Thursday, November 08, 2007

Out East

After Dolce’s incredible account of the social life in Benoni, I had to head off and see it for myself.

Not one mullet in sight…yet. I will not deterred. Actually, all I can see are a lot of fields planted with low green stuff. My Zimbo colleague has explained this is maize. Aaaah.

Also, he seems to think he has landed in heaven and keeps muttering how he will one day own such a piece of land.

Oh, plus, currently also decorating this Far Eastern town of niks nie is a whole convention of us do-gooder types bleeding our hearts all over the place for the next coupla days. Fascinating stuff.

Stories of people building schools in areas of the Eastern Cape that are more rural than, well, Benoni. Where children have been receiving lessons in a kraal. How schools should be made eco-friendly…hey, these are places that don’t receive electricity now anyway, so for all this new, community-built infrastructure to be solar/ hydro-powered does make a fair amount of sense.

Tales of how renegade children were given some life skills training, a whole lot of love and trust, and now are model students and citizens. Telling their folks that no, they will not just steal, and telling their teachers that they deserve more respect. They know their rights and their responsibilities.

That at some waterless schools kids are occasionally asked to bring 2l bottles of water to school the next day. [I am still all for more schools and houses being given/ buying rainwater tanks].

How community members are creating organisations that address, and answer!, the hurdles of kids being unable to access government grants because they do not have the correct, if any, documentation. That they never were issued birth certificates or because no one came around with death certificates when parents died in their home. These organisations organise a weekend day where Home Affairs has been coerced into getting their asses there, set up in the community hall or school, to assist the community to get the IDs and other life-necessary documents, apply for grants, and basically sort out citizen admin they otherwise have no time and money to address.

I’ve heard stories of people trying to solve the problems of migrant children. Particularly those kids who are sneaking over from Lesotho. Should the SA government be helping them? What if they are claiming to have one parent who is a South African? What if they have no proof of anything?

Ok, those are some of the happier ones I can recall. I always feel so much more inspired when I meet people working for these tiny organisations, who are blindly creating “best practices” just by trying to day-by-single-day help out a handful of kids and community members.

That’s all I got. Good chance it might not be coherent. Who knew the East could be so exhausting!

By the time you read this, I will be back in rural land, hunting down that elusive Convention of Mullets.


Anonymous said...

Champs - for the mullet convention, head further east, into Springs. Warning: you will need your passport.
I hail from Benoni, and trust me, its very tame compared to its far east neighbour.

Champagne Heathen said...

The irony about my teasing is... my mother apparently is from Springs! She doesn't like to talk about it though... Not that doesn't stop us snooty kids from mocking her senseless!