We’ve all seen the pictures, haven’t we? You know the ones of poor African kids in the news headlines and probably thought “Another plea another African begging bowl. BUT, when you see it close up and personal it brings on a whole new meaning.
I visited the Laura Vicuna Education Center in Ennerdale (Southern Johannesburg, and part of the Don Bosco Educational Project.) a few months ago, it touched me so much that after driving out of the rubbish laden roads it is situated in and getting across the highway I had to park my car and cry.
Cry for the amazing efforts that Sister Lidia Castro and the Salesian Sister are doing there as well as a handful of staff with little or no resources. In fact, I couldn’t stop crying for quite a while, which is why I went back.
Charmaine Venter of Umtunzi Exhibitions gave a generous donation for books for a school, so I asked her to accompany me to give books to this school personally. I can tell you my second visit was also an emotional roller coaster, as it was for Charmaine. A roller coaster to see the happy faces of the kids and teachers receiving the books, but sad because when we left we knew they needed more.
They need volunteers to read to the children and help to teach them to read. They need the rubbish dumps around the school cleaned and formalized.
When I last visited Sister Lidia was related a story by one of the other sisters about a 6-year-old child who lived near Orange Farm who walked to school half of the way with her mother who then went to work, the child then walked the remainder through the rubbish tips on her own! We live in a country where a child or woman gets raped every 4 minutes! Why does her mother do it – because it is the best education she can get.
Coupled with this there are many children who attend irregularly as they head up their household and have to care for younger siblings as there are no parents – these are not young adults here people but 10, 11, 12-year-olds who run their homes due to the death of parents usually from HIV/AIDS.
Those who do have parents are supported by their parents scouring the rubbish tips, or if they are lucky they work as housemaids or gardeners often for as little as R100 per day, (That is less than a dollar a day) because they are taken advantage of and most do not have papers.
Pretty grim eh? Well we can change this, if you can volunteer to read to the kids once a week, or better still help teach a learner to read for themselves you would be changing a child’s life forever (74% Grade 4’s cannot read in SA = 74% of 11-year-olds cannot read in their mother tongue) classes are often 50/60 learners to a class, which translates to 6/7 minutes per day per child. So come on folks let’s make a difference.