Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Khalakahle Primary School

Meet Khalakahle Methodist Primary School. Khalakahle is on the Eastern side of Swaziland, very near the Mozambique boarder. Khalakahle is a smaller school. It only has 402 students. It is on the top of a plateau which means it is generally windy at the school and it has a beautiful view of the rolling hills and country sides all around it.

If Swaziland had a “Bluebonnet School” award, I would give it to Khalakahle without hesitation. The school is old just like the rest of the Methodist schools in Swaziland. However, it is clear that this school has been given some tender loving care. Everything was neat, clean and tidy. The teaching charts on the wall of the home economics room and the few other rooms I visited were very well done, They had been carefully wrapped in plastic before being hung on the wall to preserve them. The Swazi version of laminating! I only went into a few rooms, but each of the desks were in good repair, and they had been working and saving money to buy new plastic chairs for the students, one grade level at a time. This school obviously had great church and community support and the head teacher was a very good steward of her resources.

Rev. Ngema and I went for a parent/teacher meeting to discuss the community resources and needs regarding children and families infected or affected by HIV /AIDS. This is a very, very sensitive subject in Swaziland, just as it is in the United States. There is such a stigma attached to HIV/AIDs that people are very reluctant to talk about it. There are also privacy laws and respect for the individual and family. But the need for education, about the disease and the need for testing as well as pre and post testing counselling was voiced as a common concern. Another concern was the nutrition of the students. Most students, and not just single or double orphans, don’t eat anything before coming to school. The teachers said they notice the children are sleepy, lethargic and aren’t interested in doing school work. (Sound familiar?) Then at the break usually somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 when the children are given maize meal or rice and beans the children have more energy and can concentrate better. Most schools have some sort of what they call a feeding scheme for 10:00 – 11:00 time period which is generally at least partially supported through various non profit organizations such as World Vision, USAID or World Food Program. Very few if any schools provide any type of breakfast to the children because there isn’t a program to supplement that type of a feeding scheme.

At Khalakahle, approximately 22% of the children are double or single orphans. I want to make it clear that this does not necessarily mean 22% of the children have one or both parents who died from AIDS. That statistic is confidential and is not available. But whatever the causes of death, 89 of these children have been orphaned once or twice which puts a financial burden on the community and the school. In addition, this number does not represent the children who come from destitute families nor does it reflect the number of children who come from families who may not destitute but still can not make ends meet.

Most of the Methodist schools such as Khalakahle are in very rural areas. As I have mentioned in many of my blogs, Swaziland is in a drought and there is very little water available through rivers or bore holes. Therefore, there isn’t enough water to irrigate crops. Khalakahle actually does have a bore hole, but for some unknown reason, some men posing as government officials came and took out all of the piping inside the bore hole so it is not functional. They now have to buy their water which is brought in and stored in a 5,000 Liter container. The water is for the entire community even though it is on the school grounds. The water is only to drink and cook with. There is not enough to water a garden.

Khalakahle Methodist Primary School is a Bluebonnet Award winning school in my book. The fact that it is faced with so many challenges makes this charming little school all the more precious and impressive. One little tidbit about Khalakahle. The Superintendent of the Mahamba District of the Southern Africa Methodist Church in Swaziland was the head teacher at Khalakahle before going into full time ministry! She will be retiring next year and will return to her homestead on one of the hills that surrounds the school. Her name is Rev. Margaret Dlamini. The current Head Teacher's name is also Margaret Dlamini! What a coincidence.

Home Economics Room Bulletin Board

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