‘WE ARE FORGOTTEN HERE’
Phamela Fili (16) has never touched a computer in her life because her school, Noqhekwana Junior Secondary School, has never had electricity.
Fili wants to be a social worker one day so she can help other poor children from rural areas, but her school cannot provide her with the means to make it to university.
Situated 10km away from the town of Port St John’s, Noqhekwana lies at the top of a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean and the breathtaking Wild Coast. This in the only school at Noqhekwana village, and pupils who complete Grade 9 have to find a high school elsewhere.
Because her school has no electricity – a violation of the department of basic education’s own minimum norms and standards – Phamela says it means that they have no computer laboratory, library, science laboratory and other basics such as projectors. A private company donated a projector to the school in 2014 but it is now gathering dust because it can’t be used.
“Our situation is very sad. During school holidays, other children who go to schools outside the village always brag to us about using a computer and being able to research their homework using things such as Google. We are completely forgotten here,” she said.
Phamela said she couldn’t wait to go to high school next year, to a school with facilities she has only dreamt of.
“It’s as if we are being punished for being children born in rural areas. What is worse is that in this day and age, most rural schools have electricity but for us it’s not the case,” she said.
The school also relies on rainwater harvesting for its water supply and during dry seasons the school hires a bakkie for more than R1 000 to fetch water from the nearby river, which they use for cooking and drinking. Established in 1953 by the community, the school has 438 pupils and 13 teachers. There is only one single block which was properly built by the government, with five classrooms. One of the classrooms is used as a staffroom, principal’s office and as a storeroom because there is no administration block. Six other classrooms are prefabricated structures. According to a November 2016 report by Equal Education (EE) titled, Planning to Fail, the school only received upgrades after visits by the national department of basic education as appeals to the Eastern Cape department were ignored.
The report also found that neither the national nor provincial departments took any steps to provide interim access to electricity in the form of either solar energy or by providing a generator.
“The school does not even appear on the Eastern Cape department of education’s plans with regards to their implementation of the uniform minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure,” the EE report found. Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the school was one of seven without electricity in Eastern Cape and the department had plans to fix it.
Lubabalu Ngcukana –