Bullets fly and a veld fire rages while Prince George Primary has their Food Fair


The crowd enjoying themselves while the veld burns in the background

On Saturday, Prince George Primary school hosted their fundraiser, an International food fair. When I arrived there just after lunchtime, I was told that the food fair was brought to a halt about a half hour before my arrival. There was shooting in Lavender Hill, a stone's throw away from the school.


Apparently, when the gunshots went off, panic set in. The crowd dropped to the ground instantly and the principal, Lameez Rabbaney and the school chairperson, Adele Campbell, threw themselves on top of the folk, trying to act as shields.


" We tried to calm the people, but they were scared, " said Fernall van Aswegen, a Head of Department at Prince George. "There was a stampede as people tried to run off and a little boy got badly injured when he fell."


" We thought our food fair was going to end on a bad note,"said Adele, the SGB chairperson. But here they are returning again and the crowd has begun to swell. Now we can have the "Best dressed food stall"'competition. We don't want to end too late because we want our people to get home safely."


Lameez couldn't chat to me because she was still trying to get the police and Metro ambulance service to respond. She looked tired, I thought. Who wouldn't, under these circumstances?


Off I went with my fellow judges, Denise Newman, an actress in Sewende Laan, and Sheila, a pastor and community worker, to find the top performing stalls. There was all the pomp and ceremony, with us enrobed in judges' cloaks in the heat. Although we suffered a bit and our hair succumbed to the perspiration, we knew it was a strategy to make us visible and heighten the excitement.


The owners of the stalls - parents, learners and teachers - were ready for us. It was evident that hours of planning and organizing went into the design of the various stalls. Most countries were well represented in terms of their cultural practices, their customary dress and their traditional foods. Nothing was left to chance.


Amidst all these festivities, you could see the dark smoke rising from the field adjacent to the school. This field is separated from the school sports field by a relatively flimsy perimeter fence. Often vandals will cut holes into the fence or even be brazen to remove sections of it. Then, in the lowlying shrubs and tall grass, the layabouts would lie there, hidden in the vegetation. The school's support staff would patrol this area all the time and even use the balcony on the second floor as a lookout point.


After being escorted to all the amazing stalls, celebrating, dancing and mixing with the crowds, we chose our winners. America - hosted by Grade R took first place, India came second and South Africa bagged third place.


As I drove home just after 4pm to prepare for Sasha's Matric ball the evening, I wondered how many of us have the willpower to do what schools like PGP do. I was struck by the resilience of the Prince George Primary's community to carve through all the hopelessness and degradation of the human spirit. In spite of the growing lawlessness evident in the brewing gang fights and the arson on their doorstep on a Saturday, the school fights back via a food fair carnival.


I would rather spend my time learning from such courageous South Africans than wallow in self pity about how sad life is when the petrol price goes up. Thanks for this life lesson, PGP...


Youngsters taking a peek at the wild fire burning next to their school fence.



A few PGP learners joining the "Queen of England" at the food fair.


PGP stage activity



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