Going beyond the ABCs
If you can read this, it’s likely you’ve had the benefit of education. Literacy is only one of its gifts ... it is also the fertile soil in which leadership, values and knowledge can grow – ultimately to take root in a life that is productive, successful and fulfilled. Yet quality education remains out of reach for many of South Africa’s children – and with it, their only chance to end generations of poverty. Quality education means so much more than learning to read and write. It also offers the chance for children to fulfil their potential and their dreams and aspire to living full, healthy lives far beyond the limitations of their poor circumstances.
This is one GEM of a club
The start to a school day: walking for one-and-a-half hours to get there
It started when the parent of one of Mahlatse’s pupils died. As is customary, he arranged a collection to help with funeral expenses and each pupil was asked to contribute 50 cents (0,073 USD). When Mahlatse arrived at the pupil’s home to hand over the money, he was shocked at the poverty he saw – and saddened that there was barely any food or income to sustain a school-going child, let alone the old man and two elderly women who also lived there. But Mahlatse soon realised that poverty is a grim reality for most of the school’s 600 pupils.
Of all the children from the five villages served by the school, only two get lifts from teachers. Everyone else walks. Some, like Daisy Mothoa, live 12 kilometres away. She wakes up at 5am to make sure she’ll be able to set off for school early enough and reach her first class on time. Daisy Mothoa’s not the only one. For many, their school day starts with the first step of the one-and-a-half hour walk to school. And it ends long after the last bell … because they face the same long trek home. That’s why the children store their books in tin trunks in their classrooms; carrying them all the way home would be an extra burden.
Given these hardships, what difference could a school club make? A lot, according to Mahlatse. Without hesitation, he runs through reasons for his enthusiasm:
The members’ involvement in educating other learners about teenage pregnancies – as well as HIV/AIDS prevention and other critical life skills, is making a difference. Maphuti boast among its alumni, medical doctors, chartered accountants and engineers – all of whom were educated at this rural school. It is towards this kind of aspiration that the Department of Basic Education, in collaboration with UNICEF, promote the Girls and Boys Education Movement clubs.