I have written about my little trip to South Africa before. Go here. It was almost eleven years ago. It's funny how most weeks that we live in are completely forgotten and other weeks, other moments are seared in our minds forever. I didn't want to get on the plane to come back home. Just being in South Africa was thrilling and visiting Ogwini Technical School in the middle of the vast Umlazi township on the edge of Durban was inspirational and uplifting.I would have liked to join the teaching staff and contribute to helping young township dwellers out of poverty through education. But of course I had to come home.
I remember walking on to the Ogwini campus for the first time. A minibus dropped me near the gate and I was led round to the back of the school where there was a mound overlooking the sports field. The teachers were gathered on that mound and the children - around 2,000 of them were clustered in front of us like a football crowd. Then the singing started. I looked at the sea of faces in front of me and every mouth was singing out the words without a hint of self-consciousness - all contributing to the communal sound. The volume was large and the harmonious coalition of voices was both natural and beautiful. They were singing "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" (God Bless Africa) and I shivered in the heat with two big fat tears rolling down my cheeks though I couldn't quite understand why.
Here's me with some of the schoolboys. I am looking over their heads like Dr Livingstone I presume. They all lived in ramshackle huts made of corrugated iron, chipboard and advertising signs. And they got their water from communal pumps. The township was rife with HIV, AIDs, drugs, gangsters, alcoholism, rape and above all its grinding poverty. So it was quite amazing that the teenage students all turned up for school in clean uniforms with schoolbags and pens.
And this lovely, bright Zulu girl gave me the awful news that her English teacher - the only white teacher in the school - had been raped and murdered at home just a few weeks earlier. I wonder what that girl is doing now. She'll be in her mid to late twenties if she is still alive. I hope she climbed out of the poverty trap and used education as a springboard to a better life in Mandela's Rainbow Nation - for that is the dream of all Umlazi families - their version of winning the National Lottery:-