We (Sean and I) struggled to find a safe parking in the community so we decided to park next to Phumlani Primary School, where it was convenient for me to photograph and also look out for the van. As I entered the school grounds, I noticed a queue of parents holding their children’s hands. I greeted the parents with a big smile so as to avoid a long conversation with them. I noticed a boy in a classroom busy writing, his beard stretching out as he looked up at the ceiling trying to imagine the answer. With a deep voice he introduced himself as “Sbuda”, his nickname. We spoke for a while. I felt bad asking how old he was and what grade he was in. I looked around the classroom and noticed grade five on the board, where he kept on looking. “Are you doing grade five?”, I asked. He looked down at his book and replied with a deep voice in Zulu, “Yebo (Yes).” Asking his age was still a problem for me, obviously he is too old to be in grade five. I tried to find words that would ask for his age without sounding like I’m judging him. He asked whether the principal knows I’m speaking to him. For a moment I remembered that no one knows who I am and what I was doing there. I ignored the question by asking his age. It was a perfect a moment. “19″, he replied looking down at his book.
I was amazed by his eagerness to be educated. Regardless of his past, where he wasn’t allowed to study, he is studying now.
When I walked out of the school I realized he only told me his nickname. I showed the boys that were playing marbles outside the school his picture from my camera, hoping they might know his real name. Fortunately one of them was his classmate. He told me his real name is Sibusiso Mncambe. He then commented that Sibusiso doesn’t come to school everyday.