When your correspondent arrives at Hlabizulu primary school, near the town of Willowvale in the Eastern Cape, there is the familiar sound of children playing, but it is not break time. The pupils have been left to their own devices. In one classroom they have been padlocked inside. “What can we do?” asks one of the staff. “They’re locked in because they have no teachers.” Just three of the seven teaching staff have turned up for work.
Locking up children may be unusual but a similar lack of learning occurs on a daily basis in South African schools. For even when teachers show up they often do not teach pupils anything. “There is very little education taking place here,” sighs Mkhuseli Ngcube of Public School Partnerships, an ngo trying to change that.