By Suzanne Cross
Everyone was excited to tell the story of how Nkomo School began under four trees, but we also wanted to capture the challenges of this poor, rural community and share their proud Zulu culture and traditions with other parts of the world.
Imagine 900 children who get up early, find wood to build a fire, heat water to wash themselves, walk to school often barefoot, and walk home to no running water or electric lights to do their homework.
For American students who frequently get driven to school, this may be incomprehensible. Add the health and safety issues of poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, diphtheria, rape, and fractured families and we can barely begin to grasp the challenges these young learners face to get an education.
When we started filming here, there were many hands waved into the camera along with awkward and shy smiles. As the days progressed, Alexis and the camera became one silhouette and she began to capture some nice cinema verite (reality) footage of the young girls playing netball and three tins and the boys playing soccer, excited to constantly remind us that this is “twenty-ten”, the first year the World Cup comes to South Africa.
I ask June Rose, the 5th grade teacher, to have her learners write letters back to the 5th grade students at the Argonne Elementary School in San Francisco. For several years, we have been fostering a pen pal connection between the two schools and I happily collect a thick set of pen pal letters to bring back with me.
They are covered with beautiful drawings of flags and figures playing soccer. No one from this rural community will personally attend a World Cup match, and it will not create any benefit in this area, but they will cheer their hearts out for their home team.