money to have them repaired.

Looking around we were struck by the fact that there was no where for the children to play. The areas between the 3 buildings was a dirt area (mud on the day we were there). There are no jungle gyms, no field (although there is an area which could become a field if it were levelled), no bike track, no shaded areas....nothing!

As Bro. Dumisani led us back to his classroom/office/storeroom, offered us a glass of juice, and proudly introduced us to his teachers, we were struck by their love. Their love for God and their love for their children. In halting English or in Zulu, with Bro. Dumisani as the translator, each one of them expressed their sincere thanks for us visiting. Sitting there, feeling like we had done nothing, we felt somewhat overawed by their gratitude as they said "You give us hope. We have never had someone visit our school. We have never had someone come and see what we have. We pray God will bless us and help us make our school better for our children."

And so we left, in awe of how much we have when others have so little. In awe of the love and dedication these teachers have to work in these conditions. In awe that in these simple surroundings it is the all powerful God who is most relied on.

We are now in the process of seeing if we can get some corporate sponsors to help us improve the condition of this school. What other opportunities may arise here we do not know - but already we can see that our brother has set a Godly spirit in this all but forgotten place.

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