The article you are about to read is part of a weekly series of comment pieces written by South African pupils about the problems they encounter in their schools. The series offers pupils a chance to be part of the debate about South Africa’s education system.
Lulu* (17) attends a school in inner city Johannesburg. She says most Friday afternoons pupils from her school will gather to have physical fights after conflict that week. Palesa* (17) attends a school in the northern suburbs and lives in Sandton. She thinks her school has “too many resources” and should share them with poorer schools. Amanda* (17) attends a school in central Johannesburg and lives in the northern suburbs. This piece is part of a three-part series of summaries of discussions pupils had about race-related issues at their schools. At the time of writing, the pupils were participants in a writing workshop hosted by Media Monitoring Africa.
Palesa: So what is your school like?
Lulu: Yoh! My school is noisy. There are more boys than girls and there are no whites. We can sometimes have 40 pupils in a class. My school is in the inner city, which a lot of white, rich people think is a dangerous area, but I find it safe. My school doesn’t have enough resources like computers. We have science labs but their roofs are falling down so it’s too dangerous to use them. We also don’t use our pool but we don’t use it because we can’t afford to buy chemicals for it.
Amanda: The inner city? Hai, that must be rough. I’ve never been there before because I’ve heard it’s dangerous. Well, my school is well resourced. Ja, we have activities like sports and cultural things but the cultural stuff isn’t really supported. We have about 30 pupils in a class. We have school trips every year. Some pupils disrespect our school leaders but it is under control. Oh, and my school is in a safe environment.
Lulu: At my school our pupils overpower our teachers. If a teacher tells a pupil to leave the classroom, the pupil will tell the teacher: ‘I have a right to education and now you are disrupting it’. Pupils will speak back to teachers and stand together as one against her. They will complain to the principal about it.
Palesa: We don’t even try doing that at my school. We have no power. If a teacher says you must do something, we do it. Anyway my school is also in a safe, quiet area. We are a diverse school so we have an equal number of different races. We are offered a lot of resources, and pupils are forced to wear their uniform with pride. My school has many activities and we have tours once a year.
Lulu: Why do you think there are these differences between our schools?
Amanda: I think it’s because of the different areas our schools are in and the different backgrounds we come from. Race has a lot to do with it and yeah … I think that’s it.
Palesa: Our schools have different resources and that affects our experiences. We have different resources because of our history. During apartheid my school was only for whites and it was in an whites only area so it got a lot of money and resources. Now the laws have changed and anyone can come to the school but there is still a lot of wealth in this area so my school benefits from that.
Lulu: Oh, ja I agree with you guys but I also think it’s because of the different financial problems different schools have and the participation of parents in the school. The parents who send their kids to my school are mostly poor and don’t have a good education so the parents on our school governing body (SGB) are not very strong. It’s hard then to fix financial problems at the school.
Amanda: How can this situation be changed for the better?
Palesa: I think the rich people can use their money to provide scholarships for underprivileged learners, you see? Instead of them buying materialistic things they could help those who need help.
Lulu: OMG! I think it would be difficult to convince the rich people to do this but worth a try. Maybe they can come sit on our SGB with their skills and help us run the school better.
Amanda: Also, rich people should help poor communities by creating awareness of rough situations.
Palesa: They must come visit our school and see what it’s like. Maybe this will help them understand how different people’s lives are and maybe they will change the way they speak. I’ve heard white people say black people are going to rob them and that’s not fair and it’s not the truth. It makes black people angry and like they don’t belong here.
Amanda: Yeah bra. Those are good points and I totally agree with ya’ll.
*Pupils were kept anonymous to protect them from possible negative ramifications.