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13 miles and walking

By Thomas Ditlhoiso

Rev 17.03.2012

Copyright Thomas Ditlhoiso 2012 - 2014

Share in this audacious reflection on the walk I had to take from Kleinfontein to Maboloka at the end of the 1985 fourth school term. In some way, this incident represents a milestone in my outlook on life. Perhaps it means that I was courageous enough to look beyond the horizon in order to explore the unfamiliar. I have never really known how many kilometres it was from the Kleinfontein farm school to the mega-village of Maboloka both of which lie to the North of Brits. Not that it bothered me at the time. That distance remained unknown all these years. Until now that is, thanks to the help of Google maps. Thirteen miles is a long walk for a hungry 14 year old to walk by himself while not certain of the directions to follow home in the first place.

Farm schools like Kleinfontein are both a curse and a blessing to indigent people. Indigent people are almost always black South Africans, hence the reference to the ‘two nation’ state. Of the two, one is black and poor; and the other wealthy and white. In the South African context, a farm school is one like any other except that it is partially funded by and constructed on the premises of a commercial farmer. The farmer is by default manager of the school or delegates someone else to do it on his behalf. Any dispute between the education department and the farmer affects the school, usually in an adverse manner. The efforts of society to rid the country of apartheid and discrimination have resulted in many such disputes. Moreover, it was a farmers entitlement and not illegal for school children to end up working on a farm during school time. The scenario was more prevalent in the past and the practice has since been banned and general child labour criminalised. Also, such schools tend to be under resourced, have low enrolment statistics (sometimes as low as 50 for the entire school), have neither running water nor toilets on site, and almost always underperform. On the other hand, where would children of low income earning farm workers go to school? It could even be argued that a school in Maboloka was neither better resourced nor better managed than Kleinfontein.

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