Due to pressure from the international community, the Swazi government has started to offer “free” primary school education. But while it costs around $250/student per year to offer decent education, the government in years past used to pay $80/student per year for grades 1-5. This year they decided (due to pressure) to add grade 6 for free but now only is able to pay $58/student per year for grades 1-6 leaving the school in even more of a deficit. As a result, at eLangeni, Grade 7B had no desks. Kids in 6A were sharing chairs. All children (as young as 5 years old) have to carry their desks and chairs from room to room (ie science to English literature) making multiple trips therefore taking away valuable class time.
The picture is intense…no chairs, broken desks, no food, teachers not getting paid…even if 40 students are in a classroom, that makes $2,400 for the YEAR for desks, chairs, teachers’ salaries, school structure upkeep, uniforms, food, and supplies (textbooks, chalk, notebooks, national exam fees, etc). This is simply impossible. The deputy teacher asked us to provide the students with new desks and chairs (US $3,087).
We then went to the preschool and taught the children the numbers (Thanks St. Charles women!) and alphabet (Thanks WinGS women!). Not unlike the US, the students got tripped up on the numbers 16 & 17 and on L-M-N-O-P…. they’ll get there though!! We then played my rendition of “spoons” with 32 pre-schoolers and all of the kids cheated!! The kids pocketed more than one “spoon” to eliminate more of their competition. Ty thought that it was genius and we should not punish the “smart” kids (cheaters!!). Our preschool teachers are volunteers and so such a remarkable job with our orphaned students!! Nelly said she volunteers for the love of the children but that love cannot pay her bills. GHFP gave her a small stipend today but we hope to increase it if donations allow in the future. (Thanks for your support!)
We then delivered food to 5 child-headed homes today (Thanks FOODOM/Mitali!!). One of the neediest families was delivered at 9pm and out of the darkness hurried an old grandmother yelling “Gogo is HAPPY!!” and “Siyabonga my children”. With all of the waste in America it breaks my heart to see the people get so ecstatic over a bag of rice and beans. I always wish we could do more…
Afterward, we took our sponsored orphaned boys out to purchase essential hygiene products, to dinner (with MEAT!), and to lick KFC soft twirls (Katy, you are jealous right now). They tried to teach us a Swazi card game called Casino but we never quite caught on…. I could have taught them a mean game of Old Maid though!! Goodbyes are hard but Kait and I are excited to see them in May!!
I cannot believe it’s our last full day today in Swaziland! Tomorrow morning we will wake early to pay for the necessary desks and chairs for eLangeni Primary School (please help by donating to: www.ifightpoverty.org/donate.html) and then spend the morning with the Msibis. Thanks for reading this blog! You will find me here again in May when our next Give Hope, Fight Poverty Service-Learning trip occurs and until then you can reach me at: anniefightspoverty.org and visit our website at: www.ifightpoverty.org
Siyabonga (Thank you)!! …for everything.