Sunday, June 16, 2013

Michaelhouse Nearby but Majority of Kids Walk Distances in Cold Weather for an Education

Siphumelele Zondi

Last week I was in the area of Nottingham Road in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and I met an old man who inherited a massive farm in 1990, he has built a hotel in a certain part of his farm, donated a huge chunk of land to the Crane Foundation and has built decent four-bedroomed homes for families he says his ancestors found on the land over a hundred years ago. He also does a great job in ensuring that indigenous ways of the Zulu people are promoted and even has a Zulu traditional healer in his hotel spa. But it’s the land that made me think, it mainly made me think long and hard because I spoke to the man’s son who said he went to the extremely expensive Michaelhouse College which is nearby, he also told me that his sons also go to Michaelhouse. After he had told me this I then observed that a lot of black kids in the area walk for long distances to school. Winter mornings in Nottingham Road are extremely cold. 

Those catching public transport complain of frost that makes the area cold. I spoke to a woman with a car and she said she had woken up late and had arrived late for work because it was just too cold for her to get up, walk to her bathroom which has warm water and get into her car which has a heating system. The many kids I saw on the streets of Nottingham Road don’t have such options, they can’t decide that they will get up late and not brave the cold when they need an education. Their parents never inherited huge amounts of land so they can have options in the economic system their ancestors were not a part of and didn’t create. If they want a better future, they must just accept that it will be hard for them. They must accept that they will walk the long distances and their hands will get cold in the morning as the body walks up during the long walk to school.

We are constantly reminded of 16 June 1976 as the reason we have this youth day. This reminder tells us, the middle class who are also children of the middle class to be grateful to those that paved the way in 1976. While these reminders come, we forget that the struggle for an equal or a better education still continues. Too much focus is in the cities and we seldom read about the kids like the ones I saw in Nottingham Road, kids who are braving harsh conditions because their parents want them to have a life better than they could have, Their parents don’t own land, they don’t have much of an inheritance for them if they have any at all. The land their ancestors were found on is the land they still live on today, only it belongs to someone else. Often it belongs to someone they work for. Some even expect that the employer will also give a job to their kids one day.

Kids in the Nottingham Road area would be going to schools with no science or computer labs, their education is at a disadvantage compared to the education of the many people who have inherited land or inherited businesses because of the structure of the past. It’s 2013 and while we discuss the issue of textbooks that don’t get delivered by the government, we should also be discussing the issue of how unequal education is for kids in the rural or semi-rural areas. As I observed these kids who walk distances in the cold, I then looked across and saw the big yards, sports fields and massive gates of Michaelhouse, a school in their area, but a school they’d never have access to even in their wildest dreams.

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