Sinazo hitchhikes to school because she cannot pay transport costs

Sinazo, champion learner

Sinazo was hitch-hiking to her school, Masiphumelele High school that is situated in the sprawling informal settlement of Masiphumelele, just south of the middle-class suburb of Fish Hoek. Sinazo lives in Westlake, another poverty- stricken area hidden between the upmarket Stonehurst residential area, Westlake Business park that resembles a cosy, intimate space and then of course, the Westlake golf course with lush greens and stoic golf players. She usually waits there at the foot of Ou Kaapse Weg for someone to give her a ride to her school about 15 kilometers from her home.


Our conversation flowed easily as we snaked around the bends of this mountain pass. I was the one posing the questions and Sinazo was only too happy to respond.


I asked her to tell me which primary school she attended and why she had chosen to attend Masi, given the distance she had to cover every day.

"I attended Thomas Wilscutt Primary school in Retreat and then I went to Lourier Primary to complete my Grade 8. There was no place for me at the high schools in Retreat,so I came to Masi in 2011. There are no high schools here either. I used to learn in English and Afrikaans, but when I came to Masi, I had to switch to Isixhosa. It was difficult, so I used to work very hard to learn my work. I didn't want to be embarrassed by the children because I didn't know my own language."

We laughed at the way she told the story. Then we swopped stories about how language can be used as a power tool. I shared my experiences teaching at St. Francis in Langa, where one of my favourite students, Lovuyo, used to reprimand me for not being able to speak Isixhosa. Sinazo then told me about a non- Isixhosa- speaking teacher who joined their school and the children's language pranks they played on her. Now,said Sinazo, this teacher had learned quite a lot about Isixhosa and she can no longer be fooled by her charges.

When Sinazo says there is no high school in Westlake or near Westlake, that is her reality. There are schools closer to her home, but these schools have exclusionary practices. If you don't have money coupled with good grades, you will be at the bottom of the pile. These are the hidden practices; there will be no hint of this in the policies and documents or conversations that take place.

I then wanted to know why Sinazo hitch hikes, especially on such a treacherous piece of road and the danger of sick people we have molesting our youth.

" I have to hike to school. My parents can't pay the R400 transport costs. If I don't get a lift, I just go back home and try the next day again. My parents are not happy that I hike, but I have no choice. Also, I am the first one in the family to go to high school, so my parents are very proud of me. My mom also has to travel to Langa to her work and she needs money for that. My sister attends Westlake Primary school, so that's okay. And I want to finish my matric.

I praised her for being such a courageous person, for travelling so far to complete her high school education. She then told me about how difficult it is to participate in activities after school because of her travelling challenges. I also hear that she has joined the school choir this year and she will be releasing her own CD during the next month or two.

Sinazonwith two of her friends

Sinazo is hopefully not going to be part of the horrific dropout rate of our Grade 10 and 11 statistics. She is showing amazing potential and needs affirmation to keep on keeping on.





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