Monday, 21 November 2011

The last student of Robben Island

The residents of Nelson Mandela's prison island to fight for the
preservation of their school - and against the marketing of their
history

18 years was South Africa's most famous freedom fighters set off Cape Town
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Now be built on the barren island restaurants and hotels for tourists

Cape Town

Siya Moyie does not continue on in the army of tourists. It is less
than 8 clock, alarm clock in his Cape Town slum Langa rang two hours
ago. Slept through the 14-year-old sits on a window seat Sikhululekile
the ferry, the hand supports the head. His sleeves are too short, he
has long since grown out of the blue and white school uniform. On flat
panel displays black and white images flickering on the history of
Robben Iceland - those most famous prison island at all, at the Nelson
Mandela had spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity. Moyie does not go.
For him, the 30-minute boat ride no tourist excursion into history.
It's his way to school. Even for a few weeks.

On South Africa's Museum Island is currently a fierce struggle between
culture and commerce will be held, in whose center the closure of the
school. About 150 people live on Robben Iceland, twelve miles off the
coast of Cape Town. Their existence is more and more marginal to the
hustle and bustle of up to 1,800 tourists a day to translate the huge
ferry. They are driven at top speed through the darkest chapter in
South African history, then buy seal Iceland fridge magnet and end up
paying the photos that have been on the island of snapshot
photographers from them. Just several houses are being renovated, so
that can stay in the next year dozens of visitors to Robben Iceland.
The island is a brand that can earn shiny money. A public school does
not fit into the concept.

The ferry to places, Siya Moyie goes over the short bridge to the
pier, away from the two tourist buses is a smaller vehicle that brings
him and a dozen other children in the seal-Iceland-primary school. "In
a few weeks, I will lose my friends on the island, which makes me very
sad," says Moyie. His parents sent him here three years ago, even if
the school takes just under three hours. Iceland on Robben give it
less and less crime than students in her hometown Langa, they say.
Siya has been missing since then hardly a day of school.

Sitting on a bench in front of the bus Theta Sithole, head of Iceland
Seal Primary School. Long he was the only teacher who now cares even a
colleague with him to the 19 children, only four of which belong to
the inhabitants of the island. Thoughtfully, he looks exhausted. He
has tried everything to save the school. There was support from
environmental organizations and companies. In vain, the decision
stands. His school closes on 31 December. "The main problem is the
commercial," he says, "the management wants to close the school, post
office and the hospital of the island and forgets that seal Iceland
with all its aspects has received the status of a world cultural
heritage."

During the apartheid here to teach the children of prison guards,
since 1994, primarily daughters and sons of employees of the museum
and the administration, the study in which over 100 years old the
alphabet. Even former political prisoners already sent their children
here. The closure has become the symbol of a deeper simmering
conflict: How much commercialism can cope with the dignity of this
place? "The school is inherent to Robben Iceland, one can not simply
erase history," says John left, which is responsible for the
maintenance of the buildings on the island this morning and repaired a
few windows. His two children went here earlier in the lesson, as she
had only finished primary school, he moved to the mainland. "For the
museum's management, it is just a business. There is no feeling, no
love. Nothing."

Sithole's headmaster to ensure that the museum director at the
Education Ministry has urged to close the school. "I know that it was
so." It would save the money for the daily crossing of the children,
there are also plans for the future use on a small hilltop house as a
restaurant.

Museum Director Sibongiseni Mkhize contradicts decided. "We do not
have any plans for future use," he says of the WORLD, "Under my
leadership there will be no commercial use that are incompatible with
the statutes of the World Cultural Heritage. Probably a use as an
educational institution of a general nature" The small hospital would
"definitely" continue to exist, the future of the post was currently
being discussed. And anyway: The closure of the school, "the
ministry's decision alone" was.

This is confirmed by the spokesman of the Western Cape Department of
Education, Paddy Attwell: "The main reason is that there are too few
students, if 15 students are spread over seven years of school, two
teachers would theoretically both 14 hours a day pass to meet the
curriculum and.. There were often canceled classes, when it was too
rough to drive on the island. " Robben Iceland was not a single case.
The province tries gradually to close all schools with fewer than 30
students. This year there were nine, "but we also open eleven new".
South Africa has undoubtedly urgent need for an effective education
system. The country is nearly seven percent of its gross domestic
product on education, more than any other country in Africa - the
academic achievement of economically powerful nation on the continent
but are not even average.

Action arises primarily from the rural exodus. Already, one in three
Africans live in a city, according to the UN-Habitat agency, this
share within the next 20 years will increase to 50 percent. And so
also in South Africa are the most affected schools in the country,
which degrades the infrastructure for the remaining residents
continued.

The closure of the seal-Iceland-primary school, however, excited the
minds of most. There were town meetings with angry discussions,
environmental organizations protested, finally, the school has the
status of an "Eco-School ', which is particularly emphasis on the
teaching of biology and environmental protection. Even companies like
the German software company SAP recently donated to the preservation
of the school - in vain.

It is understandable that the seal-Iceland-primary school wake
particular emotions, admits ministry spokesman Attwell. "But our main
focus is the quality of education." This indirect accusation can not
sit on the school Sithole. "We have many graduates who have been
studying the basis for this was set in place." And John also praised
the quality of the school links: ". My kids get to high school
excellence, the school would be without this just not possible."

They were proud to have learned on the island. The Moyie Siya says: "I
find it unfair that the school closes, we feel very comfortable
here.." There are no school bell, this function takes the bus, which
drives up every day at 14.30 clock and takes the children to the
ferry. Siya down the 1,000-meter runs and drives back to the dock.
Only when all the tourists on board, he may enter. He sits at his
window seat up front, because he always sits.

Flickering images on the screen again by Nelson Mandela. The first
democratically elected president of the country, had said during a
visit a few years ago, this school should never be closed. His word is
usually stronger than any law in South Africa. Not this time.

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