A warm welcome
is waiting for you
Joining together in worship
In Malkerns nothing seemed to have changed, the daily life seemed to be just the same. Women trail down the track dusty on a dry day, or red mud after much needed rain. Huge bowls laden with washing on their heads, yet they walk straight and tall, never stumble as they go. At the canal side as they wash, they gossip, and despite the hard work, laughter and Gospel music fills the air.
At the top of the hill on the main road, other women sit in ramshackle stalls selling fruit and vegetables, while others sell second hand clothing. Near the bus stop a woman sits roasting corn cobs, the tantalising smell tempting people to stop and buy, yet another spreads her roughly carved cooking spoons on the pavement. Outside a small store a man sits bent over his ancient treadle sewing machine, earning his living him repairing garments. Next to him another man painstakingly fixes watches and clocks.
But there is change, the rough land in front of the school is now a playing field for ALL THE CHILDREN OF MALKERNS. Shiny new play equipment stands in one corner. Little ones explore and climb, tumble and slide, swing and jump, their faces gleaming as they squeal in delight. Wave to us and shout Granny (a great compliment in Swaziland). Older ones play football or basketball until it goes dark (no twilight here)
If the wind is in the right direction you catch the smell of jam making and fruit canning a Swazican, while beyond in the valley, plumes of smoke indicate the burning of the sugar cane before cutting. Down near the river cattle and goats are grazing under the watchful eyes of their herdsmen and their accompanying egrets. Just before dark a flight of Sacred Ibis can be seen in the sky. It’s an idyllic picture - but not far below the surface is a very different picture – one of poverty and hardship: of life in stick and mud houses with no sanitation or electricity; of people dying daily of AIDS; of families of children left to cope alone. But there is another picture emerging – that of a community of compassion and love; of a willingness to share what little they have with those who have nothing; of neighbours looking out for the forlorn little families of orphans. There is sadness - yes - but also a quiet acceptance that this is how it is and there is little they can do to change things.
The staff at school help to feed some of the children, not just the ones at school. Some members of staff have an extra child living with them. At the school there is a large vegetable plot, seeds donated to help to feed the orphans.
At St. Anne’s High School, the welcome Margaret and I got was as if the 3 years between our visits had never been. There were new people to meet; the school has a new Head Teacher, Mrs. Annah Ntezinde. A lovely caring lady. Margaret and I were soon given jobs to do. Our impressions of the school are of both staff and students working hard - with good exam results to prove it. We marvel that the girls keep their uniforms so clean – always sparkling white shirts and socks. We marvelled that how parents and relatives find the money for school fees (between £200 and £300 per year depending on subjects, exams and books) especially when work is in short supply and poorly paid. This year there is a new syllabus, so Annah is hoping to start a lending of buy back scheme for books, to cut costs. Teachers at the school earn a little over £200 per month.
Annah and the Staff thank you all very much for the money you gave me to take, the Communion Offering and gifts from good friends at Christ Church and Manchester. I bought some Paper Patterns, scissors and other bits for the Domestic Science Dept. and took the rest of the money in Rands and some in Sterling. Margaret had also been given money. On the last Friday we had the big count up. Sadly the Friends of St. Anne’s fund needed to be over spent this school year, we topped it up. Next year can start with a clean sheet. The new syllabus required a DVD player, we managed to buy that. Annah and the Staff were thrilled.
I pass on Annah and the Staff’s Greetings and Blessing to you all
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