This amazing story may not be set in Knysna but it’s so inspirational that i beg you to read it. It proves that good teachers and a supportive community are more important than classrooms and numbers…even more important than water and electricity!
‘There is this saying — ‘never judge a book by its cover’,” says Snegugu Khumalo, a former pupil at Mpumelelo Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal. “I would say the same thing. Let the conditions make [people] not judge this school because basically what is inside, what this school produces, is what will change the world.”
So what are the conditions that she is referring to?
Nearby stands a beloved tree with a rich history — grade 10s were taught there for two years before more classrooms were built. Principal Bonginkosi Maphanga’s Toyota Tazz served as the school’s staffroom for many years. A classroom filled to the brim with 98 pupils — better, he says, than last year, when there were 102.
The school was started in 2005 and was the first in the community. Eight years on, staff and pupils would say things are slowly getting better. Today, pupils still share chairs, sit on bricks and blocks, and sometimes squat or sit on the floor.
When it rains, they move around to avoid water dripping on to their books. Pit toilets remain. There are three mobile classrooms, and all are very crowded. Yet Maphanga said he still has to send interested children away, not because of a lack of desks, but a lack of floor space.
Studying for a better future
Grade 12 pupil Andile Makhowana doesn’t dwell on the conditions at the school because they are not so different from those at home, where he studies by candlelight. He is at the school for his future.
For most pupils and staff at Mpumelelo, which is in Loskop on the edge of the Drakensberg mountains, conditions are upsetting but not a hindrance.
I have been in crowded classrooms before, but there is nothing like watching 98 grade eight pupils quietly listening, raising their hands, following directions — you could almost hear a pin drop.
Back in 2010, when South Africa was hosting the Soccer World Cup, Mpumelelo was celebrating the arrival of electricity — and another year of 100% matric pass rates.
In 2009, still without electricity, Mpumelelo also managed to achieve a 100% pass rate. The school decided to ask nearby residents who had electricity to help by letting pupils into their homes to study together…
Read the rest of this amazing story, School Triumphs Against All Odds, by Molly Blank, at the Mail & Guardian.