Friday, October 24, 2008

Thembelihle Methodist Primary School

Today is Friday! Yeabo! It’s been a long busy week but a productive one.

Today Thoko, Thini and I drove to visit Thembelihle Methodist Primary School which is part of the Mahamba circuit and is 86 km from St. Paul’s; the last 16 km or so were on a long dirt road – of course. I actually visited this school in August, 2007, but my camera battery died that day so I couldn’t take any pictures. I had promised to come back soon. This is Africa, it’s taken me 14 months and 1 day to make it back, but I made it. I delivered some teaching aides from the USAID grant and I delivered some used textbooks that came from Rotary International. And I wanted to also find out more about the school. It is nestled in the hills on a part of a farm that was donated to the Methodist Church in the 30’s (If I understood correctly). When I was there last year they had just been burglarized and vandalized. They were also struggling to get fencing to keep the goats and cows out of the school yard so that eventually they could have the 6th grade agriculture garden. I was very pleased to hear that they hadn’t been burglarized or vandalized again since they replaced the security guard. I was also very, very impressed to see that they had fenced the school yard and had a huge garden area fenced off to grow maize and vegetables to help feed the children in addition to the 6th grade agriculture garden. I’ve come to learn a lot about fencing since coming to Swaziland and I would guess that the fencing cost probably 70,000 rand. They had also done some work to start repairing one of the teacher’s cottages that had been very badly vandalized.

Thembelihle has approximately 425 students 55% of which are OVC’s. You can tell that number is probably about right by observing the condition of their uniforms and the looks on many of the faces. Many children don’t have shoes. I noticed this school has a lot of small ants crawling all around. Usually I see large black ants and not as many. The head teacher said that when the children stand for assembly, the kids without shoes can’t stand still because these tiny little ants bite. (They reminded me of fire ants.)

This school gets its water from a community borehole with a hand pump. The water pressure is not good at all. They have to carry the water needed to cook with or drink to the school. This includes any water for the teacher’s use in their cottages. They are going to start planting a very small garden but because of the water situation they can’t grow much. Because there is such a high OVC rate, and many OVCs can’t pay the required school fees, the school doesn’t have the amount of funding needed which includes the money needed to make sure there is food everyday to cook for the children. This is a familiar story at all the schools.

1. Children waiting in line for “lunch”…a bowl of beans.
2. Kitchen and the cooks wrapping reeds in used chip or candy bar wrappers. These will be put together to become mats to sit on or sleep on.
3. Water pump. It wasn’t hard to pump the water, but it would have been tiring if I wanted to fill up a bucket. Oh, and then I would have had to carry it back to the school. That doesn’t sound like fun. Imagine a small child having to carry a bucket of water back to their classroom, garden or home.

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