This blog post is part of a year-long series, School Year: Learning, Poverty, and Success in a South African Township. Read more on the School Year Blog.
It’s report card day.
Students are huddled in the school auditorium, waiting to receive their marks for the first term. Everyone is visibly anxious. The school’s principal, Phadiela Cooper, steps on stage.
“Shhhhhhhh,” says the crowd.
“Students, we were planning to give you your report cards today,” Mrs. Cooper says. “But we have not been able to print them.”
Students’ heads turn towards one another, and a ripple of chatter moves through the crowd.
“Shhhhhhhhh,” everyone says.
“We are using new software this year,” Mrs. Cooper continues. “And the server is down. So I’m afraid the report cards will have to wait until after Easter break.”
The talking turns to laughter, then applause, then wild cheers.
Relief, at least for now.
“Are you bummed you didn’t get your report card today?” I later ask Leratu, a tenth-grader.
“Yeah, I wanted to know how I did,” she says.
“So, what will you do during the holiday break,” I ask, “other than worry about what grades you got?”
“Well, we’re being forced to read four books,” she says.
“Don’t you mean the library is kind enough to let you take home four books?” I ask.
“No, forced,” she says. “I also have to practice my chemistry and maths – and learn cell functions for natural science.”
“Will you have time for any vacation fun?” I ask.
“Nope. Just because school is closed, doesn’t mean the books are closed,” she replies, using a popular school phrase.
“That’s why it’s called COSAT,” she says. “The Centre of Slavery and Torture.”