Today, it was just Charlie and I. He met me at the gate and drove me to three different schools in Dumphries. My mission was to take photos so that we can start to rebuild the collection of photographs which had all been lost this past year. It was also to say hello and see how things are going.
The first school was Ntseveni Day Care, where I met the lovely Miss Sandra. She took me around the two areas of her school, showing me the various class rooms and explaining the history of how each part has come to be. It opened in 2005 with just one tiny brick building that had to hold over forty students. That small space is now used as storage and an office. I couldn't believe that within those cramped walls used to be a classroom of 40! She told me how Africa Foundation helped out around 2011 and built a larger classroom and also proper toilet facilities. "Before that," she explained, "we had to just have buckets down on the ground with seats and we had to make a cover around them." Then P'nP came and helped to build another classroom as the school's population started growing, and now they have also added another which is just awaiting more furniture and school supplies. Ntseveni has nine staff, and about 175 children. I learned they get paid 1,000 Rand per month, which in US dollars is equivalent to about $100. The children's 100R tuition helps pay for this, but it is still not enough to have food for them when they are at school. Sandra shows me a small brick hut which is half finished, "That is where we want to stock bread so that the children can eat when they are here, but we have not been able to finish it, and we don't know when it will be done." 30R is enough to buy bread for the whole school, she tells me, but even if a truck full of bread arrived, there would be no place to keep it. When I asked Sandra what she felt they needed most right now, the first thing she said was "a kitchen." She pointed over to the brick wall where a woman was hunching over a pot and continued, "It is difficult to cook in the rain, we need a kitchen with a roof." Other than these things, the school is alive and bustling with smiles and playful little bodies everywhere. They have two lovely play areas, one which was built by the Virgin Unite crew two years ago, and the other which was donated by Pn'P. They smile, laugh, and look at me curiously. As I signed the guest book when I left, I noticed that I was the first visitor since November. Sandra says to me with hope in her eyes, "I would be so happy if you came back..." I would be too, and hope that I do.