Letter from Hobeni, South Africa

Elliotdale Technical and Commercial Senior Secondary School is one of the schools that serve the Hobeni area. It was started in 1997 as the result of a community meeting, convened by the local chiefs and the Bomvana Chamber of Commerce. The school faces challenges, one of which is the lack of flushing toilets for the 800+ pupils. There is no school library, a lack of computer equipment and a shortage of teaching and non-teaching staff. The headmaster said that the average class size was 100. Despite all this, the school has a consistently increasing examination pass rate.

There is a high rate of pregnancy amongst the female pupils, which has dropped recently. There is also a high rate of dropouts from school because of pregnancies and because of insufficient transport. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that the pupils’ parents are predominantly illiterate, which limits their ability to contribute to the education of their children. The apartheid state did not educate the parents because their role was to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water”. It was not considered necessary to educate them.
Elliotdale is a typical school. Many of its problems are beyond our ability to help. But there is one thing that we can do something about. It has no library. There is a room for a library, but no books to put on the shelves. We can help to ensure that, through the ACTSA Scotland Book Appeal (www.actsascotland.org.uk) that these books are delivered. At Elliotdale, they are looking in particular for books on mathematics and the sciences, but books on any subject will be a help. Books that assist the pupils in learning English are vital. The pupils do not get much opportunity to practice their English, and are therefore lacking in confidence in the use of this language, which affects their ability to learn as there are virtually no textbooks on any subject available in Xhosa. This is especially the case in mathematics and science, and, of course, English.

The transformation of a society takes a long time and depends on the ability to educate its children. If they cannot understand the language of instruction, they cannot learn. To understand the language of education, they need to have books so that they can learn to be comfortable in their schooling. Send books.


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