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Let them eat sandwiches
How the ‘sandwiches for the poor’ scheme makes me uncomfortable.
I am aware that my three children have a rather wonderful existence and school experience. Even though they go to a modest middle class school right in the centre of the burbs and we don’t always have the extra cash to pay for extravagances, their schooling is excellent. Their experience is utterly at odds with the shambles that is education in some urban areas, never mind rural areas.

Three iPads and a carton of smokes

My daughter came to me on the weekend and told me that she was amazed that three of her best friends (she has lots of best friends!) all received iPads for Christmas. I think she was dropping hints for next year, but I’m not quite in the iPads for Christmas league. It reminded me of the scene in the movie The Breakfast Club where Judd Nelson’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks character is talking about Christmas:

“You know what I got for Christmas this year? It was a better fuckin’ year at the Bender family- I gotta carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me, he said HEY, smoke up, Johnny!”

And then I wonder at families and single-parent households all over the country for whom Christmas is shrouded in defeat and disappointment.

At both the schools my kids go to they have a feeding scheme for less-privileged schools. Each child, on one day of the week, is encouraged to bring in an extra sandwich. My kids call it “sandwiches for the poor” even though they know better than to describe anyone that way. As far as I can tell, “the poor” referred to go to a local school with no resources at all. No AstroTurf hockey pitch or free Wi-Fi. The kids come to school, squeeze into decaying classrooms and then return home. Without the sandwiches many would go without lunch. For some it is the only meal they have.

And at my children’s school some kids enjoy the cooked lunches from the tuck shop, coupled with cold drinks and other delights. Some bring healthy lunchboxes packed with organic treats, and some just pack in the greasy leftovers of fast food they had last night, and pick up another Happy Meal on the way home. And, of course, they bring that sandwich for the poor.

It’s a start, but that damned sandwich gives me the horrors.

Dangerous schools, lethal consequences

If I think about it too much, it’s not long before I imagine those desperate kids all over the country walking for hours, barefoot, across hills and rivers to reach schools which can barely be recognised as such. I read today on News24 of a Grade R pupil in Limpopo Province who had allegedly drowned in a pit toilet at his school. An open pit for a toilet; a pit which had to be used by a five-year-old boy who was probably humming excitedly about his new school experience as he used the loo.

Schools with no roofs, proper toilets, textbooks or teachers.

The only adequate response is outrage, but government seems to be better at that. In their press conferences and commissions outrage will be expressed and promises bandied about.

I said I can imagine the desperation of being schooled in conditions of poverty, but, to be honest, I can’t. My kids go to an decent school where everyone is polite and where many who are able volunteer with social justice projects, but we’re simply not in the same position as government to provide schooling and all of the associated infrastructure to ALL South African kids.

Come on, government. We’re tired of seeing you eating sushi and steak while the poor wait patiently for their schooling "sandwiches".

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

How can we, as South Africans, help those who are underprivileged among us? I’d love to hear some practical suggestions.

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