The new school site is perched on the highest hill in the village. This was land designated by the community and when we first saw it we agreed that it was an excellent site for a school. It seems we might have spent too much time looking at the view (which is, undeniably, spectacular), and too little looking at the ground. The ground can’t really be described as soil. Rock, with a little clay in-between is a more apt description. Digging the foundations for the Hall and Grade R dug was no mean feat for all involved – at least there was plenty of rock around when it came to building them up again. For weeks the men dug and dug and packed rocks while the women made bricks, and more bricks.
All this took place with Dave steering the ship. I quickly withdrew from the building scene after the first few days (something I became resolved to do while I was in Mthatha before the building started siphoning used motor oil off into drums to bring back to the village – apparently it is an excellent pest deterrent, but I assure you it is less than tasty).
The walls have gone up under the guidance of Alan, our new knight in shining armour in the guise of a volunteer engineer. Alan thought he was arriving at Bulungula as a guest, only to stay one night. At the time we were desperately in need of a volunteer construction expert, so on finding out that we had a capable engineer visiting I made as swift work as I could of persuading him that he really wouldn’t be able to find a more beautiful place in South Africa (not too difficult given the surrounding evidence) to put in some very valuable time. (Nothing like grabbing those opportunities and hanging onto their legs until they agree that staying was a far better idea than whatever they had been thinking of before.)
Right now we’re putting the lintels into the Grade R building, which is starting to look like a building, and we hope to be up to roof level by Tuesday. After this the roof of the Grade R will go on while the brick layers move onto building the Hall. These two building should be complete in a few months, and we hope to complete some of the classrooms in the near future, too. This building is turning out to be a progressive operation, as the funds come in (I won’t pretend that we’re not still hunting for them), the next section of building will be undertaken. We now need to start thinking about furnishings, too…
Alan’s arrival at Bulungula has echoes of my own. A year ago I arrived at Bulungula thinking that I was just there for an interview. The interview (as I remember it) consisted of Dave saying to me “So, when you start on Monday…” I went back down to Cape Town three weeks later and have been up and down. My six month contract morphed into a year, which is now nearly up and I will be returning to being based in Cape Town. This does not, by any means, mean an end to the NO-OFISI School project, we’re just shuffling people a bit, and the result will, I am sure, be massive new impetus to this project.
Many thanks to all who have supported over the year, we are where we are because of you.