March 2016, Schoemansdal SA
During my visit in Schoemansdal I spend two memorable days with Youth Facilitator Dan’sile. She is a nice very competent lady, 30 years old and quiet a character. Meaning that she gets straight to the point and fearlessly strives for better circumstances for learners in need. She takes no nonsense, from nobody. Early in the morning I am sitting next to her on the top of the stairs where she ‘scans’ all the learners entering the school.She makes notes and later shows me her list with names of learners in need of shoes, a uniform, not looking well etc. She notices all these signs of kids who are struggling and points them out to me. In all these years I have never noticed these signs. It teaches me how I only tend to look at smiling faces; very deceiving. ‘Where is your sister?’ she asks a grade 8 boy. ‘At home, not feeling well’. She makes a note. If the girl is not at school tomorrow, she will go and check. They are a child headed family, like so many. Vulnerable.
In her book Dan’sile has on two A4 pages a very neat list of names + shoe sizes + grades. Later that day we go to the Pep store to buy 40 pair of school shoes. I takes a phone call and A friend at home to donate them. Another 60 pair is bought the next day. The learners sign for receipt. Now they can ‘walk tall’ to school. Happy faces.
After class Dan’sile has more than 20 learners to come and see her. These kids have learned to trust her and tell her what is wrong. She acts immediately if necessary. Takes them to the clinic, social work or to Home affairs to help them get an ID. (No ID…. no school’s sport matches, no Matric exams etc.) She also does counselling and is very successful, I am told by the learners when I sit on the steps of the school.
She is there to support them, makes sure they get extra food for the siblings at home. She organises the Hope Club after school where they can make home work and play safely, she invites them to talk about their situations. Here they learn to support each other and be strong.
I ask her if I may join her on a home visit.We walk the burning hot dirt roads to Lwazi Shongwe’s home and I see how happy the mother is when Dan’sile entered the hut. Matrasses on the floor. No table, no chairs, two pots, 3 plates. Lwazi is doing well at school. His dream? To build his mother a real house,… and a car!!! He has at least his mother. I look around and see a small bag with mieliemeel. Yes, that is for tonight and tomorrow, for her and the three children.
In the shop I ask Lwazi what he would like to buy for his mother. He is very efficient, gets the ‘walky-talkies’, rice, oil, mielieflour, sugar, onions, canned fish, beans, soap, shampoo “can I take washing powder?”, and cream for his mother’s face. I add cooldrink and biscuits for the kids. We cannot carry the load so the shop owner drives us back home, Lwazi and I climb in the back of his bakkie.
This lady Dan’sile is a real treasure for the school and the learners of Lugebhuta. I left out the very painful stories about abused girls and bullied boys. But she deals with it and finds even new safe homes for these kids.