In his second blog instalment from South Africa James Butler writes about day two of his trip and visiting his sponsored child’s school.
Getting up at 5:30 am on holiday doesn’t seem quite right, but we need an early start to get to the project for 9am. It is quite a drive, and the road will be busy with schoolchildren, unpredictable pedestrians and even less predictable cattle.
We couldn’t sleep anyway. A mix of excitement at seeing Dieketseng, her family and the work of the ADP, and trepidation because we know we will experience a challenge to our emotions today. We’ve done this before, which helps because we know what to expect – but is also tough, because we know what to expect. We just pray that today we see more hope than despair.
Finally we arrive at the ADP, a modest collection of small buildings where we know from previous visits great work is done. Ledile, the project manager, and Maite her colleague greet us warmly. They welcome us back to their project like long lost friends, which in a way we are.
We start with the all-important briefing and paperwork, so we can be sure we are safe here, and they can be sure we will be responsible in our contact with children while we are here. It is easy to dismiss this formality as too much and unnecessary (after all, do we look like a threat to children?), but then we remember a talk from World Vision UK staff, and how real a threat it is, and we are grateful this much effort is put into protecting the children.
Next we meet Bellina again, the community development worker who walks the villages in the ADP, making sure all the sponsored children are safe and well. She has spoken with Dieketseng’s family just a few days ago, so we are eager to hear news. Sadly, it is not good news. Both of Dieketseng’s parents are unwell – we hope just a chest infection, nothing life threatening, but It does mean they haven’t been able to work, and that has grave implications for all of them.
Since our previous visit in 2009 Dieketseng has moved up to secondary school, so our first stop is different this time – we are going there to take her out of lessons briefly to go home to see her family. As we draw up at the school gates, about half a dozen children are outside the gate. They were late this morning, and must wait until break to be allowed in!
Soon after entering the school grounds we are introduced to the Principal and, it seems, every member of the staff. Handshakes and friendly smiles are exchanged. Here handshakes are no cursory affair, and are more akin to a rapper’s greeting on the streets of Harlem. First you shake hands, then you lock thumbs, then you shake hands again, all the while holding your right elbow with your left hand. It makes for a lengthy interchange with a dozen or so teachers!
Break time starts and many of the 700 pupils mill about – we are quite a novelty and worth a look, it would appear. And then, amongst a sea of faces, we spy Dieketseng. She is older, of course, but unmistakable, and her beaming smile shows she is pleased to see us! Now we must take pictures with all the staff, and Dieketseng, and you can see she is enjoying being the centre of attention, as any 15year old might.
She looks a little nervous when we ask her teacher if she is a good pupil, but he is only complimentary. He does well to know, given that we are told she has 56 teenagers in her class. We certainly don’t envy him!
We start to go, but Dieketseng has a request – can we take a photo with her best friend?! Happy to help, we wait while she rushes off to find her one friend. But obviously she wants more than one to join in the attention and be cool for the day – so she comes back with a gaggle of friends. Amongst much giggling, we manage to get a photo of us and the group of girls – something we can send to her in our next letter.
In my next blog I’ll tell you all about the bittersweet time we spent with Dieketseng’s family. If you’d like to hear a bit more about my time here you could take a look at my first blog.
Also, if you’ve got any questions for me feel free to post them here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks.
Any views or opinions contained in this blog are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent those of World Vision.