After breakfast we check out of the Queen Elizabeth and start what will be a long day of travel to Cape Town, the final destination on this trip. We are travelling Route 62 via the Klein Karoo. Amazingly the small Karoo used to be an ocean, but over many hundreds of thousands of years the water has drained away to leave scrub land / desert - said to be very similar to the Australian outback. It remains an archaeologist's dream, with fossil fish still often being found.
I am tired today. The frantic pace of the trip is beginning to catch up with me as we approach the end - lots of early morning starts and action packed days. So I take the opportunity to snooze a little on the coach. I always think doing so is a little bit of a cardinal sin as, of course, you miss all of the beautiful scenery. But needs must!
Our main stop of the day is another school. This one, however, is quite different to that we have already visited in the township - it is a Community Farm school in Barrydale, built during the 1960s by farmers in the local area for the children of labourers. The multi-grade school offers education to the children from Grades 1-6, with 4 classrooms, two teachers (one of whom is the Principal) and an administrative clerk. The school receives a 'Norms and Standards' allocation from the government which subsidises school fees, text books and general expenses. But this allocation is only 55,000 Rands per annum (approx. £5000) which is a struggle for approx. 95 students, and often the teachers are having to subsidise the school itself to meet the costs of books, electricity, phone, wages etc.
This struggle to make ends meet becomes quite apparent when we enter the small school buildings, brightly painted in yellow. Unlike the township school where the children, despite their impoverished background, were immaculately presented in school uniform, here they are wearing whatever will keep them warm in the classroom, heating clearly being at a premium. One young girl sits with her jacket on, hood up, and scarf wrapped around her neck.
I can only imagine how awful such conditions would make me feel were I them.
The biggest difference here though is how unkept the children are. Their clothes are dirty and ill-fitting, and many of their shoes are coming apart at the seams. My heart really does go out to them. But they continue to smile.....
The children are not quite as excitable as those from the township but they are happy to see us and, like all African children, they love smiling for the camera!
The teacher makes them all come round and shake our hands and tell us their names in English, even although I can see from the school books on the desk that they are learning in Afrikaans.
One little boy catches my attention. He is a first grader and sits at the back of the class timidly. He seems to be on his own, although many of the children haven't made it into school today because of the heavy rains (many have to cross rivers to get there). I give him big smiles and it is not long before I get a tentative smile back!
Of course we can't leave without the obligatory sing-song! So we are treated to an absolutely fabulous rendition of "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" before we bid our farewell.
As we leave the classroom I notice the African version of A-B-C-D on a poster on the classroom wall:
A = Abstain
B = Be Faithful
C = Use a Condom
D = or you Die....
It is quite shocking to see such a message being delivered to children of such a young age.......
....... but such is the prevalence of HIV in South Africa that clearly needs must.
As we leave the grounds we pass more children on the way.........
.....all happy to stop for a minute or two to have their photo taken....
An impromptu kick-around with a football starts between one of our group and some of the young lads....
.........and like any other children from around the world they demonstrate their appreciation, skill and enjoyment for the game of football.
A totally different school, but just as wonderful an experience to visit.
We're on the road again, with a couple of quick photo stops made as we head to Cape Town. We have already been warned by the tour guide that the temperature is a good ten degrees lower in Cape Town than we have been used to so far. It is also forecast for cloud and rain. When we arrive it is extremely windy, grey and wet. A quick orientation tour of the city and we head to the hotel, hoping tomorrow the sun will come out for our last couple of days. Fingers crossed! The day finishes with the best Calamari meal I have ever tasted and a large glass of vino for good measure!
Thank you for reading.