Each morning, on the way to work, I pass this energy-filled group of school goers (see pic). I don't know which school they attend, but I am intrigued by their sense of purpose and fun as the walk along a major arterial road of the town. Their reflective bibs often glisten in the morning sun.
Yesterday I stopped and asked them if I could take their picture. There was not a moments hesitation, with a collective "ja meneer" followed by an equally enthusiastic "CSI pose". Two shutter clicks later, they in unison asked: "het meneer nie 'n rantjie nie"? And ten pairs of hands were shoved under my nose despite the protests of their elder chaperone. I had no choice but to respond to the request. Fortunately I had change available and handed this over to one of them, with the instruction to share the booty. One of the group shouted, "Dankie meneer", and off they scampered to continue their journey.
I admire these youngsters walking to school each day from the various farms in the area. They walk with purpose, an eagerness I often don't see in the suburbs of Cape Town. And if not in groups, or in pairs, they walk alone. Very little adult supervision is in place. This of course makes sense, since the adults are sweating away on the farms from dawn-to-dusk each day.
I have told myself that I need to visit the school these children are marching to daily. I need to see what world awaits them each morning, what kind of climate for learning and teaching is created for them, what educators who are responsible for nurturing them think of them, what the children think of their school and if the parents are interested in the school beyond the daily safe haven the institution provides whilst they are working. Are you wondering why?
The answer is simple. These kids cannot have a default setting that encourages begging. As innocent as it was, the request for "'n rantjie" didn't sit well with me. They are too young to be scavenging for loose change. And yes they are poor, but that shouldn't translate into begging. And that's why I want to see their school. I need to see first-hand if they are being groomed to assimilate the roles their parents assume or if they are being taught that the world-is-their-oyster!
Because if they have low expectations, me giving them "'n rantjie" has created a daily dilemma, as I fear they may want something other than a wave or a smile each day. They may want "'n rantjie".