With all the diversity of culture and a rich historical background that can be expected to be found in South Africa, it remains hard to stand witness to utter disregard of historical value and heritage.
A few months back I was contracted to work on a project that involved the maintenance and cleaning of an old monastery school that was hand built in the 1900's. And although the buildings and structures on the premises is a monument in its own rights it has served as a functional monastery, hostel and school ever since.
However in this case, given current circumstances I feel that "functional" is a very strong term. The once completely self sustainable establishment has since been reduced to school grounds that is completely riddled with vandalism, as children with lack of discipline and disregard for heritage and values of history are overseen by a handful of staff and teachers that will easily shrug and say "boys will be boys" while shyly looking down.
As it goes with most schools, donations are always welcomed in order to extend the school, or make necessary improvements in order to better the learning experience of the youth attending the institution, and this school is certainly no different. In this case though, even with very handsome donations, the school does not quite seem to be moving ahead, and it simply makes me wonder about the integrity and control of the fund appropriations.
One example of this is the R 30 000 000 donation that was placed in a trust for the school by a generous former student of the school. The funds were made available in order to expand the school and its facilities as the classrooms were heavily over occupied, and although the planned building has started about two years ago, none of the new classrooms are ready to be used by the students yet. One ablution block as well as some offices has been completed and is currently in use, but sadly the sub-par materials that were used in the process is very clear, fittings and fixtures such as door handles, towel rails and light switches have already come loose, and that is not even going into the building of the unfinished classrooms, and roumers already has it that the funds for the building has been depleted...
We need more books...?
As we know, donations does not always take the form of cash, as it is, the school is currently requesting new books in order to fill their empty library.
Here's the thing though, it is not that the school doesnt have any books, the problem is simply that the school is not happy with the absolutely amazing well looked after books that they currently have in stock, so they threw them out, leaving them with the now empty library, while they sit back with outstretched hands asking for books.
On a side note; all of the old books were set aside to be collected by a recycling company who in turn pays the school a minimal amount for any paper collected from the school, and although recycling might be a step in the right direction, throwing out a perfectly good library collection simply in exchange for the instant gratification in form of small change in relation to the actual worth... well that doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do; and this raises the question, even if they receive new books for their library - how long will it be until those gets sold as well because they are not 'good enough'
But let's not only focus on all the wants - lest have a look at what the school has:
Such as a wonderful fully equip junior science lab, that up until very recently was fully stocked with all the necessary chemicals and equipment. Sadly though, this was just one of many school classrooms on the premises that remains subject to constant vandalism and theft. Below you can see how the door to the lab has been broken down and repaired on numerous such little crusades. And because of the lack of a sense of value, things like microscopes are being smashed just to get magnifying glasses out.
What bothers me the most, is that the lack of discipline in the school allows for these kids to put themselves in the line of danger, because there are exposed chemicals in the classroom that is better kept contained. But you know 'boys will be boys' right?
One particular piece that frustrated me exceptionally, was when I saw a beautiful antique microscope that once had gorgeous marble and brass finishing, left in complete and utter ruin.
And this is not the only antique item that is left for destruction, on the school grounds we have found so many pieces of hand crafted wooden antique furniture that has been broken down or left out in the rain to rot. We have also discovered a great deal of items that it my opinion is much better suited for museums than blatant neglect.
The worst for me is that there is absolutely no consequence of action when it comes to the students of the school, and whenever students destroy school property, the school simply seeks more funding to replace the items with newer better stock. Just think how many under privileged schools there are that would be grateful to have access to half of what this school has been issued with.
Another huge problem that goes together with the lack of discipline is the simple practice of basic hygiene, and the mentality that is linked to fixing the problem.
You see on the school premises, the hostel children would use water fountains intended for students to get water during school times to bathe in, brush teeth at or even dispose unwanted foods as well as rinse out mops. And this is not done because of a lack of facilities, there is more than enough places in the hostel that is allocated to do all of the above. But again instead of the pupils corrected in a basic disciplinary fashion the school in stead decided to close off all the taps at the water fountains, depriving the kids of acceptable drinking water... because that makes sense right?
But these are simply a few of the ongoing factors at the school that makes my work straining - because we can repair and maintain all we want to, but if no discipline is put into place, it will remain a futile effort.
Please note that I withheld the name of the school as well as numerous other details due to the nature of my work
The South African educational system for a very big part of it is completely shot to shit - not only at this school, but at various others as well, in fact just during recent lockdown when schools were left vacant hundreds of schools were vandalised and robbed of which many were completely burnt down, leaving no-where for their learners to return for schooling, and at the end of the day it will be EXPECTED of government to use taxpayers money to rebuild and restock these schools. This is a sad but true reality and it is not only seen during lockdown or only with schools, this is in fact a very common occurrence in SA. Hospitals and universities that was once properly run and maintained would more often than not get neglected to the point of them being unsatisfactory and then burnt down because 'WE WANT BETTER - AND WE WANT IT FOR FREE...
Doesn't really make all that much sense when the maintaining and proper management of such institutions would have cost far less! Just makes me feel sad.