A passion for the poor

Mongol Derby rider, Paul Erskine, recently visited Quarry Heights school with Indlela after having read Shirley Jones’ article, “Poorest of the poor” in the Sunday Tribune on 29 May 2011.

He was incredibly moved by the article, and the state of affairs in Quarry Heights – a school near Durban North which has few resources.

“For most of the children living in the Quarry Heights informal settlement and low cost housing project just minutes away from the busy N2 highway that leads to affluent suburbs like La Lucia and Umhlanga, life is an endless round of poverty, abuse and neglect. Many come to school for the single meal served at around 10.30. Teachers have no idea where many of the children disappear to at the end of the week. What they do know is that many of these children’s next meals are served at school the following Monday morning.

“People forget about these children. They’ve learnt to be very secretive and accept abuse and suffering as part of their lives. Many have never seen anything beautiful. A lot of people cannot understand how a child with nowhere to sleep would never complain,” said school principal, Ntombi Madlala.” – Sunday Tribune article, 29/05/2011

Paul Erskine at Quarry Heights School in La Lucia

Paul interacts with the pupils in an overcrowded classroom at Quarry Heights primary school near Newlands East in Durban.

“It’s a passion close to my heart and I will be involved through Indlela”

Paul encouraged Indlela to get involved and his visit to the school only entrenched his desire to help.

The school has such a passionate headmistress, Ntombi Madlala – she has lived the life, and knows what the kids are going through, so she can walk the walk and talk the talk.

“She set up the school with the help of three unqualified educators in 2008 at the request of community members who felt that tiny children could not walk more than 10 kilometres to the nearest school. The number of pupils grew from 130 to 296 in just a year and has now reached over 600 with more children arriving even this late in the year. Madlala said she could not turn children away.” – Sunday Tribune article, 29/05/2011

Paul believes they can be proud of their achievements – and their integrity. He says it’s amazing and refreshing, despite their many needs, to see the passion and love the teachers have shown the kids. He says you can see it in their faces and enthusiasm when they sing the National Anthem.

“The school comprises a few dilapidated prefabs, a minute garden shed that serves as the principal’s office, a derelict old container which serves as a kitchen and an even more run down shelter that houses a security guard.  Ablutions are a small row of portable toilets and there is no electricity. The teacher pupil ratio is extremely high with 90 Grade R learners assigned to just one teacher.” – Sunday Tribune article, 29/05/2011

“I am going to get involved”

Paul was astounded to learn that half of the 600 pupils were orphans, and face terrible abuse, neglect, and daily hunger.

“Madlala regularly confronts seemingly hopeless situations – a little girl who has been raped twice this year, a little boy found living in a two bedroomed house with 17 adults and 11 children, a young girl whose mother, she said, turned up blind drunk when she was summoned to the school to discuss her child’s poor health.

Madlala said child abuse was rife. According to senior social worker, Meena Harridas, cases of sexual abuse in Quarry Heights are disproportionately high. It is just one of sixteen Durban North areas that fall under the North team, yet it accounted for 18.75 percent of all cases reported between April 2010 and March 2011. Emotional and physical abuse and neglect each accounted for around nine percent of the overall case load. However, because a great deal of abuse is never reported and because parents and children see physical punishment as the norm – children are often whipped with sjamboks and pipes – there is no way of getting an accurate idea of what is happening behind closed doors.” – Sunday Tribune article, 29/05/2011

According to Paul, the school needs sanitation, better toilets, more food, and grass to play on.

“Sadly, the resources that are needed to make a difference are stretched to the limit. […] Ultimately, teachers and social workers would like to build safe parks where children can play. Right now, there isn’t so much as a swing.” – Sunday Tribune article, 29/05/2011

Paul is going to get involved through Indlela, who are looking at a vegetable garden tunnel, planting grass on the children’s soccer field, and improving the sanitation and toilet situation.

If you would like to get involved, please get in touch with Paul to find out how you can help!

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3 Responses to “A passion for the poor”

  1. Mickey Wilkins June 21, 2011 2:21 pm #

    The difference that we can can make in these children’s lives, will be small in our eyes, but HUGE from their perspective. Let’s do it !

  2. Vanessa July 6, 2011 9:41 pm #

    DEAR PAUL, I cannot express how deeply moved I am about how you are going about making a difference! I visited Fairhavens after a vision I had during prayer. MY PASSION IS JAMES 1.27!!! I have taken some of your brochures to distribute BUT would love to have the honour of meeting you! It would be THE GREATEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER! GOD BLESS YOU MIGHTILY! Vanessa

  3. Mickey Wilkins July 7, 2011 10:06 am #

    Met with Arianne Hayes-Hill from Crossroads Church in Durban North this morning. They will be ‘adopting’ Quarry Heights Primary as their community outreach and are formulating a comprehensive plan for support. It was great to share thoughts with her on the school and Indlela will be able to help Crossroads going forward as they co-ordinate efforts.

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