On Wednesday as we were departing Venda and driving to Kruger Park, we stopped by the Mukula School, a rural school outside of Thohoyandou. The money that our students had raised to support students at the school was used to purchase answer books for the twelfth graders to use on the matriculation exams (somewhat similar to New York's Regents Exams). Students must pass these exams in order to be able to be considered for further coursework at college or university. Since Mukula School is in such a rural and impoverished area of South Africa, the pass rate on these tests is very low (approximately 40%).
The answer books will help prepare students to pass these exams. We initially thought we'd just drop the books off, but the principal and assistant principal had assembled all the students and teachers for an official ceremony. In the end, it turned out to be quite moving. Traugott, our guide, greeted those gathered in both Venda and English, stressing the importance of education. Two students from our group volunteered to briefly discuss the vital role that education had played in their lives, and I wrapped things up by again stressing the importance of education.
For an American audience, these would have been mere platitudes, things they'd all heard before ("stay in school," etc.), but for the students gathered there I believe that it struck a much more meaningful chord with them. Part of the reason is that we were perhaps the first outsiders that had visited the school, certainly the first Americans. Even the teachers and administrators at the school seemed to be taken with the fact that we had come to the school to present them with this very practical gift. We hope that we can continue to work with the students of this school and the people of this area in the future.