Social Grant Day
I was teaching grade 8 and having an easier time of it than usual. I could actually hear myself talking over the rest of the class, and there was enough room for me to walk down the aisles between desks. It was suspiciously empty.
“Where is everyone?” I asked those who had come to school that day.
“At the clinic,” was the answer. “They’re gone for the grants.”
“Why are they skipping school to get grants? Shouldn’t their parents be getting them?” I asked in response, and I never got a good answer, but I already knew why. When I was assigned to this village, the written description I was given said that among the major challenges the school faces are teenage pregnancies and child-headed households. My students were probably gone to pick up their social grants because there was no one else to pick them up. Still, that’s no good excuse for missing my class. So during my free time, I went to see what exactly was going on.
As I walked to the clinic, a few people trickled past me carrying bags full of groceries. That was my first clue that a line for a social grant may not be what I was expecting. I was thinking someone would be using an office at the clinic to dispense checks to a line of sad-looking people dressed in drab colors. Were there giving out food instead.
As I walked down the path beside the clinic, I saw some shade trees had been removed so I had an unobstructed view of what was going on. All along the there were tables and tents and vendors selling all sorts of things you can never find in my village any other day. It was like a fair or a farmer’s market. There were tomatoes, blankets, bananas, beadwork, and at least two trucks representing funeral homes sat there waiting for customers. The only time I’ve seen so much activity in one place in my village is at a funeral.
I wrote more to this post but it was lost somehow so I’ll be brief. I saw a learner from grade 9 but she wasn’t from my grade 9 so I didn’t press her too hard about why she wasn’t at school or in her uniform. I ran into some people I knew and for the first time I had a parent talk to me about her child in school. I was glad to finally find a place in my village to buy fresh produce but I still don’t consider it a valid excuse to skip my class.