15 September 2007

School in Madladlane

Children in Madladlane attend a primary school located by the community's meeting tree. There are two sessions per day so that all the children that are able have a chance to attend. None of the students wear uniforms, but each family must pay a fee at the beginning of the year. The money covers the teacher's salary and some of the classroom materials. The school has two teachers. Both are really good with the children - that's what the community tells me. :)

And the kids really seem to like them and follow their instruction. Children learn Portuguese, math, reading, and writing. I am unsure about formal science or social studies lessons. However, children learn much about the environment and how to draw subsistence from their surroundings from their grandparents, parents, and older siblings.

Children play in the schoolyard before school. They also have recess periods throughout the school day. Soccer (futebol), jumping rope, hopscotch, leap frog (see below), foot races, and giggling are very popular. The children line up each morning by height and sing before school starts. One of the older girls helps out the teacher - I watched her break up fights, keep children in line, organize games and activities, and help younger children learn. In this picture, she is leading the class in the Mozambican national anthem. Her assistance frees up the teacher's time to focus on teaching and lesson preparation.

All of the children are taught in one room. Half of the roof is open to provide light. However, this means that school gets canceled on rainy days. The teacher said that school is also canceled on windy days too because sand blows through the spaces on the reed walls and also blows all the papers around. In the past, during the rainy season, school was held at the reserve in a cement walled building. However, with roaming elephants, flooding rivers, unstable bridges, and the extra 2 kilometer distance parents felt it was too dangerous for little children to walk to the reserve main camp. Children walk to school on their own as parents are busy in the fields and around the homestead. There are currently plans to build a new school out of cement blocks. This structure would allow children to attend school all year regardless of weather. Gala has had this type of school for a couple of years now.

People recognize the value of education. In 2004, I discovered it cost $4 month/child for tuition, room, and board at a school in Ponto do Ouro. The woman I spoke to in Gala said that her family scraped this together every month because she wanted to give her son (her other 2 children were still infants) a choice of possibilities when he got older. Literacy opens up many doors.

Older children, if the family has money, must go to Bela Vista to attend secondary school. Bela Vista is the district capital and is over 25 km away. Students board at the school, so families pay both tuition and room/board. A number of children would be capable of continuing, but their families cannot afford it. Some older children are shipped off to relatives in South Africa to attend secondary school if the family has connections.

I officially visited the school my last day in Madladlane on my last trip. The children invited me. When I first arrived in Madladlane, they often would run away from me as I approached yelling "Mulungo! Mulungo!" This is the Rhonga word for white person or branca. After visiting most of their homes and probably being the hot topic of discussion for a couple of months, I am less an object of fear and more like someone just interesting enough to watch. At any rate, I was taking a GPS point at the reserve guard post across the dirt road from the school. I looked up and was surrounded by little children. All getting close, but still far enough that they could run if they wanted. It was a little startling since they were all supposed to be in school - across the road on the other side of the fence.

I pulled out my camera to take a picture of the GPS point. That was what they wanted to see. Immediately they started asking me to take their pictures. I said that I would but only if I could take a picture of them in school. They rushed back to the school. One little girl waited for me (she's the one with the crazy braids in the front row above). I apologized to the teachers for interrupting class, but they said that if the children wanted to use their recess to get a picture taken that was their decision. And that it would be a neat thing to look back on in the future. The children took their seats and the pictures you see are the result.

This was my last shot at the school that day. People rarely smile for photos. Not that they don't smile or laugh, but that photos are so rare one needs to look serious. I like this one a lot because it is so spontaneous.

I hope that Mr. Hansen's second grade class at Fowler Drive Elementary School (Athens, GA) likes the photos. If they have any questions about the school, please write and I will share your letters with the children here.

No comments:

Post a Comment