I met the most interesting man yesterday while I was waiting at the tyre place to get 2 new tyres fitted to my car.

We started by talking about the taxi’s, because he laughed at me taking a photo of someone running for the taxi, and he was convinced that the person had stinky armpits, and the taxi was soooo full that he said he would hate to be the person sitting next to that stench.

First let me say that he was a black man, which is quite an important for this story.

There was another lady waiting, who is a teacher at a primary school in a predominantly white suburb, and she started telling us how sorry she felt for the kids who catch taxis from the townships to get to their school because it takes them hours;  and the kids get home late at night.  The guy mentioned that he worked in schools in the townships, and then he started talking about his theory about the school system in this country.

He runs a sanitation company that cleans and maintains the toilets in schools in Soweto, and other places… but his passion is schooling.  He wants to make a difference and do something to ensure that the kids stay at school.

His theory is the following…. the major problem in schools is the “shithouse”.  He believes that if the toilets worked and toilet paper was provided and they were cleaned properly, then the kids would get much better marks at school.

He asked the teacher to think about her own daughter that was also sitting at the table. He said that he guesses that the last thing she does in the morning before she leaves for school is go to the loo, as much as she can.  And the first thing she does when she comes home… go to the loo again.

Then he said, how much do you think a child, or anyone for that matter, can concentrate, if they’ve been at school for 8 hours or so, and not been able to go to the loo.  Their bladders are talking, and bladders are louder than any teacher’s voice.  How is any child going to learn about science or maths when they’re popping for the loo all day?

You know what, I think he has a point.  I asked him if he’s getting any support from the GDE (Gauteng Department of Education), and he said NO.  Their answer is that the loos were bad when they were at school, and they studied fine.  He keeps telling them that they’re now in a position of power to do something about it, but his pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears.   It’s so sad, all he’s asking for in the beginning is loo paper!!  How hard is that to provide?!

According to him, the GDE seems to think it’s OK to expect school kids to use newspaper to wipe their bums at school.  Shocking!!  I wouldn’t want to go to the loo either.

And you should hear him talk about the state of the “shithouses”, and the graffiti!  OK, there’s always been graffiti in school loos, but he says he’s noticed that the graffiti is a lot more violent than it used to be, even in primary schools.  It’s all about guns and shooting etc.  And you know what, that’s not very surprising considering the crime in this country.  The kids have to deal with extremely violent crime every day in this country, it’s no wonder than it’s manifesting itself more in graffiti and other things in schools.

I’m glad that he’s so passionate about it, and I hope that one day someone will start listening.  The last thing we need is for him to give up.