Visiting Local High Schools
This is an entry from my journal for Monday January 29th, 2007.
Today was one of the best of the trip. We visited two high schools, one more middle class, the other struggling.
The first was Midrand High school (like the river, The Rand, from whence the name of the currency also comes) which was a former Model C (White) school. It is the only public school in it's area and charges students R6,000 a year in school fees--which is in a fairly middle class price range. The entire school, like most places in the city, is dressed in thick metal bars and barb-wire and even features a heavy and massive iron gate at it's entrance.
The best part of the day was talking to students. I got to ask and answer questions in front of a nervous 8th grade class room. Four 10th graders kindly escorted me to the bathroom and then gave me some insight into how young students of Indian descent felt about living in South Africa. Later Chris, Fefe, and Ronaldo, all 12th-grade school leaders (like prefects), showed us around the school and challenged us to a gamer of basketball. These interactions were frank and refreshing.
We also visited Equinisweni High school, where fees are only R60 per year. The differences were stark--Equinesweni was in disrepair, suffered from severe overcrowding, and barely had sufficient teaching materials. In talking to a science teacher it was clear that he felt a sense of fighting an uphill battle. He pointed to the endless cycles that his students get caught in: girls trapped when prostitution produces HIV or a pregnancy, bright students who can't afford University application fees and instead of continuing school, end up supporting the needy families.
Te disparity in wealth between these schools is shocking, but it's sobering to remember that Equinesweni is far from the worst off and that Midrand is far from the top.