We did it! here are the pictures of the new school room at Matsopane, built by Lucas and his team. A few zinc sheets remain to finish off the roof, and the concrete floor has yet to be laid, but the school now has at least one decent sized, weatherproof, rainproof, cool shady school room - thanks to all your efforts! Some village politics - which I have written to you separately about, slowed down the process admittedly. But Lucas has all the materials to finish as soon as he gets the official go ahead. In the meantime, we have given him funding to have 20 wooden benches built so that the children will no longer need to sit on the sand - or concrete when the floor is finished.
Lucas at the new schoolroom
We popped in to see the school room, and to drop off another box from Gorgeous Geli, full of footballs, books and various learning aids. We also left them a big selection of acrylic paints, brushes, paper and magazines - together with sample pictures of paintings - including some by our dear Tessa -with which to inspire their creative imaginations. There was also a collection of postcards sent in by some of you giving snippets of views of the world out there. Everyone loves these postcards, and can pour over the images for ages discussing every detail.
Lucas, Head Teacher and another Teacher receiving the gifts of books, paints and FOOTBALLS
The children were in class. Some came running out when we drove in, but were quickly called back in by the teachers and the little school in an acre of sand, was the picture of studious concentration - a far cry from the usual jubilant and energetic children that usually greet our arrival. But this is what we want, and we saw no reason to disrupt the lessons this time. All of our funding has gone into the building process lately so there were not enough books and pens for a handout ceremony this time anyhow.
We shook hands with the Head Teacher, and another Teacher who was not in class at that time. I took a few sureptitious photos of Lucas standing by the new building. Here and there bright brown eyes peeped round corners at us, some smiling shyly - others watching, waiting for us to greet them and call them out into the bright sun.
We had battled to find the turn off to the school this time. The summer greenery had grown over the double sand track, making it look more like a footpath. "No-one has been here - you are the only ones" explained Lucas. It is a year since we were last there. In the interim the only visitors to the school have arrived on foot. The children follow their own paths through the villages and beside the cassava fields.
In the school yard, the new building stands out big and strong, next to the other ramshackle rooms. It is made out of canisa - bundles of reeds bound together to form the walls. This creates shade and protection whilst also allowing the air to circulate, keeping the interior cool and shady. The tin roof covers the interior but will, in the fullness of time, extend by a couple of sheets on either side. It is shiny and new, bouncing the suns bright rays back into the sky.
Big congratulations to all who helped make this possible. Against all odds of distance and time, logistics and accessibility, and poor comms, we have made a new schoolroom to replace the one destroyed by the cyclone in 2007. I think thats something to be proud of, and I am proud to know you all. The real thanks are relayed on behalf of the children who now know that someone out there thinks of them and can make wishes come true. There may still be frustrations but we have already made a huge difference to the learning opportunities of the children of Matsopane village. Thank you!
ps I just had a text message from Lucas that his friend will start making the benches next week.