Mfundo Tshezi - Written from the heart - Grade 7 pupil wins writing competition!
Mzamba soup kitchen: Poignant prose from pupils in lockdown has sparked a daily feeding scheme in Mzamba organised by an Austrian volunteer, Theo Delort-Laval | Photo Cred: Fred Kockott

Amid the invisible threat of COVID-19, a series of writing competitions looks set to spark creative spirit among learners missing out on classes. William Western reports.

 

Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa (31 May 2020) – 12-year-old Wild Coast lad Mfundo Tshezi says he “feels like the breadwinner of his family” after winning second prize in a writing competition – a R750 food hamper.

Such is life in Mzamba, a rural village adjacent to the plush Wild Coast Casino. The contrasts between the two are immense – a microcosm of South Africa where the poorest of poor have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Street vendors suffer a lot since they can’t sell and provide for their families,” wrote Mfundo. But the Grade 7 pupil did not only dwell on hardships.

“I live in a warm home with love. I eat more healthily because I am not allowed to buy chips and sweets,” he wrote. He said he missed his friends and school, especially Natural Science “because it gives me a clear knowledge of nature”.

Mfundo Tshezi
Photo Cred: Mfundo Tshezi | Fred Kockott

Lots of thinking

Lockdown he wrote, was “one of the hardest things my family has ever experienced” but he had kept himself busy, attending to household chores, looking after his dogs, watering plants, and doing lots of thinking “under a tree in the back yard”.

“I personally think it was a wise decision for the president to announce a lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” wrote Mfundo.

In the meantime, staying home was the best option “since we are waiting for the government to get a vaccine”.

But what might happen if no vaccine is found soon, troubles Mfundo?

“What will happen to us?” he asked.

Mfundo’s entry was one of more than 30 received in the writing competition catering for Grade 6 and 7 pupils at Ithuba Wildcoast Community College, a not-for-profit private primary school, built and funded by Austrian benefactors.

Mature understanding

The writing competition was organised by the environmental journalism training agency Roving Reporters with the modest prizes sponsored by Founders Golf Tournament – the sole South African funder of the school.

The joint winning entries were from Onele Dimane and Khanya Mkhonza, earning them food vouchers of R1000 each and praise from the adjudicators for their “mature understanding of the situation” and “wonderfully refreshing” observations.

Acute impact

The acute impact of the COVID-19 lockdown and fears of a coronavirus outbreak in Mzamba were a central thread in many narratives.

“At home, we have never suffered hunger ever since I was born, but now we are out of groceries, and no one is able to go to work or buy blankets, warm clothes or even medicine for fever,” wrote Onele.

Their family have been using limited supplies of sunlight soap for sanitising.

She described Ithuba WCC as a fun and adventurous school with its own vegetable garden that contributed to nutritious lunches that learners received every school day.

Adventurous school

Written from the heart - Grade 7 pupil wins writing competition!
Environmental education is part of the ethos at Ithuba WWC where learners take pride in cleaning up the surrounding enviroment, including grasslands near Mzamba Gorge (Photo supplied)
Written from the heart - Grade 7 pupil wins writing competition!
70 year old, Mabhaylela Mxunjini, was among needy Mzamba residents who recently collected food hampers at Ithuba Wild Coast Community College. The food hampers were sponsored by Founders Golf Tournament, the sole South African sponsor of the school, in response to learners’ stories, Life in Lockdown in Mzamba. (Photo: Fred Kockott)
Written from the heart - Grade 7 pupil wins writing competition!
20-year-old, Ziphzonke Dlezi, was also among 180 Mzamba residents who received food parcels. (Photo: Fred Kockott)

On reading the entries, Founders chairman, John Cheshire, arranged an additional 180 food hampers for learners from the neediest homes. An Austrian volunteer, Theo Delort-Laval has also since started a soup kitchen in Mzamba, entirely funded on donations from friends abroad.

While Amahle Nqadini, who won the third prize, also misses the school lunches, she said her biggest concern was catching up on missed lessons, and how long it would take “for life to be normal again”.

Life skills

“My favourite subject is Life Skills. It teaches us how to carry ourselves in life, careers we can follow, and freedom of expression. I can’t wait to go back to school, but what will happen if coronavirus is still out there.”

The Future We Want

Amid these fears, Roving Reporters is rolling out the next round in its series of COVID-19 related story writing competitions for select schools in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The theme is, Life After Covid-19: The Future We Want.

To support these journalism-themed writing competitions contact Roving Reporters director, Fred Kockott on 083 277 8907 or email fredk@rovingreporters.co.za.

‘Our kids are desperate to get back into classes’

A courageous step is being taken in resuming school activity amid the Covid-19 pandemic, says Jackie du Toit, the general manager of Ithuba Wild Coast Community College. Over the past week, the school management team and staff have been grappling with the myriad of safety regulations to ensure a safe environment, some of which could prove challenging for cash-strapped rural schools like Ithuba.

Lost teaching time

“Our teachers concerned about lost teaching time, and learners are desperate to get back into classes,” said principal, Tembakazi Makedama, who had hoped that Grade 7 classes would resume tomorrow (Monday).

That, however, no longer, seems feasible given teachers’ concerns.

Invisible threat

“The invisible threat of infection and fear of a potential outbreak hangs thick in the air,” said Du Toit.

She said orientation and training had since commenced providing teachers with a full understanding of the potential risks.

“We are hoping for an uncomplicated rollout of all the government regulations and guidelines provided by the Independent Schools Association of South Africa,” said du Toit.

These include temperature screening and sanitising at the school gate at the beginning and end of each day. Strict access control will also be in place, and parents and health authorities immediately alerted if a child shows suspected symptoms of Coronavirus.


Sources: Roving Reporters | Mfundo Tshezi 
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