‘WE ARE FOR­GOT­TEN HERE’

CityPress - - News -

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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 –

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