When you have acquired a taste for dust,
The scent of our first rain,
you're hooked on Africa for life
And you will not be right again
Until you can watch the setting moon
And hear the jackals bark
And know they are around you,
Waiting in the dark.

When you long to see the elephants,
Or to hear the coucal's song
When the moonrise sets your blood on fire
You have been away too long.
It's time to cut the traces loose
And let your heart go free
Beyond that far horizon
Where your spirit yearns to be.

Monday, March 21, 2011

we did it!

new schoolroom - class in progress

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.



  1. Val, this is fantastic!
    Politics aside --- perseverance will win

  2. Such unbelievable good news! I feel so proud of you all and I'm so proud to know you! Thank you for this great report Val, the school is beautiful.

    And how exciting about the text message!


  3. It really is a fantastic effort - and we did it! i am proud of that :)

    incidentally for those who only joined in recently, the schoolroom that we lost in the cyclone is the one pictured in the header and sidebars. Since 2007 - there has been nothing as smart as our new schoolroom.

  4. Congratulations... this is very good news.

  5. thanks Robyn - its awesome that we pulled all this together via the blogosphere!

  6. Oh Val, I am so pleased!!! We KNOW that things are not easy, considered the distance and bad comms, but we DID what we intended to do, on the children`s behalf. And I suppose, new balls and pencils must be sent! Lots of huge thank yous to you, Val, for your efforts and for keeping us all together and informed! I love all "our" little children there! And soon they`ll have benches to sit on! Yaaay!

  7. it was so heartwarming to read this news -- thanks so much, val, for traveling to visit the school and update us all on the latest happenings. the fotos are wonderful and it's a real treat to see what the school building looks like up close, but especially those beautiful kids.

    also, so glad to hear that lucas' friend will be able to begin the bench construction ;-)


  8. A Great Experience You Shared Here!!
    Thanks A Lot...
    Wishing You All The Best!!

  9. GELI - I hope by now the benches are in use! Lucas sent me a text to say they were finished.

    Amanda - thanks Amanda for your interest in this little school. Thanks to you and Geli and everyone, the children will at least have somewhere to sit and learn.

    Joy - thanks for visiting!

  10. Val - I just heard about this blog from Amanda's post and will email you so that I can help in some way for this school.

  11. Mim - thanks so much. I see that Janet has written to you

  12. Ahh. The school room looks great already, and the roof isn't even finished yet. You guys, indeed, have done a good job making this school a reality and helping kids learn.

    -Max Boughner