Friday, March 2, 2012

Nompondo School

Today we took a break from the twice-daily safaris to visit Nompondo village and school. The elementary school is just up the road from the center of the village. We met the administrator (school secretary) who answered our questions before visiting a classroom and the kitchen.  K-12 school is free and includes a lunch. Today they were having a fish stew and cabbage. One nutritious meal in a village with 70% unemployment and where some of the employed are self-employed street vendors.  The kitchen was designed to allow cooking in two large pots – large enough to feed all the students, about 300.
Marcia Rinta with our Guide for the Day
The student day begins with math in every classroom. They begin learning English in first grade. While there are eleven official languages, English is the language of business and government so everyone must learn it to get ahead. Our guides have all spoken at least five languages and will switch between languages mid-sentence. Rohan, our guide here at Zulu Nyala, provided an example of a simple sentence in which he used three different languages. 

Class sizes are a problem. The first grade class had 71 students. The smallest class still had 34 students. We visited the sixth grade class with 43 students. They were doing a literature lesson which stopped for us while they sang us a song that used to be sung by the miners on their three-day semi-annual trip home from the mines. “Shosholoza” which is asking the train to go faster is now the national sports song. It is the song they sang after winning the Rugby World Cup made famous in the movie, Invictus.

The school year is slightly longer than ours in the US and uses the exam system to move ahead. Unfortunately, most of these children will not go on to college or university, but that is something the government is working to improve. They have come a long way since 1994. The school we visited is the oldest school in the village. Prior to its construction in the 1970s, the school met in a field at the top of the hill overlooking the village. 
No Students - They Are All In Class
In the picture, you can see the two classroom buildings. The bathrooms are to the left in a separate building. The kitchen and administration buildings are also separate. Notice the large green catch basins to store the rainfall. Nothing goes to waste.

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