Pupils Speak Out: Rich and poor schools

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. 

This piece is part of a three-part series of summaries of discussions Gauteng 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.

Lunga is 17 and attends school in inner city Johannesburg. He loves sport but also wants to be a successful businessman one day. Lisa is 16 and goes to a school in the affluent northern suburbs of Johannesburg. She likes music and dancing.  

Lisa: So what is your school like?

Lunga:  My school is a cool place to be [in] but there are some issues that worry me like bullying, gangsterism and vandalism.

Lisa: That’s rough. There’s bullying at my school but it’s not so bad. How many people are in your school?

Lunga: There are about 900 pupils in my school and we have about 40 pupils in [a] class. 

Lisa: Wow, we only have a maximum of 25 students in a class. So how do learners behave since there’s so many of you in class?

Lunga: The pupils sometimes behave inappropriately and it makes it difficult for the teacher to pay attention to individual learners. You also find that pupils are disrespectful of teachers. Sometimes the ones at the back of the class talk and that makes it hard for the teacher to carry on teaching.

Lisa: Well, since there’s less of us in a class I would say we’re pretty disciplined because it’s a lot easier to manage a smaller group of pupils. 

Lunga: Must be nice … What resources does your school have?

Lisa: We have everything we need. Literally. We have advanced technology, which makes the teaching a lot easier. We have sports things and cultural things. It’s nice. 

Lunga: I think you’re lucky. In our school we don’t have such. Majority of the schools in South Africa don’t have these things.

Lisa: That’s really sad and I’m quite glad I’m in this school. What type of area is your school in?

Lunga: My school is in the inner city where most people don’t have enough money to meet their basic needs.

Lisa: My school is in an upper market area. It’s basically in the suburbs and the majority of the people here are white. 

Lunga: That makes sense because most white people are rich. They would never live in my area. They think it’s full of corruption and crime. For me, it’s a cool place to live.

Lisa: So, why do you think there are these differences in our schools?

Lunga: I think there are differences because of the areas our schools are located in so like with your school being in a rich area you guys have fancy stuff and as for my school we are in an area that’s considered to be for poor people. White people used to live in my area during apartheid but when they left the government stopped supporting it. It went down.

Lisa: Yeah, I guess you can say this is a rich area. And we also have a lot of rich kids in our school so their parents contribute a lot to the school. They donate things like money for new buildings. And we have all the necessary resources we need; we even have student wi-fi, which is a bonus.

Lunga: In my school we don’t have enough computers and sports equipment. Sometimes teachers have to bring their own laptops because they do not have computers in their classrooms. But do you think having these differences in schools is fair?

Lisa: No, it isn’t because I believe we should be equal in our school lives. What I have, you should also have. It is unfair that pupils at better-resourced schools have a better chance at making it out there in the world.

Lunga: Yeah, it’s also unfair because I feel little is being done to change this.

Lisa: I think apartheid still influences what happens today. White people still have more money and power over black people. 

Lunga: How do you think those who benefited from apartheid can help change the way things are?

Lisa: I think white people should actually think about using their money to the benefit of other underprivileged black people instead of being greedy.

Lunga: Yeah, you’re right. But people need to change their mindsets first so white people can stop being racist about black people. Maybe we can change our curriculum to accommodate for more black history.

Lisa: We should definitely do that. I do history and we learn about Russia and Germany and lots of other countries’ history but we learn very little about the history of black people. So basically our history syllabus should focus more on South Africa. 

Lunga: You’re right. If white people learn more about black history then maybe they will understand black people more easily and be less judgmental.

  • Pupils were kept anonymous to protect them from possible negative ramifications.

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