As my mom bends down to tie my shoelaces I think to myself, “I'm glad it's not winter.” The walk to school is only 20 minutes but often it's raining and cold in winter. However with the harvest season over my parents have no work and so there's not much food. I set off with a skip in my step looking forward to the meal I will get at school.
It's an early start as Nicky and I slink out of the house while the children are still asleep. We are headed to help with an outreach effort run by the Kusasa charity at a local school. As usual we get lost as we try and find our way around the township outside Franschhoek. “Hi, sorry we are lost,” I say as I call Carryn who we're meant to meet at the school. We are stopped outside an area that is really poor with broken shacks everywhere. We try and explain where we are. “Sorry,” Carryn replies, “I don't really know the township very well. I just know how to get to the school and out again.” Now that's handy for us, but we are resolved to find our way. After asking various kids strolling the roads obviously headed to school we eventually locate the Dalubuhle school. It's situated at the top of the township and at the base of a beautiful mountain that rises above it.
“Wow,” I say as I look at the school, “this is impressive.” It is obvious that someone has put some money into this school, as a lot of attention has been paid to the buildings and common areas. The walls are filled with fun paintings and even the stairs have games the kids can play that teach maths as they climb them. Nicky and I head down to the reading room where Carryn is going to be teaching Grade 2s English.
Arriving in the room we find Carryn with a group of 16 children sitting quietly before her as she tells them, with animated enthusiasm, a story using some bright images to further engage them. “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Carryn asks a small girl as she teaches them counting. “One - two - three - four,” the girl starts counting with her fingers as she replies, “five - six.” She beams a huge, proud smile at Carryn. The children are all primarily Xhosa speaking, and so teaching them English is not easy. Some of the children seem to have a basic grasp of English, and it soon becomes apparent how important this is.
After a few minutes the children all break up into groups and seat themselves at tables where they have to complete a worksheet. This is where we come in...well Nicky, comes in. I'm the blogger, photographer, observer, assessor, person. I'm not that good at wiping snotty noses, patient enunciation, and general kid teaching. Thankfully Nicky has all these skills and is soon engaging the children entusiasitically in the lesson. Similar lessons are unfolding at the other tables. It's now that we realise how important it is that some of the kids speak English. They quickly translate the instructions to their siblings and its heartwarming to see the care and concern they have for each other. This is where ubuntu is born and demonstrated, where the success of all is more important than the achievement of just one.
“I drive in from Paarl” Carryn tells us as we chat to her afterwards about her work with the children. It turns out she volunteers to teach these children three days a week, for no other reason than that she cares. She drives 100km three times a week, and its making a huge difference in these kids lives. It's passion and dedication like this, the unsung, quiet heroes of our country who make both our journey so fulfilling and our country so beautiful.
As we leave we see a little girl skipping out of the large school hall. I can see a look of glee on her face. “We provide breakfast for the children everyday,” Sintu the community liaison officer for Kusasa, says as we see other children filing out the hall. “Many of their parents are seasonal workers on the winefarms, and so they often have very little at this time of year. Its the donations of many kind people that help us feed these children. It makes a real difference, one that many never see nor ever know.”
As we chew on a crispy chocolate twist and wash it down with Franschhoek's best flat white at The Hoek coffee shop, we marvel about South Africa's paradox. Just minutes from this up-market coffee shop are shacks with hungry kids. Just kilometers from the beauty of Franschhoek is the harshness of shacks. Yet in this paradox is a story of hope. It's a story that shows while our world will always have paradoxes, true beauty exists when the one touches the other, and when both learn and grow from one another. Just outside Franschhoek at the beautiful wine farm La Motte there is a statue of a woman holding an overflowing cup of water. Its the symbol of our experiences, for surely our “cup runneth over”.
Enter your email address to join us and get the latest blogs fresh for the bush/beach/berg: