From Issy Davies:
People milled about on the street and propped themselves up on the ground by the road as we passed in convoy with Tim. Feeling immediately conspicuous under their stares I cast around looking for signs of St Matthews school, where we were to work for the next 5 weeks. Keiskammahoek appears to be a street of shabby houses. Glance closer and you’ll see three or four of these run down places are home to small shops, glance closer and you won’t see much else – the town is little more to you or I than a tank of watery petrol and a nasty puncture. With no warning the road became dust and we bounced into the low hills which are home to about 10,000 people. In between apologising profusely to our little Fiat as we crested another hill and jolted straight into another pothole, I realised that if I were to send us careering off a dusty precipice it wouldn’t be a bad view to enjoy in one’s last few seconds. Better than an Economist strewn, rapidly advancing London pavement. The rolling pastures are gorged by a stream and low trees, frequented by roaming cattle, and hyperactive children. The slopes feature scattered concrete homes arbitrarily painted pink, orange, yellow, turquoise, or white and swirling with goats, cows, stray dogs, babies, and the odd person. The dust from our tyres adds a warm haze to it all. The houses begin to draw closer to the road and every other one looks gutted. The trees get bigger and more imposing – a sign of an old colonial area – and blue pinafored girls linger everywhere. We’d arrived at St Matthews. Down we trundled to our house in the teachers’ village and leapt out of the car to unbend ourselves. Our house is bloody marvellous. All due to The Calibar foundation and Sifunda Kunye, which is a charity focused on investing in historic African education centres and St Matthews has the good fortune of being a former missionary school, harkening back to 1853, which means our house was freshly renovated and fully stocked with everything a girl could dream of. Sifunda Kunye are also the outfit behind the computer labs not only at St Matthews but at Good Shepherd, the primary school we worked at in Grahamstown. Anyway, the rest of the complex was not in such good repair. Huge teaching blocks had been abandoned and pillaged. One grand building, with Victorian style high ceilings and Art Deco window frames for Christ’s sake, was roofless and the doors were blocked up with hundreds of textbooks, of all things. Horses, pigs, and cows kept the grass a neat level however and the main part of the school was razor-wire barbed-wire high-fenced in and looked pretty spotless. Back at la casa we moved in just as the sun was setting, tired, excited, and absolutely clueless as to how our first day at a new school would shape up.