Two worlds tearing a boy’s dreams apart

Mpumalanga teenager Willie Sibuyi dreams of being a scientist one day, or an aircraft engineer. He has already wowed his neighbours in Chochocho village with working models of a helicopter and satellite telephone built from scrap.

But Sibuyi (17) knows that his dream will probably never materialise. He is one of tens-of-thousands of talented township and village children across South Africa crippled by inadequate facilities at formerly black schools.

Sibuyi attended Lungisani High School which is lacking in so many facilities that the school is a ‘shell’, the frustrated youth says, offering an education that is hollow and without any real substance inside. ‘We are taught science, but without doing the experiments how are we supposed to really understand the principles involved? It’s all just parrot learning, without understanding,” he says.

Sibuyi’s growing bitterness is fuelled by the contrasting luxuries of lush sports fields and shiny laboratories he sees at former Model C schools when he visits nearby Nelspruit to beg for bursaries.

‘They have everything. It’s a guaranteed university entrance if you study at these schools, but how do ordinary people without rich parents get in?” he asks. ‘It’s almost like apartheid against the poor.”

The government has long been promising equal schooling for all South Africans, but is struggling to extend quality education beyond a few privileged pockets.

It’s not just small tribal trust schools such as Lungisani High that are suffering. Schools in KaNyamazane, Nelspruit’s largest residential suburb, are also under-resourced.

One of KaNyamazane’ s biggest schools, Lekazi Central High, has

1 216 pupils, double storey classroom blocks and is well maintained.

But principal Judas Siboza says it too is merely a ‘shell’.

‘We have a great building, but almost nothing else. This school is 14 years old, and I’ve never seen a microscope or any other science equipment for our empty laboratory. We all work hard and scored a 68,7% matric pass last year, but that’s based purely on theoretical studies. We simply can’t do practical work because we don’t have the equipment,” Siboza says. ‘Imagine what we’d achieve if we had laboratory equipment, computers and new library books.”

Siboza says his staff and circuit office was fighting hard for better facilities. At the other end of the scale, Lowveld High acting deputy principal Jane Wandrag concedes that her pupils have advantages but stresses that most come from parents and corporate sponsors.

‘Easily 70% of our pupils are from formerly disadvantaged communities, so this isn’t an island of white privilege. Only very hard work by both teachers and parents have ensured that we have a 100% matric pass rate,” says Wandrag.

‘You can’t just sit on your backside and expect a good school to fall in your lap. Teachers here work 16-hour days, while parents voluntarily slave to raise funds for these sports fields every one is so jealous of. Every single computer here was bought by money raised by parents from things like cake sales.”

Lowveld High has seven fully equipped science and biology labs, two computer centres, a language lab, carpentry workshop, and extensive library.

But, even though Lowveld High is beyond Sibuyi’s reach, he won’t let go of his dream. He has abandoned Lungisani High for one of the new ‘private’ colleges mushrooming in Nelspruit. The college, which claims to be a science and technology school, doesn’t have a science lab or one computer.

Still, Sibuyi feels it’s a step closer to getting what he wants. – African Eye News Service

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Zenzele Kuhlase
Guest Author
Justin Arenstein
Justin Arenstein works from Africa. Investigative journalist & #CivicTech strategist. Manages innovation fund tech labs across Africa. Founder @afriLEAKS @Code4Africa @AfricanCIR @HHAfrica Justin Arenstein has over 7519 followers on Twitter.

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